Written by Sherry
Wednesday, 27 June 2007 10:14
The Catherine of Siena Institute turns 10 years old this weekend (July 1).
I'll be in Seattle on July 1 where the Institute was born and have a chance to attend Mass at Blessed Sacrament where Fr. Michael Sweeney and I first began our collaboration.
We used to sit out on the priory steps at night (while he smoked) and wrestle with all sorts of theological and pastoral issues related to the laity and the secular mission of the Church to the world. The Institute grew directly out of our highly informal collaboration but what God has done with it has been totally beyond anything that I imagined. (Fr. Michael is a man of great vision so I suspect that we still haven't done all that he imagined!)
10 years, 77 dioceses, 33,000 Catholic attendees, two million air miles, five continents, and 4 near death experiences later, it is amazing what stands out - even when you are as tired as I am right now - and what begins to blur. I wrote about our dramatic beginnings as it was happening and it makes me smile to read it again today.
It's hard to begin to express all the journey has meant to me and to so many others -long-suffering Dominicans named Michael, our staff, past and present, and the hundreds of collaborators (teachers, trainers, interviewers, pastors and pastoral leaders, advocates, donors, intercessors,and other co-conspirators) around the country and in other countries who have made all this possible.
Our mission has remained the same over the years: to equip parishes to form lay apostles. But what is at stake in calling all the baptized to become intentional disciples and to follow Christ into the world as apostles has become ever clearer.
Summer before last, I received a letter from a recently retired pharmacist named Claudia who had attended a Called & Gifted workshop in a South Carolina parish. As a result of her discernment, she had volunteered to serve as a lay missionary in Tanzania. There she would teach pharmacology at the very first medical school in the country. Claudia’s mission: to enable Tanzanians to qualify for funding for AIDS medications by training them to administer the drugs in question.
This woman’s skill and expertise could conceivably save the lives of an entire generation and change the course of a whole nation. When I told her story at a small group gathering in my parish in Colorado Springs, one woman blurted out “She’s like Esther! Who knows but what she has been prepared for such a time as this?”
Claudia is an Esther and she has been prepared for just such as time as this. And yet, the irony is that such a possibility was beyond anything Claudia had ever envisioned for herself. As Claudia put it, “I was deliberating what to do next and whether there might be some purpose for my life.” Discerning her charisms “set me on a path that I’d probably taken years to find on my own.” It was an experience of a discerning Christian community that enabled Claudia to first imagine, then aspire to, and then do the extraordinary thing that will change so many lives.
Our Catholic parishes are filled with anointed but unconscious Esthers and Dominics, who have been prepared for purposes beyond anything they can now imagine. As Catholics, we have a beautifully rich theology of evangelization. But our evangelical imagination as individuals and as a community is stunted because we haven’t seen it lived at the local level. Can we imagine what Holy Spirit would do in our midst if our parishes challenged all the baptized to imagine, aspire to, and live their God-given vocations?
Christ's redeeming love breaking the power of sin and death in the lives of inviduals, of families, of communities, or parishes, of nations. The grace of Christ's Redemption being poured out throughout the world today through the assent and cooperation of all-too-ordinary people like you and me.
Forming others, whether a child or an adult, is like being John the Baptist. You are a kind of forerunner, called to make straight the path of one whom God has sent to bless and heal our world.
The great 19th century evangelist, Dwight D. Moody had a saying that I’ve always liked: “The world has not yet seen what God will do through the life of a man or a women who is wholly consecrated to him”
If we are faithful to God’s call to evangelize and form our own, I think we will see not just hundreds, but many thousands of such extraordinary men and women, new Dorothy Days and Jacque Maritains, Mother Teresas and Francis Xaviers emerge in our midst. Nurturing the faith, gifts, and call of others is a privileged ministry. Through this work, your and I can literally change the course of history by helping to unleash the greatest power in the universe, the Spirit of God working through a man or woman who is wholly consecrated to Him.
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant
From this day all generations will call me blessed;
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.