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The Archdiocesan Pastoral Council (APC) is a consultative body to the Archbishop of Chicago and is broadly representative of our local Church.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Summary of the Cardinal’s Fourth Question 2014

Cardinal Francis George met with the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council (APC) on June 7, 2014 regarding the fourth Cardinal’s Question of the Year: “Tell the Cardinal about other issues and concerns that you are hearing in your parishes, deaneries and other communities.”

The APC, which represents Catholics throughout the Archdiocese, provides a forum of feedback for the Cardinal.  Its 60-some delegates, active in the parishes, are appointed from each of the vicariates throughout Cook and Lake Counties.

Following meetings before the June 7 meeting, each of the four APC committees submitted reports.  One issue mentioned by three of the committees was the role of women in the Church, including questions about the recognition of the work women do in the Church and about the potential ordination of women deacons and/or priests. 

Another common issue pertained to priests, including the need for more vocations and the lack of accountability of some pastors to archdiocese rules, such as the requirement to have a parish council. Such pastors were mentioned frequently in the delegate discussion on June 7.  Several members complained that pastors, and in at least one case, a bishop said parish councils were not necessary.  In addition, in a recurring theme, members mentioned the apathy of some pastors toward the lay deanery groups.

Several comments had to do with the popularity of televangelist Joel Osteen because of the passion, relevance and practicality with which he speaks.  On the one hand, there was a wish expressed for a Catholic version of him (although Bishop Fulton J. Sheen pioneered this approach half a century ago).  On the other, it was noted that Osteen’s preaching lacked the social justice component, although there was disagreement on this point.  Fr. Robert Barron is a good example of the Catholic equivalent to Joel Osteen, except he does not have a weekly TV show for his message.  The point being made is that the Catholic message needs more exposure to be as appealing as a Joel Osteen is to a wide variety of people.  Perhaps Fr. Barron can be enlisted to do more TV.

In a follow-up on the discussion in the third meeting of the APC regarding the Church’s use of social media, one member pointed out that young people today don’t just use communications tools but exist like fish in a sea of communications:  “Communications is where kids live,” he said.  “They are continually affirmed by the technological linkages. They need their fix for affirmation”.

Members expressed a desire and a need for a more dynamic Archdiocesan website that would make it easier to find posted information.  They also noted a wide variance in parish websites - from those that are extremely helpful and frequently updated to those that have not been changed in 20 years.

In his comments, Cardinal George said three times, “The mission of the Church is to convert the world.”  This is a task, he said, that under Vatican II teachings, is primarily the job of the laity (who are Baptized into the common priesthood).  We have to accept the role of discipleship – doing the Father’s will.

The Cardinal remarked that the Church is not like a business in which the CEO gives an order and the employees obey.  “The Church was not born with an institution; it was born with relationships,” he said.   “The Sacraments are all about relationships, not about the individual recipients. The Sacraments don’t just change the individual; the individual’s participation in the Sacraments changes the Church.  When a dying person is given the Last Rites, the entire Church is changed.  When a baby is baptized, the entire Church is changed.  When a couple is married or a priest is ordained, the entire Church is changed”.

The trend in the 1970s and 1980s toward ‘priests becoming more professionalized’ resulted, in part, in their losing some contact with the people of the parish.  To counteract that trend, he said he planned in an upcoming meeting with the priests of the archdiocese to urge them to “walk the streets.”  This initiative, the result of a discussion he had with Father Michael Pfleger, is also aimed at countering crime and violence.

“The clergy and laity are expected to be accountable, transparent and pro-active. If priests or bishops are saying that parish councils are unnecessary,” he said, “they are in error”.  Even so, not every parish has one, although Cardinal George said it was his understanding that at least 80 percent of the parishes do.

The idea that “communications is where kids live” gave the Cardinal a new insight into the youth culture of today.  “In such a sea of communications,” he said, “it is difficult to step back to meditate about the faith and let the Holy Spirit do his work.  Growth in spirituality takes time; it doesn’t happen in 10-second blasts.”

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