Newsletter, December 1, 2014

   American Catholic Council
    Reclaiming the Promise of Vatican II 
Keep Awake for Advent Surprises!
NEWSLETTER             December 1

, 2014
Eye on Francis
 ACC discerns new direction for 2015!
Prayer table for ACC strategy meeting
Our prayer table full of dreams for transformative action.
We were eleven as we met at the Franciscan Center in Tampa, Florida to discern next steps for ACC.  We invoked the”God of Surprises” and we were not disappointed!
We dissected some of the recent developments in the church, including the Synod proceedings and statements from Francis, as well as our own ACC legacy.  Putting it all together, we realized that there is a renewed call from the Vatican for participation:  we should speak up with “parrhesia” as we “walk with” our Church leaders in new directions.  And we should bring our past contributions to the fore as we create new opportunities for dialogue and ministry.  We came up with the seed of a plan for “THE WALK”  (more fully described to the right), as well as several other possible projects: having a presence at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia (September 22-27, 2015)and developing an educational series about Church history to assist Catholics in knowing the context of their conscience based decisions.
ACC Strategy Meeting in Tampa
Working around our ACC strategy table in Tampa, Florida
But we will need YOU!
Your energy, your funding, your ideas, your local connections, your dedication to making our Church better.
ACC has been careful not to ask for money when there was no pressing need – but we have depleted our reserves and now are counting on YOU to launch our next phase of involvement in reform.  Your prompt contributions this month will tell us that we are ready to move forward on developments for 2015!
Please donate now to our ACC fund so that we can make our weekend dreams a yearlong reality!
And just so you know:  our small strategic Team was so excited about ACC’s potential that they pledged $2,500 as they sat around the table – seed money to get our campaign underway.



Janet Hauter and Sheila Peiffer participated in the Catholic Organizations for Renewal (COR) meeting in Memphis on November 5th and 6th.  COR reps had lively discussions about the implications of the just completed Extraordinary Synod on the Family.  We will be developing a range of actions related to the Synod on the Family next October.  Hope and energy were definitely present!


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Let’s not be afraid to receive each day’s surprise; whether it comes to us as sorrow or as joy it will open a new place in our hearts, a place where we can celebrate more fully our shared humanity.”

— Henri Nouwen

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 Advent Litany 

May the God of Surprises delight you, inviting you to accept gifts not yet imagined.

May the God of Transformation call you, opening you to continual renewal.

May the God of Justice confront you, daring you to see the world through God’s eyes.

May the God of Truth guide you, dispelling all illusions.

May the God of Abundance affirm you, nudging you towards deeper trust.

May the God of Embrace hold you, encircling you in the hearth of God’s home.

May the God of Hopefulness bless you, encouraging you with the fruits of faith.

May the God of Prophetic Witness claim your voice, rousing others to join in standing strong for the good.

May the God of Compassion inspire you, forming you for tender outreach.

May the God of Welcoming invite you, drawing you nearer to the fullness of God’s expression in you.

May God Who is Present be with you, awakening you to God in all things, all people, and all moments.

May the God of Surprises be with you this Advent and always.  Amen.



With the Advent and holiday season upon us, we hope for one filled with blessings, grace-filled moments, and heart-stirring surprises.   This is generally a time both to look forward and behind and we hope this year has been a blessing of promises come true, and that any crises could be assimilated as learning experiences and a way to find new appreciation for some of  the God-given gifts YOU possess.


We also hope that you look ahead to expect the unexpected.  It is in those surprises that the Spirit offers new life if we opt to accept it.  We had that experience at the recent retreat in Tampa where we looked at the future of the American Catholic Council to determine where our focus and energies must be directed.  Because our Papa Francesco is softly directing a revolution, it is often difficult to predict what will come next.  But the philosophy of bringing dialogue, encounter and a sense of communal journey into our process of “church” has created new hope, which was palpable while I was in Rome during the Extraordinary Synod.


Because of this model, the ACC is launching an initiative for 2015 that dovetails Papa’s gifts to us.  We are launching a Talk and Walk initiative based on the construct of both journey and “parrhesia” – the bold speech that Francis is encouraging.  Catholics everywhere are invited literally to ‘walk” – but also to engage in dialogue about all of the challenges in our lives and in our church.  As adult, thinking Catholics we will step out together in symbolic walks and real discussions, becoming active and responsive to the God of Surprises.


We hope that you expect and experience peace in the midst of the chaos many see in the Church today.  We are living in an exciting Renaissance moment where the Church (we) is being called to transformation.  We have been invited to speak out on agenda issues that have been carved out for us in the Extraordinary Synod on the Family.  Was that list of issues complete?  Far from it and so we are called to submit our testimony to the process so that the upcoming full Synod on the Family will reflect the reality of lived Catholic life.


We offer you the opportunity to expect and experience joy as you have never expected or experienced it before. The Joy of the Gospel, Francis’ apostolic letter, offers us new insights into this man and the direction his leadership is taking us. We are invited to many opportunities in that work and many more will be unfolding in the year to come.  We, therefore, then, invite you to expect to surrender to a Spirit surprising us at every turn.  Together we hope to take advantage of this Spirit-filled moment in Church history….  Could be fun…


Lastly, we invite you to expect a Miracle.  Are we ready for a God who “did awesome deeds we did not expect” (Is 64:2) as we heard this past weekend?  The same God who ensures we “are not lacking in any spiritual gift” and will “strengthen us to the end” (1Cor1:7)?  The One who through the evangelist Mark reminds us to “Keep awake”?  As American Catholic Council participants,  let’s all commit to making this next month a time of preparation not just for the birth of our blessed savior, but also for the birth of an incredible year ahead.  We wish you all the blessings needed for this journey and we plan to support you as we hope you will support us in making this journey possible. Please consider donating to us now so that we can fulfill our hopes.


Janet Hauter at ACC Strategy Meeting

With Advent hope,

Janet Hauter, National Chair, ACC


Forward to a Friend

Will you “Talk” and “Walk” with us? 



When:  July – September 2015

Who:  Everyone

Where:  Philadelphia and all over the U.S.

Why:  We affirm the right of Catholics to talk to each other and the Church; to participate in decision-making and ministry.  We applaud Francis’ call for dialogue on family issues.  The American Catholic Council wants to be talking and walking with you to collaborate on forging new dialogue and meaningful encounters!


Pope Francis has called Catholics to be “in the streets” and to “dialogue, dialogue, dialogue.” We at ACC know that the People of God have already been dialoging! We already have products of our collaborative work. One significant achievement is The Catholic Bill of Rights and Responsibilities (CBRR). This document was proclaimed and ratified  at American Catholic Council of Detroit in 2011.


As the Pontifical Council’s World Meeting of Families convenes in Philadelphia in September 2015, The American Catholic Council will raise up the rights and responsibilities of our diverse families.  Will you join us in this continuing dialogue?


Some of us will walk in the birthplace of liberty itself and carry the CBRR into the World Meeting of Families.  But you, too, can Talk and Walk wherever you are! Let’s gather in many streets, let’s walk together, let’s talk about our families, our concerns, our challenges and how the Church can be reminded of its healing power in every family. We will walk as families and for families, we will carry banners for all who are marginalized, ignored or excluded.  We will engage each other in conversation about conscience, ministry and justice.  We will forge new bonds of friendship and community – extended families!- as we re-affirm our right to participate, and our responsibilities to be heard, to talk and to walk together.


We are excited about the potential of “The Walk” to energize all of us and involve many who have felt marginalized.  Your supportnow will enable us to proceed with organizing this project and several others as we heed the call for “responsible exchange of freely held and expressed opinion among the People of God.” (Sensus Fidei in the Life of the Church, 2014 #124).


Pope Francis

An      on 

 We continue with our feature from

Reyanna Rice, Board member of Concerned Catholics of Montana and ACC supporter.  She is actively following and analyzing Pope Francis’ statements and actions and will offer a reflection each month to inspire us to integrate reform into our own lives and communities.

I write a letter every month to Pope Francis, addressing the letters with “Dear Papa Francesco”.  My son who is, typical for his age, SBNR-spiritual but not religious-likes to tease me about this saying “You know, Mom, that is the adult version of writing to Santa Claus.”  He had to change his mind after this week.  But this story, as most stories are, has stories within stories to understand.  First, you need to know about Papa Francesco’s statue of Sleeping St. Joseph that he has kept in his rooms for years, and is now in his Casa Santa Marta rooms.  When it was shipped to Rome from Buenos Aires, the head got broken off but I am sure the pope did not have a problem finding someone in the Vatican’s art restoration area to fix it for him.

When asked about this statue, why Joseph is sleeping, Papa Francesco explains that in the Gospels, just about the only time we hear about Joseph is when God speaks to him in his dreams.  When further asked about his devotion to St. Joseph in general, PF says that when you send off an order to a carpenter for, say, a new table or to fix something broken, it might take the guy awhile but he gets the job done.   A journalist on the way back from Strasbourg this last week asked him about this devotion.  He answered that when he has asked St. Joseph for something, he gives it to him.  That is why the pope slips little pieces of paper with prayer requests on them underneath his statue of Sleeping St. Joseph.  Papa Francesco has even convinced his Swiss Guards of the efficacy of these prayer requests.  People who have visited the pope at the Casa Santa Marta say they have seen the statute with an inch or so of prayer requests under it.

The second background story is my daughter’s best friend, a wonderful young woman whom I will just call “J” and who is like a second daughter to me.

“J” is a severe diabetic, initially

diagnosed when she was 18 months old.  My daughter first met “J” when they were in high school as freshmen.  At that time “J” was very small for her age, looking like a 12 year old, but a very bright, very determined girl.  After graduation, it was several years before I saw her again, “J” having gone off to college out of state.  At some point, she had an insulin pump put in.  The next time I saw her she was this strikingly beautiful, very tall young woman.  The insulin pump worked well for her and her doctors were able to help her growth by giving her hormones.   Moving back into our area, she and my daughter re-established and deepened their friendship.  When my daughter married last December in Jamaica “J” was her bride’s maid.  In late July I received a call from my daughter at 4:30 a.m.  She was distraught to the point she could not talk.  Once she calmed down she told me that “J” was in the intensive care unit in a coma in the city she lives in, about 45 miles away.  My daughter said that her mother did not expect her to live.  In her distraught state, my daughter wanted me to go with her to the hospital so she could see her dear friend.  On the way, I began to pray, even addressing a prayer to Papa Francesco and his Sleeping St. Joseph, knowing “J” needed all the help she could get.  My daughter explained that “J”‘s mother told her that “J” had been found in a coma in her home, where she lives on her own, and could have been there for at least 3 days.  “J” was just barely alive and was on a breathing ventilator. She apparently had a small glass of wine in the evening late, 3 days previous, and knowing that could affect her blood glucose adversely, gave herself an insulin shot.  When she went to sleep, her insulin pump malfunctioned, continued to give her insulin, causing her to go into a coma.  Eventually the pump then quite working entirely.   Having worked in the healthcare setting as a clinical laboratory scientist, I was doubtful of a good outcome for my second daughter.  When we got to the hospital, “J”, although still on the ventilator, was sitting up with her eyes open.  She recognized my daughter who was allowed to visit her for a few minutes.  We were told by her mother that “J” she had also suffered a slight stroke in the night.  By the end of a week, “J” was off the ventilator and doing well.  Today, after a long recovery, “J” is her old self with no residual effects from her coma or stroke.  In September, before I left for Rome, I sent a letter to Papa Francesco telling him “J”‘s story, asking him to slip a prayer request under the Sleeping St Joseph to help “J” regain her full health and to know what direction she should take with her life. Living on her own, she knows it is a risk because, as she grows older, the potential for these kinds of incidents in her life could increase.  Later, I told “J” that I had written to PF asking for his prayers for her.  One day this week, I picked up my mail from the box at the end of my drive.  As I sat there in my truck, I went through the day’s bundle.  In it was an envelope with a return address of the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington, D.C.  Wondering what the heck this was about, I quickly opened it to find it contained only another envelope with a return address of the Secretary of State at the Vatican on the back.  On the front a label had been placed with “J”‘s name typed in a large font, a line of stars below it, and below that, the words “Prayer & Blessing.” At first, I was not quite clicking mentally.  I wondered if the Vatican and or the Nunciature had mailed the wrong thing to me.  So, I opened the second envelope.   In it was a picture of Papa Francesco and his signature, “Franciscus”, at the bottom. Once realization set in, I was in tears.  When I called “J” to tell her the news she said to me “I am standing here with a great big smile on my face”.  I have read many stories of Papa Francesco responding to letters he has received from people.  But, to have it happen to yourself, is a bit of an emotional jolt to say the least.  I have read he gets upwards of 6,000 pieces of mail per week.  His letter screeners have instructions on which ones to select for him, sending to his office at the Casa Santa Marta about 150 per day.   It has been reported by people who have seen his office that there are stacks of these letters on his desk.  The first time I wrote to him, I wondered how you address a letter to the pope.  I decided not to even think of him as the pope, that he is the kind of person that you could easily sit down and have a cup of coffee with and he would say, “Tell me what is happening in your life.” To write to him helps me sort through things and I think it is good for the pope to hear from us out here in the pews when he does get our letters.  I actually think he wants to hear from us, hear about our real lives, our hopes, our dreams, our struggles with our faith and the church, and our prayer requests.

So, write letters to the pope and write them often.  Don’t even consider that he will not get your letter. There are a lot of news stories about folks who get letters or calls from him in response to their writing to him.  Address your letters to Pope Francis (or Papa Francesco), 00120 Apostolic Palace, Vatican City.  Do not add “Italy” after Vatican City State and do not send your letters to Casa Santa Marta.  You never know, you just might get a response to this adult version of writing Santa Claus.  And it only costs about $1.60 or so for a 3-page letter.
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