Janet’s January 2016 Column



It’s a new year. We’re all invited to set goals, focus on significant factors in our lives.  Interestingly Pope Francis invites us to change, frightening for some and for others, like me, an exciting adventure.  Which group do you belong to?

There are many similarities between Scripture’s “Martha-Mary” story and the church today.  We’re all being invited to the Martha role when Pope Francis calls us to “go out into the streets” in this Jubilee Year of Mercy, to “pester our pastors” to become more pastoral, to understand the core of our faith as love and service.  He is calling us to action, action that we have never been called to in the past.  He has put out invitation after invitation and few have responded.  As “a Martha” that would drive me crazy because it would be like inviting people to a party and no one comes.

Pope Francis is also calling us to the Mary role.  We’re called to be better listeners (by really hearing) one another as we journey through life with solid, deeper relation-ships, honoring “the God voice” within through conscience and moving our own thinking from the laws of the institutional church to the gracious, abundant love of our God given freely to all.

Actually both roles are needed by each of us in this chaotic time in the world and in the church.  We are being called to be part of something momentous, something prior generations could never conceive!  The Reform Community needs thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of Marthas to help create a new Catholic culture at the grassroots level.  Pope Francis is diligently working to build new more effective administrative roles for the Church (in the Curia, the Vatican Bank, etc.) as we assume the rights all Catholics already have and exercise the needed responsibilities to work locally.  The old adage applies here – “all politics is local”.

Vatican II recognized that the Church was neither sensitive nor responsive to the needs of the people and proposed some principles and a new spirit in our church in developing responsible and mature Catholics.  A recent collaborative survey effort with Catholic Church Reform International (CCRI) proved without any doubt that Catholics globally are longing for a church that is welcoming, inviting and nurturing.

The American Catholic Council (ACC) is taking Francis’ invitations seriously because we believe his invitations are calling us to become adult Catholics!  For years we have heard how we are all children of God, how we have rules rather than love to follow to guarantee salvation, yet these manmade rules no longer match reality.

Some find Francis’ invitation too general for a response because they are unclear what is expected of them (childlike thinking).  Others, like our USCCB, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, appear to have ignored Francis’ invitations moving on with business as usual.  Francis can’t do it all for us.  The USCCB refuses to accept the invitation so it’s up to us.

Join us!  We’ve developed a template for Listening Circles, an effort begun at our inaugural event in Detroit (2011) that is incredibly successful in Canada and goes on yet today earning strong recognition for the work they do.  We have adopted their generic model and added the invitational dimensions Francis calls us to.  See the template here.  We’ll examine topics that respond directly to Pope Francis’ invitation.  Will you join us?  Will you accept Francis’ unfiltered invitation to the People of God?  If you have questions about creating and facilitate a group to explore the issues that will change us and change our church, contact me at JWHauter.acc@gmail.com.  We extend this invitation to all to respond to St. Francis’ call “to rebuild My church”.  We can do this!


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