07Jul U. S. Priests’ assembly in St. Louis

AUSCP Assembly in St. Louis, 29 June to 2 July, 2015

Pat Rogers writes:

As delegate of the ACP I attended the recent assembly of the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests, from June 29 to July 2. About 160 members of the AUSCP attended the assembly, which was in the Airport Marriott Hotel, in St. Louis, Missouri. The 3-day conference centered on sources of joy and hope. Participants also examined urgent issues in today’s Church, including the priest shortage and the pope’s encyclical, Laudato Si. They held elections for leadership team members and cemented a relationships with brother priest from across the United States. The theme of the assembly was “Gaudium et Spes: Gospel Joy in the World Today” which was central to the message of four keynote speakers.

Keynote Speakers
the keynote addresses were given by Jesuit Father Greg Boyle, founder of Homeboy Industries, an amazing Los Angeles non-profit group that works with former gang members; Father Thomas Rosica, CEO of Canada’s Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation and a communications consultor to the Vatican; Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of the social justice lobby, NETWORK, and organizer of the “Nuns on the Bus” tours promoting social justice; and Father Jan Michael Joncas, liturgical theologian and composer. All four inputs were excellent and were followed by lively discussion from the floor.

Fr. Boyle focused on “kinship” as “God’s dream that we all may be one.” Kinship is the way to community peace and justice, he said. “There is no ‘us’ and ‘them,’ there is only ‘us.’” He told some heartwarming stories of how formerly violent gang-members came to show a generous and caring side, when given respect and the opportunity to work with others.

Fr. Rosica spoke about the encyclical of Pope Francis, Laudato Si, as a logical continuation of Gaudium et Spes, the Vatican II document describing the position of the Church in the modern world. Both documents elicit the reaction: “What right does the Church have in this arena?” – but the Pope has courageously spoken out, on areas of vital current concern.

Sr. Simone challenged her audience to “Walk Towards Trouble: Creating Hope in Challenging Times. “That’s what Jesus did,” she demonstrated (e.g. how Jesus walked towards the woman at the well, towards the Pharisees and Sadducees, toward the tax collector) and it’s what is required of those who want to follow him closely.

Fr. Joncas examined the “signs of the times” in the post-modern world, and illustrated the present context in which we have to wrestle to make our Christian message relevant. He showed aspects of Gaudium et Spes  that are still to be properly enfleshed in the Church’s pastoral practice. It was a marvellously stimulating talk, that drew many questions and comments afterward.

Positions adopted by the AUSCP
Previously, the AUSCP has asked the U.S. bishops to start talking about ordaining to the priesthood viri probati – married men of proven worth. The association also announced support for ordaining women as deacons. After hearing leadership team reports on these and other previous positions, assembly participants began working towards future goals.

Women deacons and married priests are again on the list for the year ahead, as are the pope’s encyclical on the environment and the Synod on the Family. Priest participants picked from about a dozen topics of interest, including hopes for improving relationships with the U.S. bishops, women religious and lay associations.

Welcomed by the Archbishop
Archbishop Robert Carlson of St. Louis celebrated Mass with the members of the Association on July 1st, at which a local Gospel Choir sang some memorable Gospel music. Carlson challenged the priests with words spoken recently by Pope Francis, to a group of bishops: “Teach prayer by praying, proclaim faith by believing, give witness by living.”

Greetings from Ireland
The AUSCP continues contact with priests associations in Ireland, Austria, Australia and other locations. Pat Rogers spoke briefly to the assembly about the origin and aims of the ACP, the solidarity and dialogue that we promote, and how we communicate to laity and priests, mainly through our ACP website. Despite the clear decline in the numbers of Irish people attending Mass, the fall-off of priest vocations and other difficulties, he offered a note of encouragement, that “We still believe in the renewability of our Church.” He also tried to answer a number of questions about the condition and morale of priests in Ireland at the present time.

AUSCP Membership
The AUSCP, established in 2011, has some 1,100 members, all in good standing with their dioceses or religious communities throughout the United States. AUSCP’s vision is “To be a priests’ voice of hope and joy within our pilgrim church.” Executive secretary of the AUSCP is Sister Jackie Doepker, a member of the Sisters of St. Francis in Tiffin, Ohio.

AUSCP 2016 Assembly
The AUSCP will assemble at the Crown Plaza, near O’Hare Airport in Chicago June 27-30, 2016. This will be the fifth anniversary of the AUSCP, which was founded by a group of 27 priests who gathered at Mundelein Seminary near Chicago for a Vatican II Retreat in 2011.

AUSCP is a critical forum for priests dedicated to the vision of the Second Vatican Council. We believe our new pope shares our visions and needs our support. Pope Francis has taken us into remarkable new times and our church is at a crossroads. www.uscatholicpriests.org


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