The best way to destroy the values that sustain today’s Catholic institutions is arguably to maintain them with the least possible change. To maintain Catholic schools without rethinking funding patterns, parish relationships, and structural, cultural, and community issues is to move toward a situation where more and more schools close for lack of funding, and the only Catholic elementary schools become those associated with large, wealthy parishes—hardly the values on which Catholic schools were founded. To maintain Catholic parishes without rethinking community based less on territory and more on chosen affiliation growing out of work, culture, age, and socio-economic or other ties is to move towards parishes that are sacramental factories, all alike on the outside and lacking a true community life. If nostalgia is a dead end, what works? What about retrieval? How about rethinking how certain tools or visions that worked in the past might speak to the challenges of the future, without putting them into a straightjacket of pre-conceived expectations? For example, eucharistic adoration might seem like hopeless nostalgia—until we see research that shows that young adult Catholics in the midst of their transient, stressful lives feel the space created by eucharistic adoration gives them an opportunity to slow down and address their spiritual needs, period. So not surprisingly, many churches and university chapels are finding that setting aside such space speaks powerfully in a culture of choice and pluralism—and in ways potentially very different from how eucharistic adoration would speak to other, past and dead, cultures. Or, perhaps, what about a reflection on how our Catholic parishes and schools and dioceses and families and people of the 20th century came to be what they were—and aren’t any longer, since that time is past and they cannot be what they once were: that they were created by creative, individualistic pioneering pastoral leaders, bishops, priests, sisters, laypeople—who did not necessarily know where things were headed but knew that they had to build something new for a new time? Retrieving the kind of energy, enthusiasm, and evangelical spirit that builds community and shares the faith might be a good place to start.
Authors Bryan FroehleRestricted