Utah Catholics Ready to Help Shape the Future of the Faith

Pope Francis wants to know what you think of the Catholic Church – what it is doing well, how it is falling apart, and where it should be going in the future.

By “you”, the pontiff designates the people in the benches, the people who are not in the benches, Christmas and Easter Catholics, former Catholics, priests, nuns, laity, young members, older members, non-Catholics and outside observers.

From next week, Vatican launches three-year program synod on “communion, participation and mission“- a program” of listening to and consulting the People of God in particular churches “.

It is an invitation, says François, for the the whole church to question itself about its life and its mission.

Each diocese of the 1.3 billion member church is invited to survey its members, asking questions about how to meet the needs of those among them, especially those on the margins of the faith.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Families gather for a Spanish Mass at the Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, September 28, 2021.

It is intended to offer a grand and specific look at the church from the local level to the universal and from the top down. It includes a call to deepen the relations of Catholicism with other Christian communities.

And, in a bold move, he will ask Catholics how the crisis of priest abuse has been experienced in each region.

The church “has to face the lack of faith and corruption itself in itself”, the Vatican Act said about the purpose of the synod. He quotes the Pope as acknowledging the suffering suffered by minors and vulnerable people “due to sexual abuse, abuse of power and abuse of conscience perpetrated by a significant number of clerics and consecrated persons”.

Everyone has “something to learn”, Francois says. “The faithful people, the college of bishops, the bishop of Rome [or pope]: all listening to one another, and all listening to the Holy Spirit.

Such in-depth self-examination is quite “revolutionary”, says the Reverend John Evans, pastor of St. Thomas More Catholic Church in Cottonwood Heights, “especially when other leaders [before him] I haven’t tried it.

Evans will serve as the Inquiry Pointer in the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City, under the leadership of Bishop Oscar Solis. It will take a year to pull together all the responses from the more than 300,000 Catholics in Utah, then compile them into a cohesive report. The effort will peak in 2023.

“The Pope wants to hear minorities in every sense of the word,” says Evans. “Listen to the voices of those who are often missing or masked. “

The role of women

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Marina Lopez at a Spanish Mass at the Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, September 28, 2021.

Where do they see God leading the church? The world? What are the challenges of these times?

The first problem that comes to my mind is “the role of women – or the lack thereof”, says Rosemary Baron, who works in the Salt Lake City area as a hospital chaplain. “Looking at the sea of ​​men who are supposed to represent all the members of the church, it is obvious that women are not present among them. The sad reality is that women are delegated to superficial tasks within the church, but never to leadership roles. “

There are many “highly educated, articulate, and deeply devout women leaders who continue to stand in the shadow of patriarchal leadership,” Baron says. “Yet these women give life to a perception that only comes from women. Both men and women are needed.

What would Jesus do?

“He would be the wonderful and inclusive person,” she said, “as we see him as being in the New Testament. “

(Intermountain Medical Center) Rosemary Baron, who works as a hospital chaplain, says the Catholic Church needs to raise the voice and presence of women.

Baron was happy to see the Pope ask how Catholics can “travel” with other faiths.

“Some of the richest relationships of my life have been relationships with people of other faiths,” she says. “Although privileged to travel and live in other countries and to live [with] the cultural and religious spectrum of faiths, people of other faiths in our own community are often what sustains me.

Baron regularly meets friends of five faiths – “Mormon, Jew, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist” – and while they “do not solve problems, we raise our voices on many concerns and always leave our group with a spirit. expanded “.

A “true shepherd”

(Steve Griffin | The Salt Lake Tribune) Memorial Catholic High School judge Patrick Lambert, shown in 2016, says it will take time to heal after the priest abuse scandal.

Patrick lambert, the principal of Judge Memorial Catholic High School in east Salt Lake City, says the church of the future must be “driven by inclusion.”

“If we make decisions based on including everyone,” Lambert says, “we can make a lot of progress.”

It works in that diocese, says the principal, under the leadership of the Philippine bishop.

“Bishop Solis models Pope Francis in the way he leads,” Lambert says. “He listens first, then understands, then influences – the sign of a true shepherd.”

(Scott Sommerdorf | The Salt Lake Tribune) Catholic Bishop Oscar A. Solis waits in an anteroom before leading Mass in 2018. The leader of Utah’s more than 300,000 Catholics is considered a “true shepherd.”

Young Catholics are idealists, don’t judge and want to serve, he says. “The church must give them direction, while supporting those who are suffering.”

There has been a “lack of confidence” due to the abuse crisis, Lambert says, and “fallout among those who have dedicated themselves to the Catholic Church.”

He wonders if the church is creating a safe environment for children.

“It will take time to heal and a real acceptance that real mistakes have been made,” he says. “Instead of abandoning the Catholic Church, we will do all we can to provide a model of caring and loving service, giving back to our local and global communities.”

Utah is a “mission diocese,” Lambert says. “We’re not trying to throw people out. “

Indeed, during the Black Lives Matter events of 2020, Solis published a letter from the bishop to the diocese, proclaiming: “We must learn to listen to the voice of our discriminated against brothers and sisters and raise the voice that God has given to each of us to challenge the culture of death which manifests itself in violence, inequality and injustice , not only against the innocent lives of unborn children. , the sick and the elderly, but also our black brothers and sisters and others of race, religious affiliation, sexual orientation and economic status. “

For his part, Brother Basil Françoise, a former Utahn who is working to become a Benedictine monk in New Hampshire, believes that the heart of Catholicism lies in the family, the local parish and religious education.

These three areas have “taken a hit” lately, says Françoise. “How do you pump up and strengthen these three?” How to rejuvenate them?

For the waiting monk, the key is education.

“The church is a source of wisdom on all things,” says Françoise. “Teaching the faithful about the beauty of his teachings beyond ‘Jesus loves you’ is crucial. There is so much depth in its doctrine, its dogma and its history. “

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) The choir meets at the entrance to the Cathedral of the Magdalene at the end of the installation ceremonies of Archbishop Oscar A. Solis as 10th Bishop of the Diocese of Salt Lake City. Pope Francis calls on everyone to help shape the future of the faith.

The great strength of this Synod, he says, is that “the Holy Father seems to apply the notion of Catholic social teaching that certain issues can and should be dealt with first at the most local level. The interest of the church is not only with bishops, lay leaders, or those who work in the diocesan office – but with everyone. “

So how, Françoise asks, “can we bring them the fullness of faith?”

The weakness of such grassroots effort – especially in the United States and Europe – is that it can turn into democratic expression, he says. “What is the popular opinion of the faithful? Should it be taken back as what we are proposing? “

But the Catholic Church is “not a democracy”, says Françoise, and the synod’s recommendations are not “a popular vote”.

To move forward, he says, the church must “be guided by the teaching of the church – and by the [Holy] Spirit.”