Responding to Pope Francis’ call to share what is on our hearts and minds for our church as we journey together, OLH parish held 12 sessions with slightly over 100 people participating including the children in our sacramental preparation program and their parents. We have also provided an option that can be done either individually or at home with one’s family or friends. For these reflections “church” can mean the local parish, the regional church or diocese, the church worldwide.
One theme consistently expressed was a hope for people to come to Mass – churches more filled with people of all ages. In some sessions grief feelings were expressed, that somehow people have not been able to pass on something very meaningful to children/grandchildren. Feelings of sadness, discouragement, and regret often accompanied the hope “I can find a way to express to my children what my faith means to me” or “I hope that we can share the gift of faith with those who have rejected it.”
A second theme expressed was the desire for connection or conversation. The desire that we could again see one another, gather for social times and be physically closer to one another during Masses. There is also the desire to get beyond or heal divisions: “I wish we could talk to one another – especially across differences of opinions” or “I wish we were more unified.” In at least one session there was a desire “I wish there were more understanding of the difficult decisions people have to make” and “more understanding of where people are coming from”. This was balanced by another person’s desire for clarity in church teaching. “It seems like Pope Francis has changed a lot of what used to be clear for me.”
A significant number of people expressed hopes for more inclusive leadership of the church. A hope expressed quite often (and almost exclusively by men) was a hope/desire for women’s ordination (deacons, priests, or both) and other opportunities for non-ordained lay leadership in the church, like having non-ordained people offer reflections or sermons during Mass. A number of people expressed a desire to see closer work with other Christian churches, and a sense that the divisions between Christian churches diminish the Christian message.
Other points frequently stated:
- Find more ways to assist those in need; identify more with the poor and marginalized; “the tree gives its fruit away” Bring love out into the community – people will see our witness by what we do; That the church is able to relate to people’s real needs
- Desire for a faith community for children beyond the years of sacramental preparation; a sense that Confirmation is being done at too young an age
- That our parish and school “thrive and not just survive”
- Pleased with welcoming efforts at OLH; wish it were more true at other places too; the welcome and inclusivity in inviting others is made clear, is heard and acted upon. This is Christ’s wish. Addressing fears and concerns that lead to a lack of acceptance of people, including but not limited to the LGBTQ community
- Be less clerical – clergy speak less and people speak more
- Make the sacrament of reconciliation available in services of prayer and by way of general absolution
- Try to understand why people do not “go to church” really to understand, not convince them they are wrong
- Move away from fear – fear of God, fear of the hierarchy for the people; fear of the church by many inside and outside the church
- Hear the goodness in other religions & go out to find the goodness in the world; remove barriers to those who are not Catholic
- Pope Francis is a “godsend”
- The church give leadership and example on important issues and show this to people, as Archbishop Desmond Tutu did for the Anglican Church.
- Have a truth and reconciliation commission within the Church; the Church publicly recognize its faults and failings.
- Enhance vibrant involvement of parishioners (ex – liking Baptisms at Masses)
- That the Church focus, proclaim, and be known for what it supports and not for what it is against.
- The Church, as an institution, stop telling people who are not members what they should do.
- Hopes and dreams shared by our faith formation children (grades 1 and 2)
- That the church continues to exist and more people are part of it
- The Church needs Jesus. The Church always talks about God and Jesus
- The Church is (and needs to be) kind and hear all our voices
- All people come to Church and are welcomed to learn about God
- There needs to be more love, joy and hope in Church. The Church needs to be nicer to people and celebrate happiness
- There needs to be more listening to kids
- The church needs to share more
- More parents should answer questions
- Kids should have regular jobs at church; we like being involved during Mass, bringing up gifts, saying hello and handing out books
- More fun events outside of church
Overall feelings of those who participated in one of these sessions:
Joy, hopeful, grateful that this was being done; some concern about follow-through.
An experience of energy; good to hear others in this way.