Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (CCCR)—Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis, MN (2009-present)
We are a coalition of Catholic reform groups, most of which had been active for years—Association for the Rights of Catholics in the Church (ARCC), CTA-MN, CORPUS, Dignity Twin Cities, Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities (CPCSM), Minnesota St. Joan’s Community, Spirit of St. Stephen's Catholic Community, and Compassion of Christ Catholic Community. We are Catholics who were inspired by the vision and spirit of Vatican II and who have been mourning the loss of its promise of a more Gospel centered church in the world.
Spirit of St. Stephen’s Catholic Community (SOSSCC) identifies as an Intentional Eucharistic Community (IEC) committed to the priesthood of the laity. Compassion of Christ Catholic Community (CCCC) is served by Roman Catholic WomenPriests. CCCR recognizes and welcomes SOSSCC and CCCC as brothers and sisters in the Catholic tradition, journeying in the Spirit, with a valuable contribution to make to dialogue within the Archdiocesan community.
Vatican II imbued us with a sense of responsibility for our local church. How many times had we heard it and said it ourselves?—We are the Church. On our watch we were seeing that Vatican II implementation was stalled, even reversed. We felt compelled in conscience to stand up and speak for the Gospel values we are called to promote. We were inspired by how John O’Malley (2008, p. 307) described the vision and spirit of Vatican II moving the Church “from commands to invitations, from laws to ideals, from definitions to mystery, from threats to persuasion, from coercion to conscience, from monologue to dialogue, from ruling to serving, from withdrawn to integrated, from vertical to horizontal, from exclusion to inclusion, from hostility to friendship, from rivalry to partnership, from suspicion to trust, from static to on-going, from passive acceptance to active engagement, from fault finding to appreciation, from prescriptive to principles, from behavior modification to inner appropriation.” If we want to go from the former to the latter, we have to initiate structures and programs to change our Catholic culture.
The main barrier to our being a Church in this Archdiocese in our view is the lack of two-way communication among the faithful and between the faithful and the official leadership. CCCR is founded to activate the laity, and it chartered the Council of the Baptized to be a listening panel that discerns the sense of the faithful and provides grounding in scripture, tradition, and contemporary theology for positions the laity is advocating. Together CCCR and the Council of the Baptized are committed to promoting the two-way communication that is the life-blood of a Church community.
We had been grumbling among ourselves during two pontificates about the roll-back of Vatican II hopes. An inspiration to take action was a visit by Sister Chris Schenk of FutureChurch to a CTA-MN conference in the Spring of 2008. She introduced the FutureChurch program called A Million Voices. The program’s goal is “to make room in the Church for the adult conversations we must have with our leaders if we are ever to embody God’s love and justice on earth as in heaven.” We thought: Why not us? Why not now?
At the dining-room table in Mary Beckfeld’s home, December 16, 2008, the following people met to get the ball rolling: Connie Aligada, Mary Beckfeld, Terry Dosh, Judith McKlosksy, Bernie Rodel, Eileen Rodel, Paula Ruddy. Michael Bayly, physically in Australia with his family, was with us in spirit. Joining us on the first Board of Directors were Brian Willette and Bill McGuire from CTA-MN, Dorothy Irvin from Minnesota St. Joan’s Community, Dan DeWan from CPCSM, and at-large members Bob Beutel, Jane Collova, Mary Jo Czaplewski, Jim Moudry and Lonne Murphy.
Simultaneous with the formation of CCCR on the local level, an American Catholic Council (ACC) was forming on the national level. We kicked-off our local organization in April, 2009, at a Prayer Breakfast at which Janet Hauter, the ACC co-chair, was our inspirational speaker, telling us about the ACC’s vision and plan. We felt we were in solidarity with a national movement and it buoyed us up. That Spring we incorporated as a Minnesota non-profit and filed for exemption under IRS code 501 (c) (3).
We began with 10 work/study groups that worked from April 2009 to our first Synod of the Baptized in the Fall of 2010. About 80 people worked in those groups—on Catholic identity, Catholic spirituality, clericalism, church authority and governance, equality of women, human sexuality, social justice, faith formation of children and youth, the emerging church, and selection of bishops. We met all together quarterly for encouragement, hearing speakers like Brian Willette, Dick Rice, who had proposed a Synod prayer used by all groups throughout the year, Glenda Eoyang and Lois Yellowthunder, who taught us about self-organizing systems.
By September each group had prepared a break-out session to present at our first Synod. On September 18, 2010, the first Synod of the Baptized convened. Five hundred people attended, heard Paul Lakeland give the keynote address and heard their fellow Catholics and parishioners speak authoritatively on their issues of concern. They also signed up to work on Resource Teams.
At the Synod, CCCR commissioned a coordinating team to find out what the chief concerns of the faithful were. It was called ACT, Action Coordinating Team, and its members were Jane Collova, Dan DeWan, Frank Goetz, Mary Beth Stein, and Ed Walsh. This team organized the various Resource Teams to begin their work where the work/study groups had left off. The Resource Teams began their work preparing to give presentations to parishes, to gatherings of people wherever they were invited. The list of Resource Teams can be found under the ACT menu tab.
We knew back in 2009 that we needed a deliberative, representative panel to discern the sense of the faithful and give us the grounding in scripture, tradition and contemporary theology we need to promote communication and action in reforming Church structures. We, as a coalition of organizations, did not have the legitimacy that a Council of people from all four quadrants of the Archdiocese and chosen by the people would have. So on January 25, 2011, we convened the Design Team for the Council of the Baptized. The team members were Al Michael, Judith Pryor and CCCR Board members Michael Bayly, Bob Beutel, DanDeWan, Jim Moudry, Bernie and Eileen Rodel, Paula Ruddy, and Mary Beth Stein. We drew up a Charter, describing the structure and purpose of the Council, and job descriptions for the Council members, their officers, and the offices that would serve the Council’s work. That work was completed in May. These documents can be found on the Council of the Baptized pages of this website.
In addition to organizing the Resource Teams, ACT held 33 listening sessions during the Spring of 2011 to hear the concerns of conscience in our Archdiocese. People stepped up to host their fellow parishioners and friends in their homes. Facilitators Pat Carlson, Michael Darger, Dan DeWan, Bob and Judy DeNardo, Pat Helin, Carol Larsen, Becky Montgomery, Rick and Cathy Osgood, Bernie and Eileen Rodel, Mary Beth Stein, and Bill Urbanski brought materials and led the discussions.
About 40 Minnesotans went to Detroit for the first American Catholic Council meeting in June of 2011. CCCR hosted a reception for them in the Convention Center. We came home energized and gathered leaders from the listening sessions to begin the process of formulating our concerns and imagining what we could do to address them at Synod of the Baptized 2011.
We held our second Synod of the Baptized on September 17, 2011. Anthony Padovano, who was an initiator of the ACC, was the keynote speaker. The focus of the Synod was the creation of the Council of the Baptized. The two Synod tasks were, first, to formulate concerns into proposals at each of the 50 tables, and, second, for the Synod to nominate the members of the first Council. The Council of the Baptized would be our voice in taking stands, launching programs of our own, and recommending programs to the Archdiocese to address our concerns. The Synod called the names of about 200 lay leaders. Of those nominated, 21 stepped up to take the seats on the new Council.
Our original Board underwent changes. Bill McGuire from CTA resigned and Art Stoeberl has taken his place. Mary Jo Czaplewski and Judith McKloskey resigned. Don Conroy, the first Board member from Spirit of St. Stephen’s Catholic Community, resigned to take a position on the Council of the Baptized. The new representative from SOSSCC was Mary Sutherland. Mary Beth Stein, a member of ACT from 2010 to 2012 and on the Council of the Baptized Executive Committee, and Ed Walsh representing ACT, joined the Board.
ACT worked to organize email networks in each of the quadrants of the Archdiocese. You will find all the parishes, their deaneries, and the quadrants listed under the Lay Network tab in the main menu.
In 2012, both CCCR and the Council of the Baptized met monthly. Groups of people from Synod 2011 met to draft proposals for position papers, programs, and recommendations to the Archdiocese to bring forward to the Council of the Baptized for their deliberation and acceptance or endorsement. Five proposals were adopted:
- a position statement opposing an amendment to the Minnesota constitution on the ballot in November, 2012; the amendment denies same-gender couples the right to civil marriage and is championed by the Catholic bishops of Minnesota
- a program of weekly prayer at the Cathedral for the well-being of all families
- a recommendation to re-establish an Archdiocesan Pastoral Council
- a recommendation that the Archdiocese join the National Leadership Roundtable for Church Management with its standards of excellence for transparency and accountability
- a program to be implemented by the Leadership Selection Resource Team for the people’s voice in the selection of bishops
While the Council of the Baptized did its work, CCCR continued to offer community-building programming and to stimulate the people to bring their concerns to the Council. One of CCCR’s campaigns was to oppose the amendment of the Minnesota Constitution on the November 2012 ballot regarding civil marriage. The amendment attempted to foreclose discussion on the justice of allowing same-sex couples and their families equal protection of the laws of civil marriage. CCCR’s position was that this should be an open subject of dialogue in the public forum until the regular procedures of legislative and judicial action can determine the issue. The amendment was defeated and the MN legislature subsequently passed the Marriage Equality bill in 2013.
In 2013, the work of Synod 2011 and 2012, the first year of the Council of the Baptized’s life, came to fruition in the publication of four position papers. On the Council’s first anniversary, its first position paper was sent to the Archbishop: Archdiocesan Pastoral Council in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, a Recommendation for Re-establishment. The second publication followed immediately: People’s Participation in the Selection of Bishops. In the autumn, A Call for Transparency and Accountability and Lay Preaching were published. Those publications are available online through this website and in print by emailing email@example.com. All proposals to the Council and work issued by the Council may be viewed on the Council of the Baptized section of this site.
In addition to the campaign for marriage equality, our focus in 2013 was a Catholic spirituality for the 21st century. Our goal was to deepen our spirituality through the lens of an evolutionary creation story. How does the science of the modern era affect us and our sense of how we fit into the cosmos? What is a fitting creation story for the 21st century? We conducted evolutionary spirituality workshops in each of the quadrants, and on September 28, 2013, the Synod of the Baptized was inspired by Gail Warcelo, a Franciscan sister who presents nationally on the evolution of the Roman Catholic tradition within the trajectory of cultural change.
CCCR’s Michael Bayly initiated a workshop on evolutionary spirituality to present to groups in parish assemblies or in homes. That was an ongoing program through 2014.
The break-out sessions at Synod of the Baptized 2013 included evolutionary spirituality, integral consciousness, personal growth, information on the Council of the Baptized, and one that provided the campaign for 2014, People’s Participation in the Selection of Bishops.
CCCR undertook two campaigns and a major organizing initiative in 2014. We organized a Lay Network of parishioners in parishes throughout the deaneries and in all quadrants of the Archdiocese. The purpose of the network is to provide a channel of two-way communication among the people of the Archdiocese.
There are 15 deaneries, geographical groupings of parishes, that serve the needs of priests. We thought: Why not the laity also? In the NE, NW, and SW quadrants there are 4 deaneries in each quadrant. In the SE quadrant there are 3 deaneries. A deanery has about 12 parishes generally. Some more and some less. In our network we include Catholics who do not identify with a parish but who, nevertheless, want a Vatican II inspired Church. We call them St. Elsewheres.
The email network quickly grew to about 1500 people. They receive a monthly Lay Network Update with a bulletin board feature. Members can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with their concerns and suggestions and we will include those messages on the bulletin board of the next month’s Update. The Lay Network Update also lets members know what action steps they can take to forward CCCR campaigns.
The first campaign communicated through the Lay Network was the Bishop Selection campaign. We asked people to tell us the qualifications they deemed necessary in a new Archbishop and to name pastors they thought capable of being bishop or archbishop. The campaign culminated in an email poll to suggest candidates for bishop to the Papal Nuncio whose office in Washington DC sends recommendations for U.S. bishops to Rome. The letter-writing campaign to the Papal Nuncio took place throughout 2014. Reports on the Bishop Selection campaign are posted on this site.
The second campaign through the Lay Network was input to the World Synod of Bishops on the Family, in October 2014 and October 2015. Pope Francis asked for input from the faithful on issues concerning marriage and family. The Council of the Baptized published its position paper entitled Toward a Healthy Christian Theology of Sexuality. They held listening sessions in parishes and homes throughout the archdiocese, encouraged people to attend the Archdiocesan listening sessions, and gathered data for the U.S. bishops attending the Synod sessions. You can find reports from listening sessions and people’s stories on this site.
The happening of 2015 was the resignation of Archbishop John C. Nienstedt on June 15. CCCR had a meeting with Archbishop Nienstedt in January 2015 urging more two-way communication and collaboration with laity involved in CCCR. Archbishop Nienstedt expressed increased openness to this request and permitted a connection with the Office of Marriage, Family, and Life for gathering input for the Synod on the Family session in October. After his resignation in June, CCCR immediately wrote to Archbishop Bernard Hebda, the temporary administrator, to urge two-way communication before the appointment of a new archbishop. We met with Archbishop Hebda on September 3 and learned that he had listening sessions in the works. CCCR urged people through the Lay Network to attend those sessions. Archbishop Hebda assured us that the Papal Nuncio was aware of our concerns from our letter writing campaign.
CCCR decided to take a more proactive approach to gaining two-way communication with the Archdiocese by meeting with department heads. Office heads met with in 2015 were Office of Marriage, Family, and Life and Office of Evangelization and Catechesis. The purpose is to offer collaboration with the middle management of the Archdiocese in unifying the faithful behind the Church’s mission. All voices must be heard and included in the Church’s life.
We have not yet been able to organize the Lay Network to the point where we can have representatives from each deanery chosen by the people of the deanery to seats on the Council of the Baptized. We cannot depend on volunteers to do organizing work to build the kind of network we envision. The joint leadership team of CCCR and Council of the Baptized is fundraising to hire staff to build an active laity in this Archdiocese.
CCCR and Council of the Baptized have plans to continue their mission to activate the laity of the Archdiocese, hear and adopt their concerns and develop programs and actions to address the concerns.
A Council of the Baptized open forum topic brought by Ken Pierre, retired priest of the Archdiocese and psychologist, resulted in a Pastoral Recommendations Project (PRP). Our situation of being without a permanent archbishop at this time gave us the opportunity to speak up with our needs to help shape the future of the local church.
Archbishop Hebda installed in March
With the appointment of Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda in March, 2016, we looked forward to working closely with Archdiocesan leadership. CCCR and Council of the Baptized endorsed and developed the Pastoral Recommendations Project, initiated by Ken Pierre. Over one hundred lay people and clergy participated in drafting preliminary suggestions for renewal in eight categories. This recommendations document, completed on June 17, is posted on the website www.cccr-cob.org.
In early August Archbishop Hebda indicated that he is willing to consider these recommendations, and, we hope he will be willing to encourage competent lay people to lead in the implementation of many of them.
Mary Ellen and Jim Jordan, members of the Council of the Baptized, hosted a social gathering for CCCR-CoB with Archbishop Hebda on August 31. The Archbishop encouraged us to keep working and growing.
As of the end of 2016 the Archbishop had not set a date to talk about the recommendations that the Pastoral Recommendations Project submitted, but there are many of the recommendations we can implement ourselves and no shortage of work to do. We are not giving up.
The strategic plan for 2017 is posted on this site, accessed on the home page. As a follow-up to the brain storming and work of the Pastoral Recommendation Project, Cheryl Peterson led the CCCR Board and the Council of the Baptized in more brainstorming and preliminary strategizing for 2017.
Pray that we can stay the course this year.
January 3, 2017