This is always a special feast day for the RSHM. This year it was particularly enriched by a presentation co-created by Sister Catherine Patten and Sister Catherine Vincie, providing insight into the changes Pope Francis is making in the structure of the church. Following are some key quotes:
There is a revolution underway in the church, and it is progressing so quietly that we could miss it. In the words of Pope Francis, “The reform is not an end in itself, but a means to give a strong Christian witness; to foster a more effective evangelization; to promote a more fruitful ecumenical spirit; to encourage a more constructive dialogue with all.”
The constitution “Praedicate Evangelium” begins by saying that preaching the gospel is the first service that the church offers to all of humanity. The role of the Curia is placed squarely in the service of evangelization. Francis says, “The church fulfills her mandate above all when she testifies, in word and deed, to the mercy that she herself freely received.” We know how important mercy is for him. Remember, when asked “Who are you?” he replied, “I am a sinner.” And again, he says, “The evangelizing community places itself through works and gestures in the daily life of others, shortens distances, lowers itself to humiliation if necessary, and takes on human life, touching the suffering flesh of Christ in the people.”
On the Role of Bishops: We know that the bishops, even archbishops and cardinals, felt that the Curia saw them as serving the Curia. Francis, throughout this document, turns this on its head. The life of the church flows from the base upwards before it flows from Rome downwards.
On the Role of the Laity: Francis says, “Every Christian, by virtue of Baptism, is a disciple-missionary, to the extent that he met the love of God in Christ Jesus.” Throughout the document provision is made for non-ordained persons to exercise governance. This is a major change in canon law. Never has clericalism been dealt such a deadly blow!
On the Process of Reform: Francis knows that changing minds and hearts is a big task. He is deliberately slow, patient, collaborative, including the peripheries. But let us not confuse Pope Francis’ patience with a lack of strength or courage. He is not afraid of confronting the Curia officials and challenging them when it is warranted. Over and over again, we can see his commitment to dialogue. The context of decision-making must be prayer and trust in the Holy Spirit. And the final stage is allowing the Holy Spirit to bring forth a new response.
Following Sister Catherine Vincie’s presentation and responses from the Synodal Task Force, we proceeded to the Eucharistic Liturgy with Rev. Senan Taylor presiding. His reflections on the human joys and sorrows of the Heart of Mary brought us in touch with the particular graces of this feast day. A festive lunch was the icing on the cake!