A great bond of friendship was evident as Catherine Vincie, RSHM, introduced her former colleague from Seton Hall University, Dr. Zeni Fox, to the sisters gathered at Marymount Convent on Saturday, September 16, for our annual Missioning Day. The opening prayer with vibrant visuals included a prayer of Pope Francis: Lord, let us learn how beautiful it is to live together as brothers and sisters.
It also drew upon the Vision Statement from the RSHM 2019 General Chapter:
We collaborate with others as we journey together – women of prophetic hope who proclaim that all have a place in our “common home.
The focus of the presentation was the laity and the Roman Catholic Church. Tracing a clear path of change from the role of lay persons described by one bishop at Vatican II as “pay, pray, and obey,” Dr. Fox reviewed some significant developments in the life of the Church such as the Catholic Family Movement, the Catholic Worker Movement, St. Vincent de Paul Societies, and Associates of Religious Congregations. She then set before us an awe-inspiring sequence of documents illustrating the growth in understanding of the role of the laity in the mission of the Church.
From the Second Vatican Council:
“For the exercise of the apostolate God gives the faithful special gifts” (Art.3)…“That men (and women), working in harmony, should renew the temporal order and make it increasingly more perfect: such is God’s design for the world. All that goes to make up the temporal order: personal and family values, culture, economic interests, the trades and professions, institutions of the political community, international relations, and so on…all these possess a value of their own, placed in them by God…” (Art. 7).
From the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church:
“The Church knows that she is joined in many ways to the baptized…(who) do not however profess the Catholic faith… (And) those who have not yet received the Gospel are related to the People of God in various ways” (Arts. 15 and 16).
From Pope Benedict XVI’s Address to the Pastoral Leaders of the Diocese of Rome:
“In the first place we must renew our efforts for a formation which is more attentive and focused on the vision of the Church…. At the same time, it is necessary to improve pastoral structures in such a way that the co-responsibility of all is gradually promoted…. This demands a change in mindset, particularly concerning lay people. They must no longer be viewed as ‘collaborators’ of the clergy but truly as ‘co-responsible’ for the Church’s being and action.”
Dr. Fox ended her presentation with eyes on the upcoming global assembly at the Vatican, October 4-28, 2023, for the Synod on Synodality. Pope Francis had invited Catholics to submit feedback to their local dioceses on the question “What steps does the Spirit invite us to take to grow in our ‘journeying together?’” The resulting synthesis, the Working Document for the Continental Stage of the Synod is crystal clear in affirming the role of the laity: The mission of the Church is realized through the lives of all the baptized.
The lecture was followed by an anointing for mission by Sisters Roz, Catherine and Susan, Eucharistic Liturgy with Reverend Senan Taylor, OFMCap, presiding, and a festive lunch for all.