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Corpus Campaign Looks To Eucharist Synod

Feast of Corpus Christi Named Day of Prayer for Vocations
11,000 More Letters, Postcards Delivered to Bishops

Pope John Paul II finally seemed to pick up on the urgency of the U.S. priest shortage in a November address to U.S. Bishops gathered in Rome: “No-one can deny that the decline in priestly vocations represents a stark challenge for the church in the United States ... And one that cannot be ignored or put off... I would propose for your consideration that the Catholic community in your country annually set aside a national day of prayer for priestly vocations.”

Of course, the U.S. Church has had special days of prayer for vocations for many years, but with more and more dioceses closing parishes, new initiatives are urgently needed.

The Corpus Christi Campaign is one initiative that is definitely gathering momentum. In November 11,000 letters and post cards were delivered to U.S. Bishops. Bishops were asked to lobby the October 2005 International synod on the Eucharist to open discussion about ending mandatory celibacy, welcoming back married priests and opening the diaconate to qualified women serving the church right now. This brings the grand total to almost 20,000 because over 8000 optional celibacy letters were delivered to Bishop Gregory last year.

FutureChurch and Call To Action have named the Feast of Corpus Christi (May 29) as a national day of prayer and petition to both honor the priestly vocations we have now and encourage the universal church to open the conversation to include all those called to be priests and deacons beyond present male celibate categories.

We are challenging each of our members to not only sign the petition to the Eucharist synod (available at www.futurechurch.org) but to get ten other people to sign it too. This could generate another 235,000 names. About 15,000 signatures have been collected to date.

Equally important are parish education and prayer initiatives which can be held at any time, but are especially appropriate on the Corpus Christi feast. An estimated 30 Advent prayer services and petition drives were held in parishes and small faith communities around the country, with petition circulation underway in many other places. Education, prayer and petition campaigns are in the planning stages for Lent and over the summer right up to the October Synod.

Catholic parishioners believe this is an idea whose time has come. Welcoming Vocations, a group in Minneapolis-St. Paul that collected over 6500 letters from lay people in 20 parishes, sent a cover letter to U.S. Bishop Wilton Gregory describing what they had learned:

  • “This is not a divisive issue for Catholic laity. Across a spectrum of churches, we have seen minimal opposition Signers will say “it’s about time.”
  • Many signers are acutely aware that the priest shortage has already tipped past the point of crisis, especially in rural areas.
  • •Many priests are tired and demoralized from overwork...We are motivated by a desire to provide just working conditions for priests as well as by our hunger for the Eucharist.”

November Bishops Meeting

“We need to remember that there is more to Eucharist than Sunday Mass. Priests help form the worshiping community in following Jesus...and that is hard to do if they have to circuit ride to three or four parishes,” said Fr. Andrew Connolly who joined CTA New England’s Sharon Toffey Shapela and FutureChurch’s Sr. Chris Schenk at the FutureChurch-Call To Action press conference held on November 15 at the U.S. Bishops meeting. Connolly helped convene the Priests’ Forum for the Eucharist, a group representing over 1,000 U.S. priests asking to openly discuss the celibacy rule. Right now Catholics in ten parishes are holding round the clock prayer vigils rather than lose their religious homes, and other parishes are beginning to organize too.”
At least 4000 postcards addressed to Cardinal George (about 2000 collected at the CTA conference) were mailed or delivered to the Bishops Committee on the Liturgy, which George chaired. Senders asked that the Eucharist Synod focus on solutions to the priest shortage, availability of the Mass and Vatican II understandings of Eucharist. The Liturgy office acknowledged receiving “about 1100” postcards as of late October. The U.S. response to synod preparatory materials was due at the Vatican by December 31. The Bishops also elected U.S. representatives to the Synod but names will not be released until the Vatican gives its approval.

Erie Bishop Donald Trautman, a surprise nomination from the floor, was elected new chair of the Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy. Trautman is an accomplished linguist who supported gender neutral language in lectionary translations rejected by Rome even after they were accepted by all English speaking Bishops. Some observers believe he was elected because many Bishops are unhappy with the Eucharist Synod preparatory documents and proposed new lectionary translations containing archaic language.


Priest Surveys

Articles about the CTA/FutureChurch anonymous survey of priests were published in Commonweal and the National Catholic Reporter. Our findings were corroborated by surveys in Ireland and Australia released in October. Sixty seven percent of Irish priests and 55% of Australian priests believe celibacy should be optional. We found sixty seven percent (2,589 of 3,846) of responding priests in 53 dioceses supported open discussion of mandatory celibacy. A few more surveys are being planned for other dioceses, so its not to late to survey priests in your diocese.


Winter 2005



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