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Elections for the Parish Council open this week, and I wished to share my sincere hope that you’ll vote. I also wanted to share a bit about the impact that volunteer service on the Parish Council has had on my own faith life.
In 2015, my husband David and I relocated to Minneapolis from Washington D.C. In our search for a new parish, we visited The Basilica for Mass. Then the celebrant began with: “wherever you are in your faith journey, you are welcome here.” We looked at each other and shared a common understanding: this was our new spiritual home.
Not long after becoming parish members, we both had the opportunity to serve in volunteer leadership roles—David as a section leader in the Cathedral Choir, and I as a member of the Parish Council. It made an impression that we as new members were invited to engage in shaping our work as a parish community—whether through a musical performance or a new strategic plan. Our service in parish volunteer roles created a strong sense of community and belonging for us, for which we are so grateful.
In my role as a member of the Parish Council, I was honored to be a part of The Basilica’s Our Parish, Our Future strategic planning process. This parish-wide plan is a great example of the impact that collaboration between Basilica leadership and staff, and parish volunteers can have in advancing The Basilica’s mission. I can say with confidence that the contributions of nearly 100 volunteers who helped to shape and refine the plan greatly strengthened the outcome of the process. For my own part, it was an opportunity to utilize my professional background in strategy consulting and nonprofit management to serve the parish. The Our Parish, Our Future planning process is just one example of the many ways that volunteers strengthen our parish and service to the community.
Parish volunteer service has had a meaningful impact on my own faith life. I support The Basilica because I believe in its vision to be a home of spiritual nourishment, a beacon of hope and an advocate for change. As a parishioner, it has been meaningful to me to play an active role in working toward this vision through Parish Council service.
Each member of our community plays an important role in bringing The Basilica’s mission and vision to life. Thank you for your support of our parish! This year, I encourage you to actively participate in our parish elections, and also to consider how your unique skills and interests can map to volunteer service at our parish in the coming year.
Please reach out to me or other members of the Parish Council if you have any questions about lay leadership opportunities, or if you would like to share any comments or thoughts with us on parish life. We look forward to connecting with you.
Contact us at mary.org/parishcouncil.
This past January Pope Francis issued a Motu Proprio: Spiritus Domini, which modified the first paragraph of Canon 230 of the Code of Canon Law. Through this action, Pope Francis made the decision that from now on the ministries of Lector and Acolyte were to be open to women. (A Motu Proprio refers to a document issued by the pope on his own initiative and personally signed by him.)
Now, there is nothing new about women proclaiming the Word of God during liturgical celebrations, or ministering as Eucharistic ministers or altar servers. In many communities throughout the world these practices have been authorized by local bishops, and have been in place for many years.
However, up to this point, the above has occurred without an institutional mandate. Rather, it has occurred as an exception to the protocols that were established by Pope Paul VI in 1972. At that time Pope Paul abolished the so-called “minor orders,” but decided that access to the ministries of lector and acolyte should be granted only to men because both of these ministries were considered to be preparatory to the eventual admission to holy orders. However, after the conversations and consultation which took place and emerged from the last Synods of Bishops, Pope Francis decided to formalize and institutionalize the presence of women at the altar.
Now you would think that a change of this kind would be recognized and shared broadly. However, as I was writing this (at the beginning of May), I checked the United States Conference of Bishops’ website and found no mention of it there. Further, I have heard of only a handful of bishops who have commented on it. I think this is a real missed opportunity. And in regard to missed opportunities Author Jodi Picoult once said: “Missed opportunities are never superficial wounds; they cut straight to the bone.”
For centuries, women have served in our Church well, selflessly, and most often with little recognition and meager compensation. Now that Pope Francis has opened the ministries of Lector and Acolyte to women, you would think this would be cause for celebration—or at least acknowledgment. Sadly, for some reason, the leadership of our Church has not done this. I believe this is not just a superficial wound. More importantly, it is not only a wound for woman, but also it is a wound for our Church.
Whenever we can’t or won’t recognize the gifts of people in our church—in this case specifically the gifts women have to offer—we are less than we can and should be as a church. Church is at its best when it is able to recognize, accept, and celebrate the gifts and contributions of everyone, woman and men, young and old, rich and poor, named and unnamed; progressive and conservative; people of every race and nationality.
The muted response of our bishops to Pope Francis’ “Motu Proprio” admitting women to the ministries of Lector and Acolyte is not just a superficial wound to our Church; rather it is a wound that cuts straight to the bone.
Rev. John M. Bauer
Pastor, The Basilica of Saint Mary