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A Post-Pandemic Church: Prophetic Possibilities

by Sister Nuala Kenny

The 2020 Chapter call to “…embrace our own vulnerability, trust the presence of the Spirit …and commit ourselves to …care for one another…” had special meaning for me because it came in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic as I was completing my third book on healing the Church from the wounds of the clergy sexual abuse crisis. 

A Post-Pandemic Church: Prophetic Possibilities (Novalis, In Press) continues my thirty five year commitment to this painful and often soul-crushing work. My first two books diagnosed pathology in need of healing including devastating physical, emotional and spiritual harm to children and youth; silence, secrecy and denial to avoid scandal; abuse of power and position; sin-centred moral theology; leadership failure to address underlying systemic and cultural factors; and polarizing divisions regarding the cause of the crisis and its treatment. 

COVID-19 has brought us a universal experience of vulnerability which is inherent in our being embodied in flesh and bone and embedded in families, communities and cultures. It is a condition of the moral life trusting others in the fragility of relationships. The experience of vulnerability has re-enforced many of my identified pathologies. The shutdown of Churches has seen thousands leave the practice of the faith, never to return. Pandemic has unmasked global political and religious dissension, as most tragically demonstrated in our own dis-United States, increasing health and social inequity worldwide and issues of systemic sexism, ageism, racism and white privilege in the Church and the world. The Church itself is responding to COVID-19 from vulnerability as a wounded healer.

So, the scope of this book goes far beyond sexual abuse. My goals are to assist Catholics in finding meaning and hope in this time of loss and risk; to describe key beliefs and practices in need of transformation to the “mind of Christ”; and to empower clergy and laity to work together for personal and ecclesial conversion through reclaiming our prophetic call.  

Prophetic criticism is about anguish that comes from recognizing our failure to be the people God has called us to be. It assesses the ways its beliefs and practices contradict our call to be a sign and source of the justice, compassion and mercy of our loving God. 

Prophetic imagination frees us to enter into the story of God’s love for us and imagine new life emerging from even the darkest of times. 

This work asks all in the Church if they can imagine:

A revitalization of faith and prayer leading renewed commitment to discipleship in the post COVID-19 Church? 

Breaking silence and denial with a new culture and practice of meaningful dialogue and respectful listening at all levels of the Church? 

Atonement for harm to all victims of abuse through practices of safeguarding and restorative justice? 

The renewal of moral theology focused on conscience formation and virtue?

Full, active participation in the renewed Eucharist as the Lord’s Supper and a flourishing of parish and liturgical life characterized by hospitality, inclusion and the ministry of care?

A new culture of vulnerability and servant leadership replacing a culture of power?

A restoration of relationships and the faith formation of clergy and laity recognizing the gifts of all and our “mutual need.”

Theological renewal and practical change to the role of women in the Church?

Revitalization of the principles of Catholic social teaching in advocacy for the common good, the preferential option for the poor and rejection of sexism, racism and white supremacy?

Practical commitment to the environmental crisis?

A renewed theology of sexuality, written by clergy and laity, married and celibate, which celebrates dignity, relationships and gift?

         A rejection of polarizing divisions fracturing the Body of Christ?

Pope Francis reminds us that there are obstacles to the prophetic: 

Narcissism makes you look at yourself constantly in a mirror; discouragement leads to complaining and pessimism to thinking everything is dark and bleak. These three attitudes close the door to the Holy Spirit. (Homily of His Holiness Pope Francis, June 29, 2020)

Chapter calls us to commit to care for others and trust the Spirit who can make “all things new.” I pray that this work contributes to renewal and healing.

Book Forthcoming, Spring 2021

More Charity Alive – February 2021

Reflections on our Chapter Statement

Sisters Anne Harvey, Mary Beth Moore, Judith Park and Margaret Coppenrath reflect on the Chapter Statement that shapes the vision of our Congregation for the next six years.

A Post-Pandemic Church: Prophetic Possibilities

The 2020 Chapter call to “…embrace our own vulnerability, trust the presence of the Spirit …and commit ourselves to …care for one another…” had special meaning for me because it came in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic as I was completing my third book on healing the Church from the wounds of the clergy sexual abuse crisis. 

An Associate Story: The Circle of Charity

The path I am following today I believe was influenced by my connection to the Sisters of Charity.  I started as a Palliative Care volunteer at our local hospital.  I was invited to join the Hospice Board six years ago.  

Compelled by Love, You Responded

Please continue to partner with us as we work to heal the wounds of the embittered, be peacemakers in troubled places, and bring the compassion of the One who calls us to those who need it most.

From the Archives

A common thread in the Congregational history and charism is responding to a call to serve those in need.

Charity Alive – November 2020

Transitions

This month’s theme engages us with the theme of transition.

Celebrating Nonagenarians

Celebrating our Sisters who are over 95 who have continuously evolved over their 7 decades of service and community within the congregation.

We Remember Them

From the 1890’s to the present day, some 1070 sisters of twenty-seven different religious communities taught, nursed, cared for the children, women and men of this Diocese. That included about 167 Sisters of Charity of Halifax.

“Come Walk With Me”

On this 200th Anniversary of Elizabeth Seton’s death and entrance into her beloved Eternity, she invites us to spend a few moments with her in the Valley of St. Joseph.

From the Archives

As the Sisters of Charity – Halifax embark on a new transition of leadership at the end of 2020, we’re looking back at another time of change in the community.

2021-02-11T19:26:08+00:00By |Comments Off on A Post-Pandemic Church: Prophetic Possibilities
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