by Mark Miller, C.PP.S., Pastor at Sedalia Catholic Community, Missouri
From June 23-26, I attended the third annual assembly of the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests (auscp), held this year in St. Louis. This association is open to any priest in the United States and offers a forum in where priests can discuss ideas in open dialogue and come together for prayer and support; 225 of us gathered for the assembly. We heard presentations from Fr. Donald Senor, C.P. who spoke on the Biblical Reflections of Dei Verbum and the essential outreach of the Church’s Mission; Fr. Michael Crosby, O.F.M. Cap., on the Gospel as proclaimed by the incarnate Dei Verbu; Sr. Dianne Bergant, C.S.A., on how Sacred Scripture is the very source of evangelization; and Fr. James Bacik who highlighted the dialogic character of revelation as found in Dei Verbum.
I have DVDs of these major presentations if anyone would like to use them for further discussion and reflection; each is around an hour in length. Each year, the Association uses one of the documents from the Second Vatican Council as its focus to offer a meaningful message for the ongoing understanding and implementation of the spirit of Vatican II. What was painfully evident was the fact hardly anyone at this event was under 50 years of age.
The first night of the gathering was spent in prayer entitled: “Lament: Broken and Blessed.” We sat at tables of eight, and were invited to write down what we “lament” within the Church or our own priesthood. After several minutes of silence, we were invited to share these “laments” with those at our table and pick one common to all. These were placed on the walls in our assembly room. Then we prayed Psalm 31 together. After a short break, we gathered at the same tables to write down our “blessings” within the Church or our own priesthood. After several minutes of silence, we were invited to share these “blessings” and pick one common to all and these were placed on the walls above the “laments” in our assembly room. We prayed Psalm 116 together. All these laments and blessings stayed on the walls for the entire gathering.
Clarence Williams and I were the only two C.PP.S. priests present, but many diocesan priests attending knew many of our members through their association as military chaplains or parish ministry in different dioceses. There was much praise for what people have read and heard about Pope Francis. One rather eye-opening remark was made when someone said that a bishop was told that many of the younger priests in his diocese feel Pope Francis is not supporting them by his remarks. It was later revealed many of our younger priests are feeling this way because the Pope is asking for an end to clericalism and they are hearing that as an insult. This does demonstrate that we hear and see things out of the lens by which we choose to live. This was the main thrust of the talk by Michael Crosby when he asked, “Whose Gospel are we preaching?”
I invite all of us to consider joining the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests. It is only $50 a year to join in the dialogue. The information is at http://www.uscatholicpriests.org/. The three days were well spent. Archbishop Carlson invited the group back to St. Louis next year for its annual meeting.