by Fr. Keith Branson, C.PP.S., Publications Editor
As the oversized pages appeared Tuesday morning, April 14, I thought back to Provincial elections past when we posted our challenges and dreams, all the way to the first process I witnessed in 1995. Over twenty years, some of the same things were still on the lists: not necessarily dangerous but testament to our continuing struggle living as a Precious Blood community. The following discussion was a continuation of those conversations past, as we sought together for our identity and shared mission, responding to the signs of the times and our own gifts and challenges.
Then a topic threw a wet blanket on everything: merger. The topic has also been around for these 20 years, and denying the possibility is dumb; Jesus never said, “Blessed are the willfully ignorant.” However, the fire of dialogue was extinguished after that; after all, discussing issues of the future with a dying group is a bit like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. In the 2010 Assembly, merger was the topic that smothered every other conversation and it did it again this year.
Every other issue about our identity, our ministries, our declining numbers and scarcity of new members, our relationship with our Companions, our future in the Church, are issues facing any current or conceivable North American province. Any conversation we could have among any of us would be useful in looking ahead; none of these come off the table in a merger. Some might say we should wait and talk with them about these things, however there has been no drive to organize such conversations yet. Waiting only makes them more difficult.
Merger will change nothing as it stands now: it will not solve our common problems and disputes, but will probably magnify and increase them. It will not save us from ourselves. Unless we confront our issues as a community on every level, personal and corporate, a new American province will be born fatally ill with the same contagion that affects us separately now. Complacency, personal comfort and rationalization will not be cured by a new house.
Smothering conversation is deadly, and this happened in April. Merger talk at this time does nothing but reinforce our complacency, keeping us from looking honestly at ourselves. Pope Francis says that ongoing free dialogue is a key part of the Church’s journey. Unless we are ready to be challenged and transformed, unless we’re ready to confront one another about what the Cry of the Blood calls us to, ultimately we smother Christ.