Picture of Mark Millerby Fr. Mark Miller, C.PP.S., Liberty, Missouri

I have received several responses to my article in the October issue of the New Wine Press. Most of them were expressions of gratitude for raising the issue of how our two provinces seem to be “mistrusting” of the other. However, there were two responses, one from a member of the Cincinnati Province and one from a Companion that I would like to share. I don’t know if they or others will write directly to our publications, but I would like to refer to these two because I believe they have something to reflect upon and hopefully discuss among ourselves.

The member from the Cincinnati Province placed this “mistrust” in the context of “culture.” He believes that since 1965, our two provinces have developed different “cultures,” both in our community life and in our ministries. He even used the terms “pioneer” and “settlers” to describe how we seem to approach the ordinary way of life and the various situations which confront us on both sides of the Mississippi. There is more flexibility on the part of pioneers—adapting to the local culture, more open to the new even in terms of Bishop’s and Church rules—whereas settlers seem to dig in, build, not just for today but for a lifetime.

This reflection on “culture” relates to what a Companion wrote in her understanding of what might be going on. She invites us to look at Models of the Church by Avery Dulles. Cardinal Dulles initially had five descriptions as a model of Church. None was separate from another, but he divided them by where the emphasis was placed for each approach. The five models were: Church as Institution; Church as a Mystical Communion; Church as a Sacrament; Church as Herald of the Good News; and Church as Servant, committed to social justice. He later added a sixth, namely: Church as a Community of Disciples.

Even though this was far after St Gaspar’s time, my understanding of the mind of Gaspar was that he would be comfortable in the models of Church as Herald of the Good News and as Servant. I think when Fr. Brunner brought our Community to the U.S., his model was more of Church as Institution and as Sacrament. None of these models are wrong, but they place a significant emphasis on how one does ministry and lives community life. I am not sure which the American Province embraced most, but I suspect that it was more along the lines of Brunner rather than Gaspar.

As we look back at the beginning of our two Provinces, what models describe how we approach our ministries and community life? This Companion recognizes that “no one operates exclusively out of one model, and the models are not right or wrong, though I would add that some are more fruitful and helpful in certain situations than others.” She believes the Kansas City Province is more like the “Community of Disciples” model while the Cincinnati Province is more like Church as Institution.

I offer these two images as a way of furthering our dialogue as we prepare for the “New Creation.” How do we decide which model or combination of models we wish to develop and claim as our own? 

Let us remember that Pope Francis added an additional model of Church: Church as a Social Network. Which models or models will guide us in the future?