Synodality and Oblates in the U.S.A., Part Two

Mission-Unity-Dialogue

By Jim Brobst, OMI and Paul Hughes, OMI, Introduction by Harry Winter, OMI

In our first installment, we mentioned how much St. Eugene lived synodality, even though he may not have used the word (Synodality and the Oblates: Part 1). Since the core of synodality is mission, St. Eugene looks over our shoulders as we invest in synodality.

Michael Hughes, OMI, of the Anglo-Irish Province documented this when he described St. Eugene’s 1850 visit to England.  “Today, we would say that he had set the Oblate mission well and truly on the synodal pathway” (p. 14, Oblate Connections, May 2022, #54).  Hughes explains how St. Eugene “rallied his men and made a striking impression of gracious nobility on the various dignitaries he has met” (p. 15).Thisgracious nobility” helped him overcome clericalism, and work equally with the laity and clergy.

Washington, DC, Oblate Residence, Jim Brobst, OMI

Fr. Jim Brobst, OMI

On May 12, 8 of the 12 Oblates residing in Washington, DC, met to discuss synodality… and I guided our discussion.  Although our community discussion was often rather intellectual and historical in its approach, we also had some strong moments of personal disclosure. The fact of having something other-than-business to discuss was itself the best part about the meeting!  We’re often good on the administrative/necessary business side of mission, but less so on the depth of community that is a part of mission.  This discussion gave us the opportunity to go deeper than we normally do.

On May 14 I took our summary to the meeting on the Archdiocesan level, at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish.  About sixty-five people attended, including Cardinal Gregory, laity, religious and pastors.  Reporters ranged from Sr. Jeannine Gramick, long-time defender of LGBTQ within the church, to proponents of Latin Mass.  There was quite a diversity in ages, ethnicity, culture and education  among those present.

Here are the impressions I would like to share from both meetings. 

One of the most interesting insights, seconded by a number of folks, was that we seem to be starting from predetermined questions.  Are these the actual needs?  There also seems to be a rather high level of education presumed. What about the people on the margins?  Are they really part of the process?

The procedure seems to be weighted from and to the diocese. 

Religious orders, both men and women, have a different approach.  The very nature of our existence is to exercise ministry that is not within the sacramental scope of basic parish life.  By blending all the response of vowed religious into a diocesan reporting structure, are the unique perspectives of communities of consecrated men and women  being taken into consideration?

Synod events are only occasional; synodality must be ongoing.  Our ministry sites cannot simply be charging stations for our personal energy and faith.  They must be mission-oriented by nature.  True evangelization depends on faithful, thriving, communities of faith – whether in parishes or religious communities.

Brownsville, TX, St. Eugene de Mazenod Parish, Paul Hughes, OMI

Our final synod report was submitted last week, May 9.  I sensed that many Tex/Mex people who grew up on the other side of the border have a different sense of church and feel very uncomfortable in presenting their faith experiences, especially in their popular religiosity which is not part of the American Church experience. We have winter Texans from up north that participated in the small groups and it is quite clear that there are two distinct models of church operating in the country.

Fr. Paul Hughes, OMI

Another concern:  should Pope Francis and his team clearly present what can be discussed and those issues that are considered off the table.  Are we leading people  down a path of issues that will never be talked about, e.g. women priest, married clergy, Eucharist to divorced  Catholics, blessings of LGBTQ’s, etc.!!!

There is a good article in the recent America magazine, Spring 2022, “The Conciliar Church/Past and Present,” an interview with Joseph Komonchak on the legacy of Vatican II.

Conclusion, Harry Winter, OMI

Sr. Jeannine Gramick’s role in the Washington, DC process is noteworthy.  Her association with Fr. John Harvey, O.S.F.S. and their teaching at Oblate College, Washington, DC, from 1970-1995,will explored in the next number of Synodality and Oblates. Part 3 will include Sacred Heart, Oakland, CA, and St. Mary’s, Georgetown/Rowley, MA. The issue of LGBTQ was prominent at St. Mary’s.

Responses from more Oblate places of ministry in the USA, regarding synodality, are most welcome. 

Part One of this series is now the first item on the home page of the Mission-Unity-Dialogue website.  This item will be placed there soon:  www.harrywinter.org.