Linda’s Sad Story….and sadly the story of many
Yesterday on Facebook, one of my blog readers, Linda, shared her horror stories of going to Catholic school and the evil inflicted upon them by the nuns. I know that Linda’s story is not unique and there are many men and women today who attended parochial schools and suffered at the hands of unhealthy priests and/or nuns. I have to state, for the record, my personal experience was the polar opposite which is why it has been so difficult as a grown up to come face to face with the underbelly of the Catholic Church. Before I go there, however, I do want to share with you the incredible experiences I had growing up Catholic and the amazing nuns, priests and lay people that played a significant role in my spiritual growth and formation.
I was one of the fortunate people to grow up in the post-Vatican II church among parishes and schools that were committed to bringing forward the reforms of the Council. St. Alphonsus in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, Totino-Grace in Fridley, Minnesota, St. John’s University in Collegeville (where I attended summer camp), Pax Christi in Eden Prairie, Minnesota; Resurrection Parish in Solon, Ohio; St. Mary’s in Iowa City and the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis were all run by priests, as well as men and women in vowed religious life (brothers and nuns) who were fantastic teachers, preachers and role models of the Christ message. Good liturgy (the mass), the sacraments, inspiring and relevant sermons and a commitment to social justice seemed to be common among these formative experiences. Another common thread is that all of these churches tended to be of a progressive mindset. In other words, yes, we were taught Catholic teachings which included the moral teachings and guidelines of the Church, BUT these teachings were always followed up with the reminder of the teachings on Primacy of Conscience. While there were a few teachings presented as “absolute”, we were invited for the most part to use the brain God gave us to reason, discern and exercise truth.
Unique and Rare
I have now learned that I was more than fortunate and that these experiences represent a rarity, so I guess in this I am especially grateful. I am grateful for the sacrifices our parents made so that we could enjoy a parochial school education and for the witness they provided in their own commitment to active participation in the parish communities in which which we were members. I am also grateful to all the priests, brothers, sisters and lay people who helped to make me who I am and who through their own witness, provided inspiration for what would eventually reveal itself as my own call to active ministry.
As much as I was blessed in childhood with a great Catholic experience, in adulthood (at least up until the past few years), I was doubly blessed. I was somehow led to the exact parishes that God seemed to know would feed me and would continue to lead me to the call to active ministry. When moving to Oshkosh I found St. Peter parish and Kiernan Rozum’s Women’s Spirituality groups. I then discovered the Newman Center Catholic Campus Ministry and Fr. Jeff VandenHeuvel. It was here that my call really began to show itself. When the call became obvious, I was led to the Lay Ministry formation program offered by our Diocese, and then on to the Spiritual Director’s training program offered through the Norbertine Abbey in DePere. In every one of these situations, I was met again with priests, sisters and lay people who were Vatican II thinkers, progressive and inspired. It was exactly what I needed at exactly the right time in exactly the right way. And as I watch the changes in the Institution, I know that here I was triply blessed!
Sitting in the Question
After hearing Linda’s story and the story of others like her, I know that my experience has been not only unique, but rare. I’m not sure why God provided these opportunities for me in the way that they were presented, but I am grateful for them because they have made me who I am and have formed me in my ministry. While I am currently called to fast from the Eucharist and have been called to take my ministry outside the doors of the official Institution, I cannot deny that in my bones, I am still Catholic. I’m not sure what that means in my ministry or in my personal life, but I guess for now, I am content to sit in the question.
Authentic Freedom Ministries