The movement for reform, based on the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, is now widespread around the Church; and of course it has got great impetus from the papacy of Francis.
About four years ago a meeting took place in Bregenz in Austria in an effort to connect the different movements. This meeting was originally seen as a network for the various priests movements, in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Australia, U.S and Ireland. But even at that meeting a number of lay movements attended.
In April of last year the second conference took place in Limerick, Ireland. By then the network had expanded greatly, and forty people attended, representing reform movements, lay and clerical, from many countries.
The third conference is scheduled for Chicago next October, and yet more movements are attending. So much so that this network is now becoming an important source of unity and strength for those who wish to bring about much needed change in our Church.
I have been the representative of the ACP in this network from the beginning; and I am now part of a core group that meets in Skype conference every six weeks or so, and that is the organiser of these conferences.
The agenda and process for the Cbicago conference is as follows:
Chicago Conference: Topics and Process
Topics for discussion, in the hope that, from our different backgrounds and experience, we may find areas of agreement and collaboration.
1. What aspects of Francis’ agenda do we think we can support, and how might we help to push these parts of his agenda forward.
2. Full participation of women in the Church; what would this full participation look like. Can we find a common position, even a statement, on women’s ordination?
3. An assertion of the basic rights of all the baptised in the Church, in order to overcome the concentration of power exclusively with the ordained, and the problem of clericalism.
4. With the decline in numbers of priests, and the closing of parishes, we will look at emerging models of ministry and Eucharistic celebrations.
5. How can we best show solidarity with the LGBT community?
6. To find ways to support and encourage our bishops to follow the lead of Francis to be more welcoming, compassionate and to engage in deeper dialogue with all Catholics, including those who have been historically excluded.
In this conference there will be no lectures or long presentations. It is our third international conference, and we aim to enter into deep dialogue, understanding our similarities and our differences, enjoying our diversity and finding common ground leading to common action. In this way we hope to strengthen our commitment, and energise our work, for Church reform.
In our meeting and sharing we try to mirror what we hope the Church of the future will be like, so we will emphasise inclusion of all with no discrimination. Through our sharing of experience and practice we will attempt to be messengers of good news.
Setup a communications structure to stay connected via email, skype etc.