So I’ve been asked by a neighboring parish to provide a retreat for them in April on the mission of the laity in our modern culture. This past week I was also in a discussion during our teacher’s retreat at St. Joe’s on the role of women in the church today. I think that’s a great place to start talking about the role that lay women, especially have already provided and what they will need to provide in the future of our church.

While women have been at the forefront of running Catholic schools, hospitals, outreach programs, many feel that they haven’t received the recognition that they deserve from the hierarchy. That indeed may be justified, but are we all in this for the recognition? The hope of many baby boomer Catholics at the start of the Second Vatican Council was that women would enter in some way into the hierarchy of the church, perhaps not through ordination but perhaps as heads of diocesan staffs, bishops conferences and Vatican offices. In some ways great strides have been made by women and in many ways people have felt their hopes dashed.

But what is our mission as Catholics? Our mission is to love. We spend an awful lot of time worrying about who gets to wear the vestments and say mass and not enough time thinking about how we are called from liturgy into the world. What’s the last great non-liturgical thing that was wildly popular in our culture that was started by Catholics? I’m afraid one readily doesn’t come to mind other than the service of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta–a woman most people would readily believe was a saint.

Where are the other Teresas? Where are people that we can point to who are living their lives for Christ? Who are those who spend their waking moments not in front of a TV set (or even a keyboard!) but who are changing the world they live in by radically living for others?

It seems to me that our mission needs to be far more outward-looking and not as inward looking, especially when it comes to younger people. We spend a lot of time wondering why they are not in our pews, when we should be spending more time wondering why we are not on their streets! When drugs, sex, fame and money are the values that people look to today, can we be the ones who offer something more, something different.

Fr. Greg Boyle may be one of the many saints in our midst today. He works with gang members in removing tattoos, getting them employment and giving them a place to belong. But he’s in the clergy, aren’t there people like him in the laity?

Perhaps we’re all just a bit self-involved? We need to prioritize our family of course, but at what point are we on overload. I don’t think I’m ever going to be rich, so perhaps I should start giving things away anyway.

So where SHOULD we be going? Any prophets out there that you know of that I’m missing? Who is touching hearts and changing lives?

Where in the world are those in the laity who work for the good of the world and not just the good of the church?

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