1) Back in 2002, I almost left the active ministry.
a) Back then we were reading story after horrible story
i) About how priests had behaved with children.
b) We were learning about how time and time again
i) Our bishops ignored the warnings of doctors, psychologists and lawyers
ii) And reassigned these men to parishes
(1)Where they would abuse again and again.
c) But what we were not hearing was how the vast majority of priests were suffering
i) Suffering the loss of trust from their parishioners
ii) the loss of respect from their communities
iii) and the loss of support from their bishops,
(1)Who were beginning to treat them as little more than potential pedophiles.
2) I soon discovered I was not alone.
a) people had stopped coming to church
b) parents cancelled their children’s baptisms
c) Parishioners refused to give, refused to serve, refused to support their parishes.
d) Priests began quietly discussing among themselves the possibility of leaving.
i) And I was one of them.
3) Undoubtedly our reasons would have been different, but they grew from our common experience of betrayal;
a) for we were all taught
i) that the before the Church was holy catholic or apostolic, it was and is ONE.
ii) And that means that we are connected with each other:
iii) people with their priests,
iv) priests with their people
v) and everyone with their bishops.
4) However in those dark days
a) It seemed, that our One Church was in danger of flying apart.
5) How different it was, St. Luke would have said, at the start of the Church.
a) For we hear in today’s first reading from the acts of the Apostles,
i) That from the moment Jesus left,
ii) the disciples and the women were “together” in prayer.
b) That word “together” might not mean much to us; but it did to St. Luke.
i) The particular word he uses means something like “with one heart and mind”
ii) In ALL of the New Testament outside of the book of Acts it only gets used once
iii) In the book of Acts Luke uses it TEN times;
(1)and every time he uses it to assure his readers
(a) before the church was anything else, it was ONE.
6) How different it was, St. John would have said at the start of the Church
a) For as we hear in today’s Gospel reading
i) That on the night before his crucifixion Jesus prayed,
(1)reminding his disciples that they were his and he was theirs;
(2)Asking his Father that they might be One as he was one with the Father.
7) But as adults we have to recognize that if St. Luke and St. John BOTH emphasized that the Church was ONE
a) that meant that even at the time they were writing,
i) only 40 to 50 years after the resurrection
ii) that unity was already a distant dream.
b) That the growth of the church meant that the One Church was growing more diverse; with different people, different customs and ideas
i) And that this diversity was threatening the unity of the Church.
8) In short the Church has always been in danger of flying apart
a) However the damage done by the sexual abuse crisis was particularly severe.
i) For it has resulted in closed parishes
ii) Empty seminaries
iii) Bankrupt dioceses.
b) IT has caused people to leave the unity of the Church;
c) and almost caused me to.
i) But I didn’t.
ii) For you see I realized back then that before I could leave
iii) I had to become a pastor.
iv) I had to see if it was possible to shepherd a church where our Church’s unity was not in conflict with our membership’s diversity.
(i) But precisely supported it.
(b) So when they offered me a church, St. Teresa’s parish on the LES
(c) I took it.
(i) And 17 year later, here I am.
(ii) Why? Well yes because of what I became,
(iii) I became a pastor and was able to shepherd a church in the way I spoke about a moment ago, first at St. Teresa’s and now here,
(iv) ; but far more importantly, because of what we are constantly becoming as a parish
(d) Not a unity, but a community of people who think nothing
(i) of bringing their friends to church
(ii) Of encouraging parents to bring their kids to religious education,
1. To receive their first communion and confirmation, and to practice their faith in a real way.
(iii) Of welcoming strangers with an invitation to return.
9) IN all these ways and in so many others, we begin to heal the wounds of our divided church, the way St. John and St. Luke knew we had to do, and the way Jesus still invites us to do;
10) Not through conformity to uniformity but through diversity in a community big enough to welcome all. Big enough to welcome all: isn’t that what the word Catholic means?