As program chair for the Catholics@Work ([...]) Annual Speakers Series, a ministry of the Diocese of Oakland (CA), I have had the opportunity of seeing the "new springtime of the Church" up close and personal over the past 13 years. It is a reality. There are thousands of evangelization initiatives undertaken and led by laity and clergy that are revitalizing the Church.
Authors Hendershott and White in "Renewal" focus solely on the priests and bishops that are revitalizing the Church. Hendershott is professor of sociology at Franciscan University , and White serves as Director of Education for the Center of BioEthics and Culture. Both are frequent contributors to national publications such as the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Catholic World Report, and the National Catholic Register. This book was written to share their excitement about the signs of renewal they are seeing in the priests and bishops of the Church.
The book examines the growing rates of ordination in certain dioceses, contrasts these dioceses with dioceses with low rate, and concludes that the more faithful the Bishop, the greater the rate of ordination. The bishop makes a difference. Effective faithful leaders create a thriving culture that inspires others to flourish. ..not unlike what is seen in the private sector. We are not seeing the death of the priesthood. The priesthood is once again becoming attractive to young men.
The authors did a deep dive, identifying the characteristics of the bishops who lead ordination rich dioceses - they are more willing to directly and courageously confront attacks on the Church and her teachings; and they are excellent witnesses to Catholic Truth which responds to the profound need of human life, "proclaiming convincingly that Christ is the one savior of the whole man."
Hendershott and White have organized the book around ten crucial subject areas.
1. The Struggle for Catholic Identity
2. Building Better Seminaries
3. The Problem with Authority
4. Best Practices of Transformational Leaders
5. No Charisma Without Creed
6. Blurring the Boundaries
7. The Campus Culture Wars
8. Forging Alliances
9. Priests Matter
10. Catholic Renewal: The Good News
(those with a particular interest in the Campus Culture Wars will find Wilson Miscamble C.S.C.'s "For Notre Dame" to be a great resource)
There is no question that vocations today are trending upwards as a result of improved seminaries that are focused on the fundamental building blocks for success - orthodoxy (right belief), orthopraxy (right practice) - and led by bishops who make the priesthood an attractive calling. Dissidents, who garner the big headlines in the lay press, are, the authors believe, individuals who are sad and angry over feeling left out. These are the women who want to be ordained, gay men and lesbian women who want the church to recognize the goodness of their sexual relationships, or married ex-priests who want to celebrate the Eucharist again. Their aim is for an inclusive church, one that is most tolerant and welcoming to all..."regardless of the Church's teachings." They want and need the Church to abandon Catholic Truth so they can feel welcome and be comfortable. History has shown this does not work. Progressives attempted to move the Church in this direction with disastrous results.
"Renewal" concludes with a look at some of the "green shoots" that are facilitating the revitalization effort. These include:
* The new evangelization and new media
* Rev. Robert Barron
* Catholics come home initiative
* Fellowship of Catholic University students
* Catholic voices
The Church knows she must continue to teach the hard truths when discussing the unborn, protecting marriage, and religious freedom as the Church is the salt and the light in a hostile secular world. Progressive Catholicism has shown itself unable to pass on the faith. Now a with the American Catholic Church at a turning point, an orthodox revitalization effort is underway and appears to be bringing back the excitement and adventure of Catholicism. Catholic renewal is the good news for humanity.