Month: August 2014

Roots and Spectacles

Below is a preview of the 7th and final article of the inaugural issue of the Theophilus journal, by CTU student Fr. Martin-Edward Ohajunwa. You can click here to read the rest of it and to read the other inaugural articles

Roots and Spectacles: The Impressions of an African-American Missionary in the Western Church

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The Catholic Church in the West is faced with a dearth of priestly and religious vocations amidst a growing cultural diversity. This situation poses many pastoral challenges, one of which is the need to meet the demands of ordained clergy in many of the parishes and dioceses across Western Europe, the United States, and Canada. What used to be a vibrant and dynamic local church has in recent years seen its numbers of clergy dwindle. This has necessitated the creation of a new dimension of assistance and sustenance for parish life: the use of international priests from countries where vocations are still growing. These international priests are otherwise called the Fidei donum (gift of faith) priests by the Diocese of Belleville and many other dioceses in the United States. These priests are mainly immigrants from Asia, Africa, and South America, with a greater number from countries like India, Poland, and Nigeria in West Africa. In fact, according to the Directory of African Conference of Catholic Clergy and Religious in the United States (ACCCRUS), Nigeria contributes the highest number of priests and religious working in the United States in relation to other African countries.

The dearth of vocations has made it an imperative for the local church of the United States, like in most western countries, to reach out to priests, with the consent of their individual bishops and Ordinaries, from far away dioceses and Congregations to invite them to come over and support the U.S. Church in its pastoral need. This is in tune with the mark and mission of the Universal Church that is in communion with local churches and so shares the gift of faith (fidei donum) in her unity and catholicity.

This paper is my reflection as an African international priest on pastoral assignment in the United States. It is a reflection on my observations of the conflict of culture that has become a major concern for the local churches in the on-going engagement of international priests in the dioceses of the United States, with particular interest in the Catholic Church of Southern Illinois. The conflict of culture and the process of engagement of the international priests are areas of greatest concern. This reflection has been inspired by a talk originally given to the priests of the Diocese of Belleville for the Clergy Day of October 28th of 2010, when I was invited to share my impressions with the priests of the diocese as an international priest from Nigeria working in their midst. Thus, one may see dominating these perspectives and impressions experiences from both my homeland in the Eastern heartland of Nigeria with its typical Igbo church and the Church in Southern Illinois. However, these perspectives will be broadened to accommodate, where necessary, impressions from outside these precincts.

I have chosen to call this reflection “Roots and Spectacles: The Impressions of an African Missionary in the Western Church.” It serves as a kernel for appreciating the common heritage, the “common meaning,” and the experiences which all priests share with the “one, holy, catholic and Apostolic Church” that is missionary. It is of great importance to appreciate this fundamental character and formation of the true Church that informs us of a great and unique tradition of faith and apostolate. Though we may travel far and wide, the consciousness of this unity in faith affords me the leisure of a realistic reflection. So, in order to proceed with this reflection, I will briefly explain my use of terms as it applies to this paper and then delve into where and how these terms apply in the universal mission of the Church. I will present a brief survey of the Nigerian Church, and then, the Church in the western world with particular reference to the United States. I will also examine the cultural and pastoral challenges facing this mission with some proposals for moving forward into the future.

Click here to continue reading!

Suffering, Remaining, and Witness

Below is a post by Theophilus editorial board member and CTU MA student, Susan Francois, CSJP. She reflects on this year’s LCWR address which happens to correlate to work that Susan is doing right now as she prepares for her comprehensive exams. This post first appeared on her blog.

I was delighted to see that Nancy Schreck, OSF drew upon the work of Shelly Rambo in her 2014 LCWR Keynote address. I have been 412Gx1t-D-L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_reading (and re-reading) Rambo’s Spirit and Trauma: A Theology of Remaining (2010 Westminster John Knox Press) these days. I first used Rambo’s book for a paper I wrote on the ministry of reconciliation with trafficked persons. I’m now using it as part of my thesis work (today in fact …. it sits open before me as I procrastinate in my research with this blog post!)

It was interesting to read Schreck apply Rambo’s work on trauma to the place where women religious find themselves today.

This shifting within religious life and in world events has taken us to what I call a middle space. We find ourselves in this place of both creativity and disorientation. Much of what was is gone, and what is coming is not yet clear….

I am greatly helped in this next section by the work of Shelly Rambo and her book Spirit and Trauma: A Theology of Remaining. Rambo speaks about a theology of remaining in difficult places because “when you enter certain worlds, they do not let you go.”

Though her work is with trauma survivors and in no way do I want to diminish the aspect of trauma, I do think some parallels with or experience can be drawn….

The task of “remaining” in this uncertain place is to pay attention to the reality that does not go away. In this experience all of our theological categories are re-defined: concepts like love, divine presence, incarnation, and world view are reshaped. Knowledge, truth, and experience of our world are transformed, placed on much more fragile terrain because of the radical disruption….

What we try to do in the middle space is to describe events that shatter all that one knows about the world and the familiar ways of operating within it. What if from this place we simply witness to and provide testimony about this experience, with special attention to truths that often lie buried and are covered over….

In this middle space that is what we do: we call attention to things, things others might bury, or are afraid to face. That is why I say, however long the night we will be faithful and we will speak about what we are learning in the middle space. We trust Holy Mystery revealed in our midst. (Excerpt, Schreck, pages 7-10)

I need to think and pray into that some more, especially as it relates to my experience as a woman religious.

I’ve certainly been thinking and praying with a heavy heart today about the immense (human induced) suffering in our world today. And I mean, quite literally, today. A friend recently posted a very poignant list she’s been carrying around with her these days: “Fergusson (police state, Black Man Walking), Gaza, Ukraine, Malaysian Air Flt 17, Refugee kids fleeing violence in Central America, Yazidi’s fleeing the Islamic State, The Islamic State, Syria, Afghanistan, Ebola …” No doubt you have your own (similar) list. It seems to be growing by the day. So much violence, oppression, death, and trauma being caused to human beings by other human beings. One can feel paralyzed, helpless, or even complicit. Our globalized media savvy reality means that we are present to this suffering on one (superficial/virtual) level, even though the vast majority of us are removed in our privileged spaces of comfort and safety. In my case, I think that’s at the root of much of my own sense of being uncomfortable in my own skin as human induced suffering rages on and seemingly spreads. Removed as I/we are from the reality of suffering, I worry that it becomes easier to ignore or fail to act against it, thereby fueling more suffering.

Which is where I find Shelly Rambo’s work so helpful:

In our current world, we are witnessing ongoing atrocities and different manifestations of suffering. The invisible forces of global capital and the undetectable effects of new wars and their justifications demand that theological accounts of suffering attend to the elisions constituting traumatic suffering. Although some may say that all ‘suffering is suffering,’ there are different expressions of that suffering and its effects that press for renewed theological articulation. I understand this as the increased invisibility of suffering and the power of its erasure. The discourse of trauma engages these invisible realities, continually calling attention to what falls outside the lines of what is, or can be, represented. The challenge of theological discourse is to articulate a different orientation to suffering that can speak to the invisibility, gaps, and repetitions constituting trauma….

A theology of the middle Spirit can help us rethink the theological discourse about suffering, given its new unique dimensions in trauma. Bessel van der Kolk acknowledges that one of the primary effects of trauma is a crisis of the human spirit. This crisis refers to a complete loss of meaning and trust in the world. … How does a theology of the Spirit meet this crisis of spirit?….

I have started to envision practices patterned after this testimony, practices of tracking and sensing that propel us to recognize suffering amid its multiple elisions….

The tracking and sensing, then, not only unearth and give theological significance to the unknown and unutterable within human experience, but these practices also testify to something of who we understand God to be. The work of the witnesses is to track the undertow and to sense life. But this witness is, as well, a testimony that runs deeper than we might imagine, to the nature of divine love. In the middle, divine love is witnessed in its remaining. …The work of tracking and sensing is sanctifying work, the work of making love visible at the point where it is most invisible.

If we read this sacred story as a story of survival, we are pressed to think about what it means to remain in the aftermath of a death that escapes our comprehension. To witness this sacred story is also to receive it for the truth that it tells: love remains, and we are love’s witnesses….

From this space, a different vision of life can be glimpsed. It is life as remaining. This transformation, this redemption in the abyss of hell, is not about deliverance from the depths but, instead, about a way of being in the depths, a practice of witnessing that sense life arising amid what remains. The middle story is not a story of rising out of depths, but a transformation of the depths themselves.

(Excerpt, Shelly Rambo, Spirit and Trauma: A Theology of Remaining, 169-172)

A lot of words, many of them big theology words. But really, if I am even beginning to understand their power, I think it is summed up best by these two contrasting photos that have come out of Ferguson:

Top: Violence, suffering, and trauma.                                                           Bottom: Witness, remaining, and healing.

 

Reading Contemporary Responses to the Resurrection

Below is one of the inaugural journal articles by Donald Hermann, a current Mdiv student who has already completed his MA at CTU. 
 
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Reading Contemporary Responses to the Resurrection: Metaphorical, Historical, and Naturalistic

For the contemporary Christian, as it was for the early believer, the Resurrection of Christ is foundational for religious belief. Paul states the centrality of the Resurrection to the Christian faith in 1 Corinthians 15:14-17: “[I]f Christ has not been raised, then empty is our preaching; empty too your faith…and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain; you are still in your sins.” The doctrine of the Resurrection remains central to Christian faith.

For many centuries, the resurrection was either believed literally or not at all. Beginning with the Enlightenment, however, different sets of questions arose as some were skeptical about the actual possibility of an occurrence of Resurrection; while others, accepting its possibility, questioned whether the Resurrection should be understood as a spiritual or miraculous event. By the nineteenth century, controversy developed over whether there was a historical basis for belief in the Resurrection. Over the last forty years, there has been a revived interest in the historical Jesus along with significant attention directed to the subject of the historical evidence for his Resurrection. One survey reported that since 1975, there have been more than 1400 scholarly publications on the death, burial, and Resurrection of Jesus. This literature provides the basis for this paper, which will examine several trends in contemporary scholarship on the Resurrection. I will begin with an identification of some of the traditional approaches to the subject of the Resurrection which have largely been put aside. This earlier commentary either did not consider the Resurrection a possible event in history, or otherwise dismissed the historical aspectsof the Resurrection as largely irrelevant to the matter of Christian faith. I will follow this with a brief survey of the range of contemporary writings on the subject of the Resurrection. A key concern of this paper is to suggest that these contemporary discussions treat the Resurrection in either a metaphorical, historical or naturalistic manner. Finally, I conclude with evaluations of the persuasiveness of and critical reactions to these understandings of the Resurrection.

To continue reading Donald’s article, check it out here!