Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Wineskins, Old and New

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Wineskins, Old and New

Article excerpt

It is by one of those funny coincidences of newspaper production that Dan Stockman's piece about the annual meeting of the Resource Center for Religious Institutes and my story about the fall meeting of the U.S. bishops' conference fell together on Page 10. Toni-Ann Ortiz, our art director and production maestro, had an empty page and two stories of the right lengths to fill that hole, and the deed was done.

Happenstance, not a grand scheme, determined story placement, but I couldn't help but chuckle to myself when I saw those two stories sharing the same page. Would anyone notice the juxtaposition? A story about woman religious talking about the future and shepherd leadership sitting on top of a story about our nation's shepherds struggling with their future leadership? How great was that?

The even more surprising coincidence is that both stories examine the same question: how the institution we call church deals with change in creative, life-giving ways. The times, to quote one of our newest Nobel laureates, are a-changing. What are we going to do about it?

Some of our bishops are determined to hunker down behind the battlements and dream of illusionary past glories, praying for a holier church, even if that means we have to cast off a few members. (I seem to remember a parable about a shepherd who leaves his flock of 99 to search for one lost sheep. How does that parable fit with the plans of those church leaders who want to bar the doors and draw the curtains?)

St. Joseph Sr. Carol Zinn has got it right: Leadership fixated on preservation may actually be losing the future.

I don't envy any bishop; I can't imagine the pressures they live with--much like the leaders of religious communities. They can't abandon the "land, buildings, retirement funds and sponsored ministries" they've been entrusted with, but, as Zinn says, sustaining the present is "important, but it's not the same as shepherding. …

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