Clergy and Religious, 1911-1984
Gladly constituting themselves models of the flock, [priests] should preside over and serve their local community in such a way that it may deserve to be called by the name which is given to the unique People of God in its entirety, that is to say, the Church of God.
-- Lumen Gentium, November 21, 1964
(Dogmatic Constitution of the Church)
From the very beginning of the Church there were men and women who set out to follow Christ with greater liberty, and to imitate him more closely, by practicing the evangelical counsels. They led lives dedicated to God. . . . Thus, in keeping with the divine purpose, a wonderful variety of religious communities came into existence . . . enabling the Church . . . to be equipped for every good work and to be prepared for . . . the building up of the Body of Christ.
-- Perfectae Caritatis, October 28, 1965
(Decree on the Up-to-Date Renewal of Religious Life) 1
Vatican II did more than just change the rubrics of Catholic worship and ritual. It changed the very nature of how the church looked at itself. After Vatican II, the church was seen as the People of God, encompassing everyone from the official hierarchy of pope, cardinals, and bishops to the parish priests, religious sisters and brothers, and laypersons. All were now perceived as one and the same members of the ever-growing, ever-processing Body of Christ. Each member, moreover, was recognized as having his or her importance and role. Priests, for example, were to be "models" for their flock by their devotion to God and by the very life they lived. Religious men and women, on the other hand, were to help the church in every good work so as to build up the Body of Christ. Everyone, including the laity, was to be actively involved, doing what Vatican II called for in spreading and living the Good News. Nowhere was this more clearly seen than in the missionary environment of the diocese of Jackson, Mississippi. Priests and religious sacrificed, worked, nur-