Wisdom Wednesday | February 14th

AUSCP NewsFebruary 14Roundup

Welcome to Ash Wednesday / Valentine’s Day.

A Valentine thought? Pope Francis says relationships with others lie at the heart of our existence. (And Pew Research discovers marriage and dating statistics.)

What to look for today. Trend-watchers say the megachurch movement in the United States is declining, and the most exciting horizons in theological education lie at its intersection with community organizing. Will theologates be engaging students more regarding social justice?

The National Black Catholic Conference says the number one concern today is keeping youth and young adults in the church. A thousand priests in Rome acknowledged that “today priestly service to the faithful is even more demanding.”

Cardinal Tagle says the Church does not shine with its own light. It can only give the world the light of Christ. A history series: Christine Schenk CSJ says women’s prophetic leadership changed the face of the Roman Empire. Last week, an AUSCP group hosted a webinar on synodality, co-responsibility and women’s participation in the church.

For Ash Wednesday, shared by Catholics and others, an Episcopal rector reflects on Covid times and warns against using printer toner on your forehead.

Much here to ponder, but we begin with a column by Michael Sean Winters that there is a way for the United States to continue aid to Ukraine and Israel, as fears rise over Israeli actions.

Aid to Ukraine and Israel

A discharge petition would allow a majority of the whole House to bring legislation to the floor, and would, in this fraught moment of political polarization, remind members of Congress that they may represent a district and a party, but they serve the entire country. So says Michael Sean Winters in an NCR opinion piece.

Fears mount over new Israeli offensive

Israel faces mounting international warnings over its planned offensive in Rafah, Gaza’s southernmost city. Vatican News reports the European Union has expressed “grave concern” for the potential consequences for civilians. Similar fears have been conveyed by the UK, Netherlands, and United States.

Search for meaning

Pope Francis said something, not intended for Valentine’s Day but most appropriate. At an audience with members of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Pope Francis reflected on humanity’s search for meaning and said relationships with others lie at the heart of our existence.


Trends to get your attention. The U.S. megachurch movement is on the decline. Keeping youth and young adults in the church rises to the top of priorities for the National Black Catholic Conference. The essential nature of social justice is getting more attention at theology schools in the United States. What to do with an empty convent building? Make affordable housing for Catholic school teachers.

  • La Croix International finds that Evangelical megachurches in the United States have been shrinking in number for more than a decade due to various reasons, including scandals that have turned off younger people.
  • For the first time, the National Black Catholic Conference formed a five-year plan by surveying participants from their national gathering in summer 2023. Asked about major issues, most Congress attendees were concerned about keeping youth and young adults in the church. In response to this, Black Catholic Messenger says the pastoral plan asks Black Catholics to adopt a “growth mindset” that looks at the future of the church.
  • A new focus on the theologically trained organizer. A writer for Christian Century says the most exciting horizons in theological education lie at its intersection with community organizing. For myriad social, political, and economic reasons, congregations and seminaries are realizing that systemic change is necessary. In the last decade or so, many schools have engaged the topic of community organizing, either in their curriculum or in their lifelong learning programs. This shift suggests a recognition that the dominant model of theological education is ill-suited for our time.
  • Around the country Catholic schools are struggling to retain and recruit educators, and real estate experts and church leaders say the reasons include escalating housing prices, particularly in coastal states and urban areas. To help tackle the challenges, a fledgling movement is underway to provide affordable housing to Catholic school instructors. Several U.S. dioceses are considering or have launched initiatives, with early projects focused on revamping the church’s extensive and often underutilized real estate.

Women in the Church and World

Wisdom Wednesday finds increasing attention given to women’s roles in the Church and the World, past, present and future.

The AUSCP Women in the Church Working Group held a webinar on last Wednesday (February 7) to discuss what happened at the Synod, and the Call to Dialogue on Co-responsibility and Women’s Participation in Our Church. Included were presentations by Bishop John Stowe and Ellie Hidalgo of Discerning Deacons. Michael Centore reported on the event in Today’s American Catholic, and a recording of the webinar is available on Vimeo

Women’s prophetic leadership changed the face of the Roman Empire, says Christine Schenk CSJ, in the first of four essays. She says religious life, both contemplative and active, as we know it today, has evolved over two thousand years. In the second essay, she describes original research into the archaeological evidence for early Christian women found on late third to early fifth century sarcophagus friezes.

Pope Francis canonized María Antonia de San José, describing her as a “wayfarer of the spirit” and “a model of apostolic fervour and audacity.” “Mama Antula” is Argentina’s first female saint, canonized by Argentinian Pope Francis on Sunday morning (February 11) in a Mass in St Peter’s Basilica.

Ministry and evangelization

The Church does not shine with its own light. It can only give the world the light of Christ, reflecting it on its opaque body, as the moon does with the sunlight. Cardinal Louis Antonio G. Tagle, Pro-Prefect of the Dicastery for the Evangelization offered this powerful image, drawn from the Fathers of the Church, to explain the source and the true nature of missionary work. Tagle was speaking February 10 to the Chinese community in Rome, celebrating the Lunar New Year.

A five-day conference on the ongoing formation of priests — involving prayer, presentations, and small synod-style listening groups – was held in the Vatican, February 6-10. Around a thousand priests from sixty countries around the world gathered in Rome for the conference,

Rekindle the Gift of God That Is Within You.” Korean-born Cardinal Heung-sik organized the conference, and Cardinal Tagle told participants must not think formation ends at ordination.

The Diocese of Joliet has announced plans to close various churches and schools in Northeast Illinois, including the diocese’s only Black parish—the 138-year-old Sacred Heart Catholic Church.

Against human trafficking

Some 50 young people gathered in Rome to reaffirm their commitment on human trafficking. They marked the tenth International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking, on Thursday, February 8. The day was established in 2015 by Pope Francis on the feast day of Saint Bakhita, the Sudanese nun who as a girl was a victim of trafficking and became a universal symbol of the Church’s commitment.

Pew Research for Valentine’s Day

Many Americans celebrate Valentine’s Day with important people in their lives, whether it’s their romantic partner or their closest friends. Here are some key facts about marriage and dating in the United States, taken from Pew Research Center surveys and other analyses.

An Ash Wednesday reflection

“Praying in community is often more powerful than praying ‘in secret.’” Elizabeth Felicetti, rector of St. David’s Episcopal Church in Richmond, Virginia, recalls the isolation of Ash Wednesday in Covid times, when she preached to an almost empty church and a camera. “I assured them they could use dirt, fireplace ashes, clean kitty litter, or break up the tip of a pencil. I advised against using printer toner: one year we’d had to buy ashes due to snow preventing our usual burning of the palms, and I still think we were sold printer toner. We were marked for days.’

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We hope you have enjoyed this roundup of recent news about faith, politics, and culture. We will return next week with another edition of Wisdom Wednesday.

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