Br. Steve Herro, O. Praem., professed solemn vows to the Community of St. Norbert Abbey in 1991. For several years, he headed the justice and peace ministry of St. Norbert Abbey and presently serves as Manager of Mission and Ministry, Catholic Charities USA, Alexandria, VA. His current ministry connects him to national Catholic issues and Church ministers throughout the country.
DISCLAIMER: This blog represents Br. Herro's own opinions and experiences. It does not represent an official position or opinion of neither of the organizations, St. Norbert Abbey nor Catholic Charities USA, nor of any of the organizations' members.
May 12, 2012
Entry #4: "Cultivating Joy, Gratitude and Compassion in Today’s Church"
by Br. Steve Herro, O. Praem.
What do one strategic goal of the Catholic Charities Parish Social Ministry (PSM) Professional Interest Section, the readings of the Easter season, and the word and example of the 2012 Catholic University of America commencement speaker have in common?
“Drawing from the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, the Parish Social Ministry Section will cultivate individual and communal spiritual growth infused with joy, gratitude and compassion indicative of an ever growing intimate relationship with God and neighbor,” is a lofty explanation of one goal of the PSM Section. When our Leadership Teams discussed this goal in the context of the book, American Grace, I asked, “Have any of us chosen a career path, ministry site, physical location, personal relationship, etc., because we were so moved by the expression of joy, gratitude and compassion?”
The readings of the Easter season have always attracted me. Who cannot be moved by the energy of our forbearers in faith? Peter is transformed from a man who denied the Lord three times to an articulate spokesman for the life and mission of Jesus. Saul matures from a banal bystander at the martyrdom of Stephen to become Paul, our faith’s first great missionary. Collectively,
“…The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common. With great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favor was accorded them all. There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need” (Acts 4: 32-35).
And what about the commencement speaker?
The Catholic University of America, established by the U.S. Catholic Bishops more than 125 years ago and nestled in Washington, D.C.,’s “Catholic ghetto” with the National Basilica, the administrative offices for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and perhaps a dozen residences of male and female religious, always has a high profile graduation speaker. He or she tends to be Catholic and represents the top of the field in church ministry, government service or the entertainment industry. Furthermore, to add to the suspense, the University usually does not announce the name of the speaker until a few weeks before graduation.
All semester, I had been asking the faculty with whom I live, “Who is the graduation speaker?” It was finally disclosed about three weeks ago. As usual, the University did not disappoint. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York and President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, was this year’s speaker.
The man who has been called one of the 100 most influential persons in the world did not disappoint. It has been a newsworthy time for the Cardinal. Pope Benedict named him a Cardinal late last year and he was formally blessed in February. However, Cardinal Dolan is perhaps as well-known outside of Catholic circles for publicly challenging the Obama administration for its attempt to mandate that nearly all Catholic employers provide contraceptive services in their employee health care packages. Indeed, it is not very often that an Archbishop is perceived as going head-to-head with the president of the United States of America.
But the Cardinal did not use his platform to strike out against his ideological rivals in New York or Washington. “What?” you might ask. “An address in Washington that was not used to attack one’s adversary?” Such is not the Cardinal’s style. Indeed, perhaps more than anything else, the Cardinal is recognized for his humor, his ability to poke fun at himself, his great capacity to “mix it up” with the Average Joe in the pew and his downright joyfulness in his life as a priest.
And what did I take home from his ten-minute address? “We are at our best…when we give ourselves for the life of another” and “…the law of the gift.” Indeed, this message was another reminder of (Fr.) Prof. Klaus Baumann’s message to more than 30 Catholic Charities Directors and Catholic Charities USA staff in this week’s seminar on caritas. We perform works of kindness to those on the margins because this is where we find the presence of God.
The Cardinal did provide a large dose of joy to all of us. He has a lot of weight on his shoulders. With the highest visibility of any U.S. Catholic leader, the buck stops at his desk on some pretty weighty socio-political issues facing the U.S. Church today, from our collective response to increasing poverty rates, to answering state legislatures and President Obama’s support for same sex marriage, to threats to religious liberty. Nevertheless, Cardinal Dolan continues to give witness to healthy doses of joy, energy and humor. If more public servants followed his example, I daresay that our government and church would avoid the condition of stagnation that we sometimes feel.