Just back from the AUSCP assembly held in Atlanta, GA, June 19-22, 2017.
About 175 members of the Association of US Catholic Priests met for their organization’s sixth annual assembly to focus on “Peacemaking In Our Fractured Society.”
Bishop Gregory Hartmayer, OFM, of Savannah led an optional retreat day prior to the opening of the assembly. Also included in the schedule was a prayer service led by members of the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus.
Speakers for the assembly included Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta (“Peace Not As The World Gives”), Jack Jezreel, founder of JustFaith Ministries (“Pope Francis and a New Paradigm for Parishes’), and Father Bryan Massingale, professor of theology at Fordham University (“To Redeem the Soul of America”).
Assembly attendees prioritized goals and resolutions for the association’s focus in the coming year. The top three goals were: 1) Immigration (promotion of immigration reform and urging members to lead parishioners, deanery groups and diocesan agencies in study and prayer about this issue in the United States).
2) Seminary Formation (establishing a study group to contribute to the US Catholic Bishops’ current project of reviewing priestly formation, especially in the light of Pope Francis’ challenging priests to revitalize their ministry, e.g., to experience the “smell of the sheep,” to see “the church as a field hospital”).
3) Ordaining Married Men to Priesthood (encouraging our bishops and the USCCB to engage in open discussion about ordination of married men, viri probati, to insure adequate response to the needs of our country’s 17,000 parishes regarding priestly pastors and the Eucharist).
Among other issues under discussion by assembly members were: 1) a resolution asking US Bishops to develop a national plan for the pastoral care of “priestless parishes,” 2) a request to the USCCB to petition the Holy See for authorization of deacons to administer the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.
AUSCP has already established working groups focusing on promoting reformation of the Roman Missal and promotion of Pope Francis’ Laudato Si initiative, “caring for our common home.”
Members were also asked to pray for the canonizations of : 1) Sister Dorothy Stang, SND de Namur, murdered in Brazil in February of 2005; 2) Father Stanley Rother, first diocesan priest from the United States to be honored as a martyr (assassinated in July of 1981 in Guatemala); 3) Father Augustus Tolton, born in 1854 to enslaved parents in Missouri, and later the first Black man to be publicly recognized as a Roman Catholic priest ordained in the United States; 4) Father Solanus Casey, OFM Cap., known in Detroit for great faith and spiritual counseling and as a worker of miracles, who died in July of 1957.
Assembly members visited Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta, where Dr Martin Luther King Jr’s grandfather and father were pastors, and the site of Dr Martin Luther King Jr’s funeral. Nearby is the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, which includes his boyhood home, surrounding neighborhood, burial site, and a museum. Also in the area is the first Black Catholic Parish in Atlanta, Our Lady of Lourdes, established in 1912, where the assembly members gathered with Archbishop Wilton Gregory as presider for Mass.
Members were introduced to Archbishop John Wester of Santa Fe, who has agreed to be episcopal moderator for the AUSCP.
Next year’s assembly is set for Albuquerque, June 25-28, 2018, with key-note speakers Father Richard Rohr, Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego, and Archbishop Wester of Santa Fe.
Founded in 2011, the AUSCP’s mission is “To be an association of U.S. Catholic priests offering mutual support and a collegial voice through dialogue, contemplation and prophetic action on issues affecting Church and society.” The AUSCP’s vision is “To be a Priests’ Voice of Hope and Joy within our Pilgrim Church. .”
Further information about AUSCP is available at http://www.uscatholicpriests.org.