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A Calling in Crisis

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Rather, Vatican Council II, called by Pope John XXIII and held between 1962 to 1965, set the stage for the Catholic laity to become more actively involved in church affairs and services.

Among Vatican II's "distinctive teachings," states the Encyclopedia of Catholicism, is this: "The Church is the whole People of God, not just the hierarchy, clergy, and religious [i.e., those in religious orders]...." Also, according to this source (which is written and edited by Catholic scholars and clergy), the ministry provided by church members who are not ordained "is a direct participation in the mission of the Church, and not simply a sharing in the mission of the hierarchy."

Over the years, in conjunction with the decline in the number of priests (some of whom left because of Vatican II), this affected the way priests work.

"In the so–called good old days, the pastor made all of the decisions," says the Rev. Thomas McGreevy, the third Dominican priest here and a man who was ordained nearly 40 years ago. "Maybe this is a time when the Holy Spirit is wanting the laity to be more involved, and the way to do that is to take away the traditional leaders."

"To my parents, being a good Catholic lay person meant going to mass, sending your children to Catholic schools, and supporting the church financially," says Fones, who taught high school for a few years before entering seminary. "Today, I think people want more than that."

This has been both challenge and opportunity for Father McGreevy, the pastor and senior priest here, who has had to remind himself that "this father does not know best." "More and more, I'm beginning to realize that my role as pastor is to help the lay person recognize their gifts from God and put that in service to humanity," he says. "I see myself as a 'Christ-bearer,' and not for the function of proselytizing but for the purpose of loving, of forgiving, of reconciling, which is a lot harder than proselytizing."

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