The Current Ministries of the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit
The Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit look toward living and expressing – preaching through word and deed – the freeing and life-giving message of Jesus, the Christ. We wish to un-encumber it from its centuries of encrustations, not true to the original message of Jesus, which now put so many people off.
Some of our members are already pastors in various denominations and love parish/congregation life. We honor such commitments. We also honor any expression of becoming a follower of The Way which brings individuals closer to living the life of Love Jesus invited us to, and we scrape away the lesser things that get in the way of that. Out concentration has been – and will unfold as time goes on in other substantive ways – to reach out to the 100% of human beings all loved equally and unequivocally by God, and not just to the 20% or so who maintain a strong tie to traditional “Church” life.
The following are the current ministries of the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit which reach beyond the traditional parish landscape:
- Teaching. Nothing reaches people more substantively than education. Many in our diocese are involved in teaching in many different ways.
- Prison Care. Hope for those society generally abandons.
- Physically and Mentally Ill / Death and Bereavement. Half the gospel stories are of Jesus ministering to the ill and those transitioning to new life. An essential part of Christianity.
- Love of Animals / Love of God. Feeling love is experiencing God, because God IS Love. The love of people for their pets is a forgotten but powerful way to recognize love in one of its strongest forms.
- Weddings / Baptisms / Funerals. Many people may not participate in Sunday services, but they want the major milestones of their lives blessed with an acknowledgment of the depth of spirituality they feel inside. Many of our priests report reaching 2,000 to 30,000 new people each year through these sacraments.
- Writing and Internet Presence. Enlightenment comes through wisdom and knowledge. Reaching the world through writing does provide Internet reach.
- Children. Laying a foundation for spirituality begins in childhood.
- Ministerial Administration. Providing the backbone of the diocese fosters the good work the members of the diocese do. Providing administration for a religious order fosters the good work of that order. Providing a vehicle for hundreds of others to engage in ministerial work.
- Anti-Discrimination / Loving Acceptance for ALL God’s people. Gays and lesbians are especially demonized by much of society, as anti-Christian as any practice could be. Many of our members are leaders against such human abuse. Also, helping women to reach innate equality in society and church is fundamental justice.
- Counseling. Care of the soul.
- Homeless. Working with street people.
- Public Speaking / Retreats. Going out to new audiences with the spiritual message of Jesus.
The Potential Ministries of the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit
There are many ministries which fit into our objective of establishing and providing new structures of spirituality. The following list is neither exhaustive nor limiting. There will be other forms of ministry that individuals will already be engaged in or will create out of observation of need. The following list is intended as
- An opportunity, for any current members of the dioceses or for those considering joining the dioceses, to become a part of something which they can step into immediately if they so wish, as these options are desires of the dioceses so far not begun; and/or
- Examples of the kinds of ministries that are possible at the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit, and which may inspire others to enter with their own unique bent, skill, or talent.
Daily Spirituality Newsletter
Each day an email will go out to our list of (currently) thousands of email addresses (and growing daily) derived from www.WeddingCeremony.org. Everyone will be invited to submit friends and family email addresses for invitation to receive the newsletter. It will come sporadically but often, be short and pithy, and hopefully have an impact.
Weekly Home Liturgies
In the early church, families and groups of friends celebrated an informal, down-home liturgy in their own homes and gatherings. A priest was not required. Such a practice could be an attraction to many people today. We will create home liturgies of different themes, sent weekly by email, and with discussion questions, suggesting also that a dinner (pot-luck for gatherings of more than the family) would be appropriate.
Quarterly Self-Directed “Re-Treats”
We wish to begin sending out via email quarterly “Re-Treats” for individuals or (preferably) couples or groups to use. They would either find a beautiful nature trail near their house or go away overnight to an Bed and Breakfast. Each Re-Treat would have a different theme or focus, and would be designed for reading of a passage or passages, followed by a silent walk to another nature destination along the trail, while contemplating the meaning of the passage(s) just read.
Just as Netflix offers movies by mail for a fixed price, we hope to go to the managers of Netflix and ask to do a joint venture with them, in which we would identify appropriate movies for spiritual content, create a home liturgy and a series of “starter” discussion questions to be attached to each spiritual movie, and then to have Netflix operate the management of mailings and movie maintenance just as they do for their broader program.
It seems that, while most people do not go to church, they often like book clubs (except for the homework involved). Movie clubs for things of a spiritual nature, combined with the entertainment and social value of having friends and/or family over could be a draw to many. Such local spiritual movie clubs could be held at homes, at coffee houses, at movie theaters, etc., depending on the size and scope of the individual effort.
More information on this is contained on our web page. We encourage entrepreneurial priests who would wish to establish a facility to host weddings, retreats, marriage counseling classes, lectures, spiritual friendship (formerly “spiritual direction”), widow/widower counseling, grief counseling, etc. Especially located in nature and being a place of respite and/or entertainment will be attractive.
Community Economic Development
The setting up of grass roots identification of community needs in poor areas of America, Africa and South America, and the linking of corporations to provide directly the resources and personnel to solve those needs. This will require grantsmanship, to obtain at least initial funding.
Providing Prayer / Holding Sacred Space
Individuals focusing attention and energy, in quiet reflection, as a background and support mechanism for an event.
The securing of a facility for dinner shows, entertainment (live musical entertainment, dancing, readings), which might attract a large audience, while at the same time conveying a positive spiritual message with the entertainment.
MySpace / YouTube / text messaging.
Somehow or other finding ways to reach a youthful audience through the techniques used by them.
Home churches are just what some people – though not all people – are looking for. They began as a solution for reform that did not come quickly enough, a reaction to parish priests who did not inspire, overcrowding resulting from too much institutional organization or too few priests spread too far, or simply the need for personal, interactive involvement.
Home churches have been heralded for several decades as the emerging format for worship in the contemporary world. Yet, they have never emerged beyond minimal individual numbers and minimal cumulative numbers. In America at the beginning of the third millennium, for example, there may be at most 3,000 home churches, usually with no more than 10-15 members.
Thus, in a country of 300,000,000 people, after decades of expectations, perhaps 300,000 people (1 out of every 1,000 at most) have aligned themselves with some form of home churches. Despite all types of experimentation, the basic house church has not grown beyond being small itself and has not caught fire, abroad in the land.
That is not to say that home churches are not valuable, not important, not greatly beneficial to those who attend them, not significant enough to put further thought to, not worthy of promulgation. They are all that. For those who attend, there is a deep sense of community and of personal spirituality. With more help and support, they might even flourish further.
The characteristics that seem to prevail in most home churches today are:
- A core group of participants who are deeply interested in their spirituality, dedicated to their form of “church”, articulate and willing to talk, committed to living the Christ message and keeping their groups going.
- Meeting in private homes, in living rooms or dining rooms, often rotating between the homes of core members.
- Inviting of others. Core membership will change over time, but while some join, others drop off for one or another reason. Many come once or twice then do not return. Memberships average 10 attendees, and top out at 20, as a general rule.
- Celebrates liturgies or the Eucharist informally, without vestments, though sometimes with a stole, using a form of the Roman order of Mass, but deviating often in style and content, without concern or supervision.
- Sometimes the presiding is shared by members, ordained or not. Sometimes the presiding is done by non-canonical Roman priests who had left the active ministry (e.g., to get married, etc.) and officiate without “faculties” from a bishop or approval of “The Church.” “Women’s Eucharists” are presided over by one or more women, usually not ordained by the Roman Church.
- Getting together outside of their Eucharistic celebrations varies widely by group. Some communities engage in social action; some have social functions to enjoy each other’s company more; some have none.
- People potentially interested in becoming members have many initial hurdles to overcome: 1) unintended intimidation by a group that is fervent, interested and articulate, even if inviting; 2) going to a private home, which evokes feelings of intruding on a clique or an established order; 3) confronting a presider who often is not sanctioned by the church’s hierarchical leadership, who wears no vestments, and who invites participation; and 4) commitment to core values and a schedule of activities, with a loss of anonymity.
The Question of Ordination for the Presider
Home churches have caused the theological question of necessity of ordination for the presider at Eucharist to come to the fore, whereas in the past there would never have been any question but that only the ordained priest or bishop could preside at a parish Mass. A great many “Masses” are now presided over by non-ordained men or women. Are these truly “Masses?”
Moreover, where Eucharists are presided over by ordained priests, very often these priests have left the canonical priesthood, been “laicized” (whatever craziness that may mean), forbidden to administer the sacraments except on the most stringent or rare emergency basis, and now operate on the edge of a system that clearly rejects them and what they are doing. To what extent are these non-canonically presided Eucharists a part of, or separate from, the whole “church?”
Christ never “ordained” anyone, but he did choose The Twelve. Upon Jesus’ resurrection, his core of followers kept intact his only organization, The Twelve, by electing (but not having Peter “select,” you will notice) Matthias to replace Judas. Soon thereafter, when they figured out that Jesus was not coming back as quickly as they thought, the earliest followers of Jesus destroyed this only organization he set up.
We know this because the Acts of the Apostles tells us that James, the brother of Jesus, was bishop of Jerusalem (with, perhaps, more authority than Peter), and he was not one of the original apostles, from “Jesus’ organization,” The Twelve. We see clearly that the HOW of organization is not explicitly from Christ, but can freely change as times and necessities dictate.
There appears to be historical and theological dispute about which members of the community were able to preside at Eucharist in the early Church. Minimally, we do know that there was a process for selection of leaders. We see this in the process used to select deacons, and bishops who were the heads of small local churches. It is also likely that when there were only bishops and deacons, women were both. If Eucharist was or was not presided over by priests or bishops in the earliest church, it did not take very long before such a practice was prevalent and written about.
Theologically, we should ask – in keeping with contemporary understanding of the Eucharist – what actually happens at Mass. Does a single person, by power bestowed, actually change the physical elements so that others can then “feed” on those sanctified elements? Or does the community, through its expanding awareness of the mystical presence of the Christ-power residing in all creation (that which Jesus had in full, and that which we all possess in a perhaps now-limited but nevertheless leavening way) call into being the recognition of that reality for each of us who so participates? The answer makes a difference as to whether ordination would be “required.”
A middle opinion as to who can preside – awaiting further theological arguments – would seem to be that an ordained person is not a necessity for Eucharist, but certainly would be the ideal, in keeping with the tradition of the church.
Home churches presently receive no widespread or national encouragement from any other major church organization. Nobody ordains priests for home churches or maintains a support system. The seeds have simply blown wild and bloomed spontaneously.
A Stance for the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit
The Catholic Diocese of One Spirit has both jettisoned the arcane rules and regulations of the past, and, at the same time, opened itself to forms of participation in the God-experience that are relevant and enhancing to the core of who we are: manifestations of God. Where the people of God have a need, we erect no barriers to prohibit the expression of their desired spirituality. And, clearly, like the wind, the Spirit blows where it will, including home churches.
Thus, one of the elements of the Catholic Diocese of One Spirit is to assist home churches to flourish. It may not be the be-all and end-all of church experience, but it is a significant and worthy for a notable minority of spiritual seekers. Because home churches do not seem to be specifically encouraged by other religious organizations, the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit provide a welcome structure for these types of communities.
Elements of the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit’s support of home churches include but are not limited to the following:
- An active program to ordain community priests as leaders from home churches of three or more members, who have met regularly on a weekly or bi-weekly basis for a minimum of six months, and whose designated leader gives evidence of a calling to the priesthood, meets the criteria described in this document, and has a minimum of academic achievement or knowledge of selected subjects of importance for a person holding that role.
- Provision of optional liturgies for home church use, tempered toward the size and intimacy of such a group.
- Newsletter for communication, education, “family” news, community links, building camaraderie, sharing of liturgies and ideas, etc. Through the Dioceses the various home churches are aware of their presence within a community of the larger church and of other home churches.
- Through the Dioceses, bishops are available for ordination of home church priests and for confirmations, and for loving embrace of these home churches’ peer relationship with other such home churches and spirituality centers of the Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit.
- Through its affiliation with the Dioceses and other home churches, it is possible to join together at various times (e.g., Christmas, Easter, etc.) for larger celebrations and recognition of mutual Christian camaraderie.
Undoubtedly, many people will move back and forth between home churches and area spirituality centers – formerly and usually termed (because they are larger) “parishes”. Home churches, among other sources as well, are breeding grounds for priests who then feel the call to bring their spirituality to wider audiences who need it and ask for it.
Spirituality Centers can be formed from among such Community Priests who wish to move further, or from participants at home churches that feel such a calling. Moreover, retiring priests from Spirituality Centers, or priests whose secular jobs became pressing, or priests who became ill and could not handle the full pressures of a Spirituality Center, always have a less time-intensive and pressure-intensive role as Community Priests which they could fall back upon.
The Typical Roman Catholic parish cannot be a model for the communities of the Catholic Diocese of One Spirit. Such a Roman parish system was formulated a long time ago, and has now grown up with a financial structure to support both it and the activities it carries on. Moreover, existing Roman Catholic parishes or Protestant congregations usually fulfill the diminishing demand for such facilities.
The inability of a Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit priest to be able to finance that kind of typical parish structure may be the blessing in disguise that lets us rethink what a different kind of “parish” should be in the 21st century.
The recent historical parish that Americans are used to is stereotypically a large structure with thousands of families that provides, primarily, liturgical and structured sacraments. It is for “Catholics Only” and is generally not designed to be of service to people who are not Catholic.
It appears, however, that super structures of thousands of parishioners are not as “user-friendly” as a smaller parish of 200-400 parishioners, some of whom would be very active, some just showing up for Sunday services and nothing else, but all of whom would be recognized, known, and feel themselves part of a “family.”
Occasionally, such a parish would or could grow larger, but it seems that contemporary society, with its loss of community and extended family relationships, would be well served by a spiritual institution that built upon real interpersonal relationships.
Moreover, such a structure, often costing several million dollars, requires the historical financial demonstration of a diocese that has been around decades, perhaps a century or more. The diocese needs to be able to prove consistent income, through various pastors coming and going, sufficient to repay such a large loan.
In order for a “parish” such as might be formed by a Catholic Diocese of One Spirit priest to be able to afford the purchase, or even the long-term rental, of such a large property, a consistent history of contributions over many years, made through the terms of not just one pastor who might have been loved, but through many pastorates would be required. Additionally, any bona fide lender would require security of equal value to protect its loan. Typically, a most difficult proposition for any small church community.
Moreover, many of the leaders of the parish would be required to personally guarantee the loan, so that if the parish itself failed to live up to its loan obligations, the lender would take the security put up by the endorsing parishioners. Such a scenario, if attempted, is not one that makes for a happy parish life.
Unless a Catholic Diocese of One Spirit parish is content to rent small facilities (e.g., community centers or schools) that do not require strong credit, it will never be able to grow into something the size of a reasonable parish facility. … at least under the expected financing routes in place today. Some other way to finance a church facility must be utilized.
A CDOS “Celebration Center”
Before that, however, let us expand the idea of a Catholic Diocese of One Spirit facility. It should be a place that serves the whole community, and not just its Catholic element. It should be a place that the surrounding neighborhoods – and people within them who may or may not “go to church” – can feel is a place to have their children baptized, their marriages blessed, their dead buried, their teens feel secure and invited, their visions expanded through discussion groups and seminars, their focal point turned toward this community…and all whether or not they actually belong to our church or come to our services. In order not to confuse such a facility with a typical parish, it could be named differently, to identify its new standing in the community: “The (Name of Neighborhood) Celebration Center”.
Of course, each Celebration Center could also be the location of “The (Name of Neighborhood) Catholic Community”, and each Sunday, Mass held there also. The Catholic Community would run the Celebration Center as a service to others. Should others, liking our openness, our acceptance of all, and our lived philosophy, feel attracted to our Sunday services, they are also most welcome. However, recruitment is not our purpose; living the loving life Christ did is our purpose. Each Catholic Community is a focal point of bringing love and service to others.
Each Catholic Community has its internal activities in addition to its open programs to the community. It may engage in help to an inner city charity (homeless shelter, battered women’s shelter, children’s home, etc.), or to a poor foreign area (“sister parish” for a poor foreign country parish, necessities of life to war-torn regions, health care assistance for an African village, etc.), or sponsor a big brothers or big sisters program locally to provide adult companionship to youth with no father or mother. It could be any of hundreds of activities.
Such activities are also open for local people to join with the Catholic Community, not just for the bona fide members of the community who attend church regularly. When people come to weddings, funerals or seminars, they get flyers on the ways we lend assistance to others, and are invited to join that activity (without having to join the church or attend our services).
How to Acquire a Facility for a Celebration Center
A Celebration Center should not look like every other church, and it should convey physically the fact that is it not like every other church. When people see that this looks different, they then expect it to be different. At least they are inquisitive. It is imperative for us that a facility be set in lush (or potentially lush!) gardens or panoramic vistas, where the beauty of nature enhances the beauty of the thought process that goes on there.
The more visible it is to a well-traveled road in the community, the better. However, it should avoid, if possible, being set up against a main highway, as many of the events (weddings, services, socials, discussions, etc.) will take place outdoors, and if the facility is too near a main highway, the traffic noise will be unnerving and will make the outdoor experience an unpleasant one. The building itself should look more like a bed-and-breakfast meeting facility. In this way, it has warmth and appeal to the locality.
The Celebration Center Site should ideally be able to accommodate weddings for 200 guests, services to seat approximately 250, funerals, seminar and discussion groups, etc. With this number, it will be able to attract events many facilities cannot handle. If this number is too great for your plans, remember that most events are under 150 guests. The facility will need an adequate kitchen, or, more probably, a clean room for caterers.
For most localities, building is a lengthy period, often taking 18-24 months just for permits, followed by another year of construction. To jump start the process, an existing facility could be sought. They can be found, but patience must be exercised. Something will always turn up, and the first building or so that is looked at should not be settled on simply because it is available.
The community must be very careful to obtain the right attributes, if the property itself is to have its own attractiveness to add to the attractiveness of the Celebration Center activities. Any contract must have a contingency period in it for as long as it might take to get a zoning or permit to use the facility as a church (if such is required by the locality).
Financing the Acquisition
The Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit do not have ways to help its priests and communities finance the acquisition of existing properties for Celebration Centers. The Catholic Dioceses of One Spirit do not guarantee loans, because it cannot, and because members are not legally joined.
You should first look to potential bed and breakfasts or beautiful homes, not in subdivisions with homeowner covenants. Financing the purchase of such a property is difficult, but here are some possibilities to consider: Perhaps the priest or another member of the community could purchase the home, live in a part of it, and rent it out for celebration center services, thus deriving an income from such rentals. Perhaps several families could pitch in together as an investment.
Perhaps, on the rarest of occasions (and worth pursuing), some generous benefactor would donate such a facility (tax-deductible). Perhaps you can lease a facility with the option to buy from someone wanting to retire or move away, and who has not used it as a spirituality center, which has the potential for greater market (income) interest. There are lots of potential ways to obtain financing for the purchase of a spirituality center, but they are all difficult and time-consuming. No reason not to keep this in mind. Remember, the Holy Spirit is on your side, and this will happen if 1) it is supposed to, and 2) you work hard at it.