What makes the Church home? St. Martin de Porres Society members pondered that question after watching an inspiring talk by Servant of God Sister Thea Bowman to the U.S. bishops in June 1989. She addressed the topic: “What does it mean to be Black in the Church in society? Sister Thea began in song. “Sometimes I feel like a motherless child … A long way from home, a long way from my home. …”
“It kind of ties in with the Synod because the Synod is asking us what we are looking for in the Catholic Church, what should Church look like?” says Thomas Mason IV, president of the St. Martin de Porres Society (SMD). The mission of SMD, based at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport, is to support racial unity and Black awareness among Catholics in our diocese.
The question: “What makes the Church home?” applies to the breadth of humanity — young, old, people of different ethnic groups, races, financial means, abilities and disabilities. As Jim Collins, SMD’s secretary says, we need to ask, “How does my Church call me home, welcome me home? How does it treat me? How does it treat those around me? How does it treat my community?” Our Church must address these questions on an ongoing basis, long after the Synod of Bishops concludes in 2023.
For the late Sister Thea, being able to call Church home would require acceptance and welcoming of “my whole history, my traditions, my experience, my culture, my African-American song and dance and gesture and movement and teaching and preaching and healing and responsibility — as gifts to the Church.”
We need to welcome different expressions of spirituality, culture, traditions and the dignity of every person in a world on the move physically and spiritually. At the end of 2020, the UN High Commission for Refugees reported 82.4 million forcibly displaced people in the world. What are we doing to make the Church home for them?
How do we make our Church home for our youths? If we make them feel at home, they will bring others home with them. “We need to treat each other as family,” Collins says. “If you’re family, then you’re home. Home is what embodies you. The people, even more so than the environment, that makes a home.”
Bishop Frank Caggiano of Bridgeport, Connecticut, spelled it out eloquently in comments he made during the Convocation of Catholic Leaders in Orlando, Florida in 2017. “… So it seems to me, humility is needed among all of us so that we can come together as a family and create a home. For as my mother used to say, ‘If you’re going to invite somebody into your home, make sure it’s clean, has enough food, and when they come in the door they’re family.’”
So, what are some practical ideas for building relationships that make us feel like family, which makes our Church home? Mason offers these ideas:
• Listen to people’s stories. The St. Martin de Porres Society offers opportunities to hear the stories of Black Americans and to learn more about Black history. Contact Mason (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information.
• Participate in the Juneteenth Prayer Vigil June 14 at 6 p.m. at St. Thomas More Parish in Coralville. Stay for the Cultural Food Expo/Potluck after the prayer vigil.
• Integrate the spirituality of various ethnic groups into the liturgy on an alternating basis. Mason, for example, would love to see some jazz-like music in the liturgy on occasion. A lifelong Catholic, he still has fond memories of attending a Baptist church when visiting his great-aunt and developing a love for the music there. Collins notes, “Sometimes we do it your way and sometimes we do it my way,” Sister Thea said.
• Participate in intergenerational faith formation and other activities in your parish or other parishes.
• Commit to staying for coffee and doughnuts or special presentations your parish offers after Mass. Join a Bible study or a parish committee. Getting to know the people we see at Mass by engaging in conversations and service, makes Church home.
• Take an active part in the upcoming multi-year Eucharistic Revival. If the Church is our home, then the Eucharist is like the hearth in that home. The Eucharist makes us who we are, binds us together, and from there we are sent to serve and share. For more information, see: https://www.davenportdiocese.org/ liturgy/eucharistic-revival.
“The Church teaches us that the Church is a family of families and the family got to stay together,” Sister Thea said in her speech to the bishops. “[I]f we do stay together –– if we walk and talk and work and play and stand together in Jesus’ name — we’ll be who we say we are — truly Catholic and we shall overcome — overcome the poverty — overcome the loneliness — overcome the alienation and build together a Holy city, a new Jerusalem, a city set apart where they’ll know that we are here because we love one another.”
That makes our Church home.
Barb Arland-Fye, Editor