different channels

As regular readers may remember, I'm taking the very slow path through a Masters degree in Pastoral Studies ... with one class a quarter it will take about five or six years to complete!

I'm taking my third class this quarter ... Theology in an Ecumenical Context. While Seattle University is Jesuit, the School of Theology & Ministry is ecumenical, with formal agreements with 10 protestant denominations. As a result, most of my classes have had a good mix of protestant and Catholic. Interestingly enough, that wasn't so true for this class, my ecumenical class, which actually has a majority of Catholics.

Each week from now till the end of the term, the different groups will be sharing about their ecclesial communities. Yesterday was the Catholics' turn. My group shared about our significant theological perspectives and our experience of God/spirituality.

When our group met to plan our presentation, one of our group pointed out that amongst the 6 of us, we had a Carmelite Sister, a Sister of St. Joseph of Peace, and a Dominican lay tertiary. We decided that the best way to share about Catholic spirituality was to do a panel discussion about our particular spiritualities. The other three folks also had great things to share: one shared about growing up in a Catholic charismatic movement, another being part of an African-American Catholic community, and another about the influence Benedictine spirituality has been in her life. It ended up being a really rich discussion that highlighted the wide variety of spiritual experiences in the Catholic Church.

Our presentation was followed by a question and answer period. One of the students, from the United Methodist tradition, shared that she was really struck by how many "different channels" we have in Roman Catholicism. When asked what she meant by that, it turns out she was talking about the different charisms of religious orders. If you feel called to a particular work or ministry or spirituality, chances are there's a group of people in the Catholic Church you can join. (And if not, that's how orders get started in the first place!). It was really interesting to look at Catholic spirituality and in particular the gifts religious life gives to the church from an outside perspective.

Next week we get to hear about the Episcopal and Lutheran churches. Looking forward to that (and glad my own presentation and paper are turned in!).

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