Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Meeting Ends... The Mission Continues

The business of this plenary having reached its close – and not without some fireworks – time to sum it all up... if only this scribe could write and take briefings at the same time.

In the interim, two quick words of appreciation: first, to everyone who's stepped up to lend a hand and keep the bills paid, thanks for easing the toughest part of all this; it's a grace to be able to breathe a good bit easier, even if, given the months ahead, we're not out of the woods just yet... and second, to the family and friends gathered over these days who always make the experience a productive, moving joy, thanks for always being the best – believe me, it never gets old.

Actually, one more thing. It got lost in the shuffle somewhat between the flurry of events both on the Floor and in Rome, but given the wider scene, yesterday's presidential statement on racial tension and reconciliation – and with it, the announcement of a future full-tilt pastoral on the topic – deserves more attention than it's garnered thus far... and as an addendum to it, we'd be remiss to forget the most memorable talk a Midsummer Classic has ever seen.

For the first time in eight years, this meeting saw the bench welcome a new African-American member, so the confluence with yesterday's message was especially fitting. Yet even as Bishop Ferd Cheri's own walk is marked by the trouble in the land which continues into the present – as a young boy, his family was asked by Archbishop Joseph Rummel to desegregate a New Orleans parish – what's just as meaningful for our circumstances is his roots as a protege of the saintly Sister Thea Bowman, the Mississippi-born Franciscan convert whose Gospel message of unity amid diversity has only become more pressing and relevant due to the increasingly fragmented polarization of our day.

In light of this meeting's context, and as this year marks the 25th anniversary of her death, below is Thea's witness to the June 1989 meeting in the sweltering gym at Seton Hall, nine months before her death from bone cancer at 53. Yet even more than just a salve for this moment, with just 100 days remaining til a feverishly-anticipated PopeTrip to these shores, the following doubles as the finest summary you'll find of the new rule of Francis... no less than a quarter-century before the fact:

PHOTO: Lisa Johnston/St Louis Review