A Call to "Rebuild My Church"

By Eileen Dooling, RSM, Executive Director

Posted on

This week the monarch butterflies have returned to Mercy by the Sea, the result of a remarkable feat of nature, a complete transformation of one being into another totally new being. I marvel at the creativity and diversity of God as manifested in the various life forms on this sacred Mercy by the Sea property.

Also this week the need for another kind of transformation came to light with the release of the 900-page Pennsylvania Grand Jury report. Repeatedly I have been asked about this and how I deal with it. I think people expect me to say that my faith has been shaken or that I can’t go to church anymore or something like that. We all know that the abuse of a child is a serious, immoral and illegal act. What is most troubling to me is not the individual act, disturbing as that is. Rather it is the systemic nature of the problem that is most unsettling: That this act, on the most vulnerable among us, was apparently widespread — and at times accepted or at least tolerated — a secret culture of sex and sin by those who made moral declarations for others. The call that Saint Francis of Assisi heard hundreds of years ago to “rebuild my church” nags at me.

Is my faith shaken? To be honest, my faith is in God, not in any church or human structure. For me — and I speak only for myself — the Church is a way to God, not the way to God. In my more mature years, I became deeply aware that the church is the people, and it is in my ministry over the years, in those I served and served with, in family and friends and community, and indeed in the magnificence of creation that I have met and known God. My faith in the real church —the people — is strong. You have made it so, and I am grateful to you.

I think the institutional Church is called to a transformation —  a new being — like the monarch butterfly, not made over, not repaired, not reformed, but truly a new birth, a new entity. My heart breaks for my church and for the goodness in so many priests who serve faithfully and now live with the embarrassment of these latest revelations. But it is time for something drastic to occur. The battered and bruised Body of Christ needs to take a pause, remember who we are, who we follow and what He taught. And then start again with new structures, a broadened understanding of priesthood, and a new openness to all.

May it be so.

Sign up to receive our blog posts sent directly to your email inbox. Simply click the button below and enjoy news, reflections and inspiration from our executive director, staff, volunteers, presenters and others involved in Mercy by the Sea.

Sign Up Now