That was part of the potent and challenging message of a Catholic priest and theologian who spoke at a recent conference for chaplains in Milwaukee.
To achieve a genuine sense of unity within the Catholic Church, parishioners throughout the country need to embrace diversity and put aside prejudices, according to Fr. Bryan Massingale.
An associate professor of theology at Marquette University and a priest of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, Fr. Massingale was one of four plenary speakers at the National Association of Catholic Chaplains’ 2011 conference, May 21 to 24 in downtown Milwaukee. Fr. Massingale rounded out the conference, speaking on the topic, “Pathways to Healing: Communities.”
Fr. Massingale said globalization has caused good and bad reactions within church. He called on attendees to reach out to people of all walks of life and ethnicities at their parishes, and to prayerfully remember those struggling in other corners of the world.
“In our church, globalization is a mixed blessing,” he said. “There’s more diversity, and yet we’re more divided. We’re a broken, divided world, nation and church.”
His talk, lasting more than an hour, was at times poignant and revealing. He confessed struggles about the current state of the church, but wrapped his message with a hopeful, faith-filled response to the chaplains.
As a person living a comfortable, middle-class lifestyle, Fr. Massingale said he is guilty at times of forgetting the plight of people trying to meet even their most basic of needs.
“I don’t have any difficulty eating, and all of my basic needs are met,” Fr. Massingale said. “It becomes all too easy to forget the rest of the world, and some of America, cannot live as well as I do.”
Fr. Massingale also confessed that, at times, he struggles with a deep sense of disappointment with the church.
“Why should I work to heal a community in which I feel so estranged? I wrestle being part of a church that sometimes is unable to proclaim or preach the justice it professes,” Fr. Massingale said to thunderous applause from the audience. “It is painfully obvious that people are sometimes welcome only with conditions.”
Throughout his time as a professor, Fr. Massingale said he has met with openly gay and lesbian students and has listened to their struggles.
“They see the church as more of an enemy than an ally,” Fr. Massingale said.