Small Christian Communities, by whatever name given them, are the growing form of Christian life today and the future direction of the Church. Tomorrow, March 21-22, Fr. Joe Healey will give an online presentation entitled “Pastoral Responses to the Worldwide Eucharistic Famine.” To register, go now to https://www.futurechurch.org/teleconference-with-fr-joseph-healey-mm . In some regions of the world, they are called Base Christian Communities (CEBs) and in other parts, Intentional Eucharistic Communities (IECs).
From the perspective of many theologians today, the priesthood of the Faithful needs to be underscored and promoted among Christians. Jesus never intended for his Church to become a religion as such. Rather, he offered a simple commandment of loving God most often expressed through loving our neighbor. It is a new humanism given not to one culture but to all of humankind guiding us to a highly ethical way of life shown less in abiding by established laws and more in how we care for one another. The ultimate goal of Christianity is to bring the whole of humankind into a kind of fraternal unity.
In the early Church, there was no distinction between clergy and laity. This emerged and developed over centuries. We need to return to sharing in Christ’s unique priesthood: the ordained ministry is there to keep the unity in faith and serve as collaborators to the bishops, while the common priesthood of the Faithful is there to spread the Gospel message and live as Christ in today’s world. If understood in this way, according to the French theologian, Fr. Joseph Moingt, the problem is not of ordaining women or not, of allowing priests to marry or not, but of foreseeing a new way of living together within the Church.”
Jesus introduced the Eucharist as a simple meal to be shared among his friends. He never intended it to be a highly ritualistic ceremony that could only be celebrated in the presence of an ordained minister. There is room within the structure of the Church for both the parish model and for small Christian communities. But as we witness more and more parishes closing and fewer people called to the ordained ministry of priesthood, in our capacity as baptized people, Christians could well be celebrating the Eucharist among ourselves in small communities.
By joining or beginning a Small Christian Community, we could indirectly change the structure of the universal church. No one with power ever willingly gives it up. But a reform movement can find grounds for moving beyond Christianity as a religious institution and toward the humanness of the Gospel message: love of God and love of neighbor. We may not be able to change the clericalism of the hierarchy, but we could, by our teaching and example, educate the Faithful to better understand their own call to priesthood and, as a follower of Jesus, to live as Christ in the world today.
In order to prepare for the teleconference, please read the following articles and resources.
1. Healey, Joseph, “Beyond Vatican II: Imagining the Catholic Church of Nairobi I,” Chapter in Agbonkhianmeghe E. Orobator (ed.), The Church We Want: African Catholics Look to Vatican III. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2016 and Nairobi: Acton Publishers, 2016.
2. Adinda, Pamela, “KENYA: ‘There is a need for Bishops Delegates and Youth Representatives to the Synod from AMECEA to have a Listening Session,’ – Fr Healey,” AMECEA Online News, Issue 217, 12 January 2018.
3. Cindy Wooden, “Serving Isolated Parishes May Mean Ordaining Married Men, Cardinal Says,” Catholic News Service, 22 January, 2018 https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2018/01/22/serving-isolated-parishes-may-mean-ordaining-married-men-cardinal-says
5. The Way Forward by Fr. Joseph Healey
If you would be interested in exploring this opportunity, join Fr. Healey online as Future Church offers this workshop.
Fr. Joseph Healey, MM is a specialist in Small Christian Communities (also known as Basic ecclesial community) as a teacher, researcher, and writer. Father Healey is a communications specialist, MA, with experience in the United States and Eastern Africa.
Healey became a Maryknoll missionary priest in 1966 and in 1968 went to Nairobi, Kenya to become the leader of the social communications office of the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa. While in Africa, Healey recorded the traditional proverbs of cultures including Sukumu of Tanzania—trying to demonstrate how the use of these proverbs could be used for evangelizing methods. His written collections also include his experiences from his missionary expeditions, and highlights the spiritual tradition of the areas he has taken up residence in. In describing his work Mary Ann Brussat wrote that, “The reader will find material on creation, life, family, community, good times and bad times, joy and celebration, cultural matters, and seeds of God in African soil.”
He remained in East Africa for the duration of his career, developing and writing about small Christian communities within areas dominated by alternate religions. He has also worked with members of other faiths as an author and evangelist. In his analysis of African faith stories, Healey has called them a “fifth gospel”, a phrase that describes the use of faith stories for expressing Christian ideas to those of a non-Christian background. Much of his written work has tried to establish a model of evangelizing in Africa that can be followed by other missionaries. Healey has worked in Nariobi, Kenya, Rulenge, Musoma, Dar es Saalam, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia. He has also served as the Mission Awareness Committee of the Catholic Men Religious Superiors’ Association.
As as expert in Small Christian Communities, Healey brings a wide and varied experience that is useful to developed regions where the number of ordained male priests are diminishing.
Today there are over 180,000 Small Christian Communities in the nine AMECEA countries in Eastern Africa. Tanzania alone has over 60,000 and Kenya alone has over 35,000 SCCs. Increasingly SCCs are promoting reconciliation, justice and peace, the three main themes of 2009 Second African Synod. One major change is the increasing use of a Pastoral Theological Reflection Process such as the “Pastoral Circle” to help SCCs to go deeper. Now more and more SCCs in Africa are reflecting pastorally and theologically on their experiences, often using the tools of social analysis.
|Location||Local Time||Time Zone||UTC Offset|
|San Francisco (USA – California)||Wed, March 21, 2018 at 5:00:00 pm||PDT||UTC-7 hours|
|New York (USA – New York)||Wed, March 21, 2018 at 8:00:00 pm||EDT||UTC-4 hours|
|Nairobi (Kenya)||Thursday, March 22, 2018 at 3:00:00 am||EAT||UTC+3 hours|
|Mumbai (India – Maharashtra)||Thurssday, March 22, 2018 at 5:30:00 am||IST||UTC+5:30 hours|
|Paris (France – Île-de-France)||Thursday, March 22, 2018 at 1:00:00 am||CET||UTC+1 hour|
|Auckland (New Zealand – Auckland)||Thursday, March 22, 2018 at 1:00:00 pm||NZDT||UTC+13 hours|
|Sydney (Australia – New South Wales)||Thursday, March 22, 2018 at 11:00:00 am||AEDT||UTC+11 hours|
|Mexico City (Mexico – Ciudad de México)||Wed, March 21, 2018 at 6:00:00 pm||CST||UTC-6 hours|
|Karachi (Pakistan – Sindh)||Thursday, March 22, 2018 at 5:00:00 am||PKT||UTC+5 hours|
|Rio de Janeiro (Brazil – Rio de Janeiro)||Wed, March 21, 2018 at 9:00:00 pm||BRT||UTC-3 hours|
|Corresponding UTC (GMT)||Thursday, March 22, 2018 at 00:00:00|
To learn more about joining or beginning a Small Christian Community, we invite you to go to www.ThePeopleSpeakOut.org . To get started on creating a community of your own, go here now. We welcome your participation in Fr. Healey’s presentation and in helping create the movement of more small gatherings of Christians in home settings.