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Three women celebrate 50 years as vowed religious

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While none made a big thing of it, word got out at this weekend’s gathering of the Catholic Theological Society of America that three women were celebrating their fiftieth year as vowed religious. Congregation of St. Joseph Sister Elizabeth A. Johnson, Dominican Sister Jamie T. Phelps, and Sister of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary Anne E. Patrick all are enjoying their golden anniversary.

Asked what has come out of 50 years of religious life, Johnson cited the excitement of the opening of the doors to lay ministries, Patrick, the surprises the Spirit keeps sending our way, and Phelps, the joys of working with so many good people.

These three women are living without regrets.

Crosby takes on church structures at theological gathering

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Despite the prophetic theme, “Theology’s Prophetic Commitments,” which runs through the talks at this year’s Catholic Theological Society of America, there has been relatively little overt criticism of Catholic patriarchal and, allow me, dysfunctional and unjust church structures.

In private conversations, especially in the wake of several more months of yet another round of episcopal sex abuse cover-ups in media coverage, this criticism is much more common. Vatican directed efforts to take our church back into pre-modern times when the world has moved into the post-modern era has made theology - evangelical work - more daunting, especially in the West.

Meanwhile, the chill that descended upon the Catholic theology dating back to the ouster of Father Charles Curran from the Catholic University of America in 1986, has stilted theological research, especially in areas such as moral theology and ecclesiology.

Can't live with oil, can't live without it

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I’ve been in the Cajun area of southwestern Louisiana all week covering the Deepwater Horizon spill and its impact on humans and on the unique bioregion of the bayou country and the coast. In both the Lafayette and New Iberia areas where I’ve been staying, evidence of the oil and gas industry is everywhere.

A good part of the Lafayette airport is taken up by big yellow helicopters. It’s the main departure point for the crews that work on the distant offshore oil platforms. Along main highways are supply warehouses for drilling equipment, repair shops, the offices and kitchens of the catering companies that feed and water workers hundreds of miles offshore, and all manner of other support facilities.

As I munched on a shrimp po-boy sandwich in a New Iberia cafe, a crew wearing red Halliburton shirts sat across the aisle flirting with and making the young waitress laugh. Streets in Lafayette have French names in honor of the proud Acadian heritage. Two blocks from where my wife and I stayed was Petroleum Rd. and downtown there’s a large Oil Center.

Two fathers and a mother: the changing face of theology

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So how is Catholic theology changing?

Let me offer an example by citing the first plenary session on the first full day of the gathering of the Catholic Theological Society of America.

First up was past CTSA president, Terrence W. Tilley, professor of Catholic Theology and chair of the department at Fordham University. He introduced the main speaker, Stephen J. Pope, professor of theology at Boston College, who gave an interesting talk about the importance of an emerging topic in theology, restorative justice. He was followed by Kristin E. Heyer, associate professor of theology at Santa Clara Universtiy, who gave an equally interesting response to Pope’s address, furthering the discussion and opening up and active discussion from the floor.

Dominican Sister Jamie T. Phelps honored at CTSA

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Dominican Sister Jamie T. Phelps is the 2010 recipient of the Ann O'Hara Graff Memorial Award from the Women's Seminar in Constructive Theology of the Catholic Theological Society of America.

Phelps, has been a member of the Adrian Dominican Sisters since 1959 and is currently professor of Systematic Theology and Director of the Institute for Black Catholic Studies of Xavier University of Louisiana. She has been a member of the faculty of the Catholic Theological Union and Loyola University, both in Chicago, and a Distinguished Visiting Professor of Theology in the Religious Studies Department at the University of Dayton, Dayton Ohio.

Graff was one of the founders of the Women’s Seminar for Constructive Theology in the CTSA. The seminar now presents an annual award in her honor.

Reader requests help

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Just got this message from a reader:

I'm wondering if you at NCR have developed any kind of network or information about efforts around the U.S. vs. the new sacramentary. I know the web site "whatifwejustsaidwait", but can't access the priest who initiated this effort. I can't help but believe there are groups all over the country who are wondering (like our little group here) what more can be done to stop or postpone the new sacramentary.

Catholic theologians gather in Cleveland

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The Catholic Theological Society of America (CTSA) opened its sixty-fifth annual convention in Cleveland, Ohio yesterday, June 10. It is the principal association of Catholic theologians in North America and the largest professional society of theologians and religious scholars in the Catholic church. Some 400 are in attendance here.

The theme of this year’s meeting, “Theology’s Prophetic Commitments,” commemorates the twenty-fifth anniversary of the historic “Kairos Document,” an ecumenical church statement that played a significant role in ending South African apartheid.

The CTSA seems to be in its second transformation. Decades back it was fundamentally a clerical organization with most of its members teaching in seminaries.

During the organization’s last thirty years, women theologians entered and soon were common at CTSA gatherings.

Apologies for abuse crisis seem to be wearing thin

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Pope Benedict XVI apologized again to sex abuse victims during his Mass ending the Year for Priests. As John Allen noted in his report:

In the run-up to this morning's Mass, some had speculated that Benedict might use the occasion to unveil dramatic new policy measures on the sexual abuse crisis. In fact, the pope did not announce any new initiatives, but instead referred to the crisis in a more spiritual key as a “summons to purification.”

Will Pope Benedict's apologies for abuse crisis ever be enough? asks Cathy Lynn Grossman over at her USA Today Faith and Reason blog.

She got one response from the watchdog group BishopAccountability.Org, the first of the victim's groups to roll out a statement.

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October 10-23, 2014

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