On Sunday evening, March 1, a good friend of mine named Brian Hammond died of cancer in St. Louis. You may never have heard of him, but if you were part of the Loretto Community, you would surely have known him and treasured the memories. He and his wife, Barb Mecker, have been outstanding co-members of Loretto for years.
Brian was a technological whiz, willing to help anyone with computer problems, video conferencing and elusive Internet connections. He was also a great father and grandfather, a fabulous cook and a deeply good person who enjoyed a serious conversation about contemporary issues of justice and peace.
Brian and Barb are not outliers in Loretto. They are part of a growing group of co-members who are active in the life of the community. Indeed, co-members are at the heart of Loretto these days. They are part of what I call the evolution of the “committed life” in the 21st century.
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Most co-members don’t take any formal vows (except for marriage vows, that is). But some devise their own vows such as: promises to live non-violently, or to live in solidarity with Planet Earth. Many pledge to live simply. In Loretto, they are well integrated into the life of the community, participating in community groups, committees and assemblies.
Co-members are growing in number in Loretto, and groups like them are growing in other communities as well. (Other communities generally call them “associates,” and there are varying degrees of integration, but the general idea is the same.) These are lay people who want to remain lay people, but who want to be connected to some larger faith community which can give them strength and a “home base” from which to carry out their mission in life.
The calling and work of these people is a cause for real celebration.