CTA in Memphis: Day Two

This story appears in the CTA 2014 feature series. View the full series.
Fr. Tony Flannery speaks to a crowd during a late afternoon presentation at Call To Action's 2014 National Conference in Memphis. (NCR photo/Mick Forgey)

Pope Francis arrives for a Divine Liturgy with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople in the patriarchal Church of St. George in Istanbul Nov. 30, 2014. (CNS/Paul Haring)

by Mick Forgey

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About 900 to 1,000 like-minded Catholics participated in the second day of Call To Action’s 2014 National Conference in Memphis. Below are highlights from day two:

  • Call To Action held unique morning prayer sessions such as Drawing into the Heart of God. In a room somewhat detached from the main CTA activity in the Memphis Cook Convention Center, Joan Horgan, director of campus ministry at Albany’s College of St. Rose, played music and guided participants into a relaxed, aware state, enabling them to get in touch with the feelings in their hearts. They then visualized the feelings with pastels on paper.
  • Irish Redemptorist Fr. Tony Flannery drew such a large crowd for his morning presentation that it had to be moved to a larger space. CTA’s 2014 conference is the eleventh spot on Flannery’s 18-stop U.S. tour. Flannery spoke on the church and women, and how throughout the church’s history, men have warped the depiction of women, minimizing their significance in instances like the life of Jesus. (Previously, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith ordered Flannery to publish a statement saying he accepted both that there will never be women priests in the Catholic Church, and that he accepted all the moral teachings of the Catholic church, including contraception and homosexuality. Flannery refused, and was forbidden to practice as a priest.)
  • Jennifer Reyes Lay educated attendees about the need to abolish the prison industrial complex, the established phenomenon of privatized prisons exploiting convicted prisoners for profit. Reyes Lay provided attendees with eye-opening stats, such as that one in three African American males will be imprisoned at some point in their lifetime.
  • Rev. James Lawson, co-founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, who worked with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to affect change in the south, gave the 2014 conference’s second keynote address, “The Nonviolent Struggle for Justice.” Lawson, whom King called “the leading theorist and strategist of nonviolence in the world,” told the CTA audience that he continued to pray for them, “because you know, perhaps better than I, that Christianity in the 21st century must do some monumental transformation of itself.” “From my perspective, there is no way to struggle for justice, except through the practice, the theory, the action, the sacrifice and the vision of nonviolent struggle,” Lawson said. Lawson emphasized the true definition of nonviolence, which he said Gandhi of India coined around 1907. “Gandhi didn’t mean antiviolence. Gandhi says I coined the term to mean love in action,” Lawson said.
  • During one of the day’s final presentations, a four-person panel – made up of FutureChurch executive director Deborah Rose-Milavec, Sr. Christine Schenk, Fr. Gerry Bechard and Fr. Tony Flannery – engaged a packed room in the convention center. Together, the panel and audience discussed alliances for reform between priests and the laity; they touched upon what such alliances look like and how they work.

Call To Action’s 2014 National Conference has fit what feels like a week’s worth of activity into two days. The conference concludes tomorrow.

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