National Catholic Reporter closed out its 50th anniversary year with a celebration and conference Oct. 24 titled "New Faces, New Voices, New Ways of Being Church: An Exploration of the American Catholic Church Going Forward."
The Lund Auditorium of Dominican University, co-sponsor of the conference, was filled to near capacity for the daylong event in River Forest, a western suburb of Chicago.
Three speakers -- University of San Diego professor of religious studies Maria Pilar Aquino, Marquette University theologian Fr. Bryan Massingale, and writer and NCR book editor Jamie L. Manson -- guided the more than 750 participants through the challenges that face the U.S. Catholic church in the next 50 years.
The conference was closed with a rousing "call to action" delivered by Benedictine Sr. Joan Chittister. Using the text of the Gospel reading for Mass for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Mark 10:46-52), Chittister challenged participants to rise up and answer the call of Jesus as the blind man Bartimaeus had done.
"In the end, Christian life is about three things," Chittister said. "It's about being holy, it's about being bold, and just as importantly it's about being persistent. It's about refusing to go away when what we're doing is worth being persistent about. It's about not quitting."
She offered reflections on six other Scripture passages in which the faithful of the Old and New Testaments were called to "rise up."
Her conclusion was: "The work of real renewal is ours. We cannot blame God for what we do not do to save ourselves ... and unless we care enough about life to risk our own for it, the entire community is in danger. Unless there are those here who are willing to think anew, to begin again, in situations [of crisis and change] the people cannot be saved -- unless some rise up."
The full text of the talks will be available on the NCR website.
At the event, NCR board chairman Tom Bertelsen announced the launch of a new fund for independent Catholic journalism named to honor the work of longtime NCR editor and publisher Tom Fox. (See story)