Can you imagine a Catholic Church in which everyone is warmly and sincerely welcome… where God’s mercy and unconditional love is truly alive?
Can you imagine a Catholic Church in which all baptized Christians are welcome to receive Holy Communion, including those divorced and/or remarried without annulment?
Can you imagine a Catholic Church in which a priest can choose to be married and support himself through secular employment… ministering to all parishioners with care and empathy?
We live in an age of declining church attendance, Catholic parish closings and a quiet, but growing, sense that the traditional Catholic Church has lost touch with the real life struggles of Catholic Christians today. In the midst of this reality, we wonder if the kind of Church we’ve described above may be ahead of its time, or perhaps long overdue.
These concepts echo the sentiments of one Roman Catholic bishop from Brazil, the Most Reverend Carlos Duarte Costa. Largely unknown to contemporary Catholics, Bishop Duarte Costa was considered a rebel by the Vatican and a saint by the countless thousands served by his ministry. An advocate for the poor, he criticized the political leanings of the Roman Catholic Church in Brazil. The Church, in Duarte’s view, enjoyed a position of favor with the wealthy government; a government under which the privileged thrived while the countless poor were starved in the streets.
Duarte Costa was critical of the Vatican’s policy of silence during World War II. Duarte Costa championed the abolition of celibacy and called for a national Christian church independent of Rome, in which priests would “have wives… and in which divorce would be tolerated”. Today, this Church, a National Church in Brazil, has a membership that numbers in the tens of thousands, with sister Churches whose worldwide members in 22 countries number in the millions. On July 7, 1995, in Rio de Janeiro, Bishop Duarte Costa’s successors celebrated the Golden Jubilee of the founding of the Brazilian National Church.
Is this a Church ahead of its time? Not with a heritage now fifty years old! Not in Brazil, not in Argentina, nor in Mexico.
Perhaps this is a concept of Church which should grow in the United States. It is certainly considered by many contemporary Catholics as a concept that is now very long overdue.
Right here in Cranston, Rhode Island, there is just such a Church. While the Brazilian National Catholic Church evolved as a ministry to the poor, Saint Patrick Catholic Church ministers to the poor, as well as to the spiritually impoverished, and to the many mainstream Catholics who, for any number of reasons, feel rejected and alienated from the Church of their youth.
Multitudes of mainstream Catholics, because of divorce and remarriage or the practice of artificial birth control, feel unwelcome in the Roman Catholic Church. Fr. Roger Durand, pastor of this parish, in looking out at these numbers of scattered Catholics, often thinks of the scene described in Mark 6:34-35. Christ, in looking out from the boat at the vast crowd upon the shore, was moved with compassion, “for they were like sheep without a shepherd”. Jesus welcomed a broken humanity with limitless love and unconditional forgiveness. Saint Patrick Catholic Church, ecumenical in spirit, welcomes all baptized Christians, regardless of denomination, not only to be present for the celebration of the Mass but also to receive the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. Beyond this, we have welcomed all who seek a sincere relationship with God and count many non Christian friends among those who worship regularly with us. For do we not all worship the same God and have the same need for salvation in our lives?
Saint Patrick Catholic Church practices an authentic Catholicism rooted in the beliefs and worship of the Roman Catholic Church. The pastor of this parish was ordained by a National Catholic bishop who can trace his Orders to the Roman Catholic Church and thus to the Apostles in unbroken Apostolic Succession.