Arch, Steeples, And Dome

Arch, Steeples, And Dome

by S.P. Marie Kevin Tighe


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781438996011
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Publication date: 10/13/2009
Pages: 140
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.33(d)

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Arch, Steeples, and Dome

Religious Symbols on a Journey of Faith
By Marie Kevin Tighe


Copyright © 2009 Marie Kevin Tighe, S.P.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4389-9601-1

Chapter One

Part I. The Arch (1972-1980) A. A New Frontier

It seems Providential to me that it was in the city of Saint Louis, in the shadow of one of the most unusual landmarks in our country, that a new frontier was opened for my community and for me. Now the Arch was not only the symbol of the Gateway to the West of our country, but a symbol of the windows of the Church opened to the world.

It was in this place that I had the opportunity with five other sisters from my community of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, to learn new ways of facilitating the implementation of some of the major changes called for by Vatican II. What was learned was useful not only in my own community, but as this story unfolds you will see how this experience touched many aspects of the larger Church. Because of this opportunity, I think of Saint Louis as the "Promised Land" for renewal. This is because two "Wise Men" from the Gateway to the West had a vision, and a plan to realize it. Their story will follow the account of the mysterious way in which I arrived at the Arch.

The document on the Renewal of Religious Life stated: "The up-to-date renewal of the religious life comprises botha constant return to the sources of the whole of the Christian life and to the primitive inspiration of the institutes and their adaptation to the changed conditions of our times." It further stated, "Effective renewal and right adaptation cannot be achieved save with the cooperation of all the members of an institute." This last sentence was brief but radical in its meaning for religious communities. It was calling us to a new kind of shared responsibility for the life and mission of our congregations. In another radical shift in the concept of authority, the document further stated, "Superiors, in matters which concern the destiny of the entire institute. should find appropriate means of consulting their subjects, and should listen to them." These statements were in no way intended to weaken or to eradicate the authority of office held by those duly elected. They simply called for the recognition of the authority of personhood in each member, and the authority of the community as a corporate whole. These three dimensions of authority were called to work together to discern prayerfully the kinds of changes needed for this new era in church and world history.

In 1972, our General Superior and her Council heard of an Institute in Saint Louis that seemed to be just what was needed to enable this process to take place. Because of the size and geographical spread of our congregation at that time, it was thought that at least six sisters would need to be relieved from all other duties for a minimum of two years. This group would go through an intense period of training and then assist the congregation in developing the skills needed for collaborative decision-making. When the Council had made the decision to engage this process, it remained to be determined how the six sisters would be chosen. From the outset, shared responsibility was built into this first decision. Each local community in the congregation was asked to nominate three sisters for the team. When the nominations came in, each nominee was called. Some had to decline because of being involved in a phase or aspect of their ministry that would be hard to hand over at the time. The training staff interviewed and tested the willing nominees. After going through many nominees and trying to combine complementary gifts, the team was finally chosen. It was the spring of 1972. I ended up being one of the six members of the team, although not one of the original six. How did this happen? Permit me to backtrack a bit to share this story.

As mentioned earlier, I was a member of the Saint Gabriel (Indiana) Provincial Council from 1968-1972. My term of office would not have been completed until 1974. When nominees were being considered for the renewal team, I was not eligible. The trainers had determined that no one on a Provincial or General Council should be on the team. The team was supposed to represent the grassroots thinking. One of my responsibilities as a Council member was to visit our sister-students at Saint Louis University to see how their studies were progressing and to discuss with them their future ministries. When I arrived in Saint Louis that spring, I had not yet heard that the team had been finalized, but I discovered while there, that the team had been named. I was able to learn a little more about the nature and scope of the training and I became more and more enthusiastic about the possibilities I saw in this for the renewal in our community - and even beyond! Later I learned that my enthusiasm had been communicated to the trainers.

I returned to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods for our General Chapter of 1972. One day, near the closing of this community meeting, I was sitting in the chapel early in the morning. The thought came to me, "I am going back to our Provincial House and in and out of the back door with my suitcase, and in and out of all of those houses. I am not sure that what we are doing now is helping us in this time of so much change." Suddenly, (without any voice being heard!) the thought came to me, "Stop thinking about yourself." It startled me somewhat. I left the chapel. When I reached the vestibule, our General Secretary, Sister Ann Kathleen Brawley, was standing there. She said, "We received a call from Saint Louis. They heard of your enthusiasm for the team effort and they want to know if you will resign from the Provincial Council and replace Sister Alexa Suelzer who was chosen for the renewal team, but who has just been elected to the General Council." That was my second surprise of the morning! I said, "Let me talk to Mother Mary Pius." When I found her, she said, "You know, this morning when you were in the chapel, I was in the gallery. I was praying that you would be willing to do this." I have often described this as one of the most identifiable "God-moments" of my life. In a flash, the whole course of my life changed, not just for a few days or weeks, but for the rest of my years!

Having been elected at the 1970 Provincial Chapter for a four-year term, as I said, I was not supposed to have gone out of office until 1974. It was then July of 1972, so another sister was appointed to replace me on the Council. I was a delegate to our General Chapter of 1972, when I learned that I was going to be a replacement on the Renewal Team. When the Chapter was over, I drove to Saint Louis. The training had already begun. I think the others had arrived about a week ahead of me. I soon caught on that this was going to be an intense experience. The rest of the team helped me to play "catch-up." The actual content and process of our training will be found in the segment of this book entitled, "Individual and Corporate Renewal."

The training period took place under the direction of a staff of Fourteen highly professional persons. Concerned with developing internal resources for renewal, the institute had this basic premise: "Religious presence is most effective when there is a deep understanding among the members of what it means to be 'a corporate people of mission.' Renewal has always aimed at recapturing in the community of today the spirit with which it began." So, for us as Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, corporate discernment toward a genuine renewal is a process of searching and sharing together around the vision and mission of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin. It is to rediscover, again and again, in the light of the Gospel and of our living tradition, how we are to express our original spirit in a manner suited to the changing circumstances of our world. Whatever "gaps" may be disclosed through our common searching and sharing would provide the arena for corporate decision-making and renewal.

In August of 1972 the team returned to the Motherhouse, well-instructed and well-armed for the work that was ahead of us. The task was a monumental one: to engage more than twelve hundred sisters in discovering which issues needed further corporate study and then probing those issues in terms of: the person of Christ, the spirit of the founding person, and the historical mission of the Church. The outcome of all of this was aimed at:

- a deepening of the commitment of the sisters to one another - a developing of the capacity for corporate faith-sharing and- decision-making

- a clarifying of the spirit, vision, and mission to which this- community aspires

- a statement of commitment on specific community issues-

The team chose the name "Cor Unum," a name that captured the purpose of its mission within the Congregation. What a powerful effect outward the Congregation would have if it could always be perceived as acting with one heart!

The Renewal Team was commissioned to serve for a minimum of two years with six members. It was suggested by the trainers that the team would gradually phase itself out, after having built the renewal process into the existing structures. In the first two years, there were six full-time members; in the third year there were four full-time members; in the first six months of the fourth year there were three full-time members and in the last six months of the fourth year there were two full-time members. As of July, 1976, the process of corporate renewal was to be considered self-sustaining through the existing structures of the Congregation: Chapters, Councils, Communities and Committees. Corporate Reflection Centers would be coordinated through the existing provincial structures and directed by sisters within each province. Later as we moved from Provinces to Local Government Units, what had been learned and practiced during these early days of renewal continued to bear fruit.

(In the fall of 2008, I conducted a survey of our Congregation just to assess, in an informal way, how our sisters had experienced these years of renewal. The returns exceeded by 17% the required number needed for an accurate reading of a group. This information was gleaned from In general, the sisters felt that we had done slightly better on adaptation than on renewal. However, one of the strongest responses in the positive category was that there was a deepened appreciation and understanding of the charism of our founding person, Saint Mother Theodore Guerin. This is crucial to the ongoing life of any religious group. Second to this, was the strong positive response saying that we had learned the importance of collaboration and shared responsibility in our community gatherings. There were other responses that indicated a need for further dialogue regarding our identity and the need to examine our power of attracting new members to this Congregation in this radically different period of time.)

By the summer of 1976 most of the original Cor Unum Team had assumed new responsibilities. By this time, The Institute for the Development of Internal Resources for Renewal ([I.sup.2] [R.sup.2]) had changed its name to The Center for Planned Change. I received a call asking if I would consider joining the staff of CPC. After having this approved by my superior, I moved again "beyond the Arch." This opportunity allowed me to take what I had learned to a broader area of the Church. Once more Saint Louis became a "New Frontier."

The four years, 1976-1980, were full and rich beyond measure, as I had the opportunity to work not only with thirty other religious communities, but with various formal church structures: archdioceses, dioceses, and presbyterates. As I moved into these other arenas, it was truly amazing to see how thorough our training in corporate renewal had been. I realized how solidly and soundly the basic principles of corporate theological reflection and those of the psychology of organizations, if carefully understood and wedded to the task, could contribute to a renewal of life in the Church.

Just as the Second Vatican Council opened the windows of the Church to those who had read the documents aright, so the Arch at Saint Louis opened my eyes to the broader Church and strengthened my already deep love of the Church. I will try to share here briefly an experience, which convinced me of the validity of the concept of corporate renewal.

For the calendar year 1978, I was assigned as assistant project director to a large archdiocese that had shown some interest in engaging the process. The Archbishop wanted to be sure that he had the commitment of his priests and people before committing to a "Year of Learning for Pastoral Planning in a Collaborative Style." In order to gain this commitment, one hundred-fifty persons were brought together for a week of reflection and discernment. Everyone arrived at a secluded retreat house on a Sunday afternoon and amazingly, no one left until the following Friday afternoon. The first step was to develop a set of common criteria for examining the proposal. The first two days were spent in "Ecclesial Groups" made up of bishops, priests, superiors of men's orders or congregations, superiors of women's communities, and lay persons from various regions of the archdiocese. After two days in "Ecclesial Groups," they spent two days in "Role Groups." So, for example, when the priests' "Role Group" met each priest was coming from a different "Ecclesial Group," thereby having had his own personal vision broadened and enlightened. At the conclusion, the Archbishop was asked to sit on a swivel chair in the middle of the room, since as head of a large archdiocese he couldn't look in one direction too long! In a single final session, the role groups reported and there was unanimous agreement to engage the process with some minor variations on the proposal. Every other month for a year a comparable session was held in different parts of the archdiocese. The Archbishop was present for these meetings and heard the various pastoral planning needs of the people. A Planning Commission was formed and met monthly with the Archbishop and other officials. This is only a glimpse of the whole process. It was, for me and for others, a true experience of the Church as the People of God working collaboratively to shape the future of a local church.

When we completed the "Year of Learning," we had a celebratory dinner with the Archbishop, the consultants, our staff, and some graduate students who had served as adjunct staff. I remember well the closing words of the Archbishop at that dinner. He said, "Someone has said that parting is sweet sorrow. What makes it sweet is that we all have hearts big enough to take each other with us." That reminded me of our SP Renewal Team's name, "Cor Unum." The realization of that title is one of the goals and purposes of the Church, from the "domestic Church" of the family to the Universal Church throughout the world ... one Body, One Heart.

B. Two Prophets

As the Second Vatican Council came to an end, there were two men on the faculty of Saint Louis University whose collaborative wisdom and commitment to the Church, inspired them to make a major contribution to the practical implementation of the vision and call of the Council Documents. One of these men was Father Thomas P. Swift, S.J., a canon lawyer and theologian. The other was Dr. Nick J. Colarelli, a clinical and organizational psychologist. At the conclusion of the Council, and as the documents began to circulate, both of these men were frequently asked to speak to religious communities and to assist them with their efforts to implement what the Church was calling them to do. When they would return to the university after having worked with these groups, Father Swift and Doctor Colarelli would meet to discuss insights and experiences. They soon realized that the kind of renewal needed would not happen by having external speakers addressing and advising. The change required must be the result of internal dialogue and shared decision-making. For groups that had functioned for a century or more in a top-down, authoritarian style of governance, many new attitudes and skills would need to be learned. It required more than an intellectual kind of learning; it required a genuine conversion in personal style of interaction. In religious communities these efforts needed to be rooted in the Gospel, the Constitutions, and the spirit of the founding person. In addition, there must be a clear understanding of the documents of the Council and the shift that was called for in the exercise of authority. That model had moved from the pyramidal to the circular model. The call to mutuality and shared responsibility is really a call to a dual conversion, that of the heart and of the manner of interaction for every member of a community. Two questions emerged as preeminent: 1.) What could be brought to this effort from both the theological and the psychological realms? and 2.) Which groups in the Church seemed most ready to begin this movement toward corporate conversion and renewal?

The two-fold answer to question #1 was:

a.) to initiate a method of corporate theological reflection rooted in the Scriptures, the history, spirit, and tradition of the group involved and the most recent official teaching of the Church from the Second Vatican Council

b.) to help groups understand the elements of organizational life with both the potentials and the threats to that life, which apply to faith communities as well as to other groups with a common purpose.


Excerpted from Arch, Steeples, and Dome by Marie Kevin Tighe Copyright © 2009 by Marie Kevin Tighe, S.P.. Excerpted by permission.
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Table of Contents


1924-1962 My Life Before the Council....................xi
1962-1965 The Second Vatican Council: An Overview....................xxii
1965-1972 - Years Immediately Following the Council....................xxvii
A. A New Frontier....................3
B. Two Prophets....................12
C. Individual and Corporate Renewal....................17
D. Trends, Values, Norms, Climate, and a Process Approach to Change....................23
E. The Spirituality of Groups....................32
A. Reaching for God....................37
B. Structures - A Means of Growth and Renewal....................42
C. Bringing Structures to Life....................49
D. Widening Circles of Church....................58
E. Called to Be the Church in a New Way....................62
A. The Purpose of the Church....................75
B. A Universal Home....................79
C. Woman of the Church....................85
D. Celebrating with the World....................90
Suggested References and Readings....................104

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