By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published April 2, 2020
ATLANTA–Area Catholics attending the Catholic Partnership Summit roundtable in Washington, D.C. came back with ideas on opening parish life and the Archdiocese of Atlanta to the voices of its lay members.
Leaders of the archdiocese and members of the Catholic Lay Interparish Partnership attended the February workshop. Two lay members of CLIP received financial grants from the archdiocese to attend the meeting.
Jane McNabb, who worships at St. Thomas More Church, Decatur, was impressed with an idea from a Pennsylvania diocese to institute a church cultural conversation “from the bottom up.”
Laypeople and priests would make up larger councils based on the geographic areas of the diocese, much like parishes have advisory councils, she said. The Archdiocese of Atlanta is divided into 10 deaneries, where priests exchange ideas and concerns.
McNabb said she heard inspiring presentations but, in the end, the authority to implement any changes largely rests in the hands of the clerics. She said that “ultimately, it will be (the clergymen’s) choice whether to implement such practices or stay the course with the status quo.”
David Spotanski, the chief operating officer of the Archdiocese of Atlanta, said the workshops spurred “respectful and candid” conversations between laity and clergy. It was well done because “we could talk about all that has been done without seeming defensive and all that must be done without feeling intimidated,” he said.
Spotanski said the dialogue shouldn’t end at the conference and he’s looking forward to renewing the conversations.
Callie Tabor attends St. Thomas More Church, Decatur. Tabor, a doctoral student at Emory University, Atlanta, said presentations asked the question whether the church is content to change to adopt better managerial policies or be transformed “choosing love not fear, mercy not judgment, and inclusion not exclusion.”
“This is a vision of the church that gives me hope,” she said.
Tabor said she would like to see a synodal approach on issues, where elected and selected lay and ordained persons meet to discuss and vote on issues of the church.
“I would like for those synods to not be merely consultative but to have real authority,” she said.
Joe Vella, who attends the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Atlanta, was impressed with attendees who are dedicating time, energy and resources to be agents of change.
“The conference provided some key fundamental tools for me to begin this process,” he said.
The conversations around ethical financial management were promising, with nearly 300 people in agreement about its implementation, he said.
Vella said parishes and the archdiocese would be well served by understanding and listening to young adult Catholics.
“For me, this expanded well beyond the walls of the Leadership Roundtable summit. I think it is critical for the future of the Catholic Church to retain and engage young Catholic adults, beginning at age 13, and moving forward into full adulthood. They are the future of the Catholic Church.”
Read the Catholic News Service coverage of the Catholic Partnership Summit.