Retrieve the (movement) history of co-responsibility

Warning that clericalism is not the only things preventing the development of a more synodal Church, Chicago priest, Fr Louis Cameli, who is Cardinal Cupich’s delegation for formation and mission, has called for “a retrieval of history of co-responsibility in mission lived out in the past.”

“Is clericalism in these different forms a problem that sets up resistance to synodality?” he asks in an article in America magazine.

“Yes, of course it is,” he answers.

“At the same time it is not the root problem,” he insists. Rather, “the fundamental resistance to synodality belongs to a much wider swath of church membership than its ordained segment.”

Developing co-responsibility in the Church

What need to happen then, Fr Cameli argues, citing the First Assembly Synod report, is the development of “co-responsibility for the (Church’s) mission,” which means coming together in communion to participate in moving the mission of the church forward.”

This mission at the heart of synodality also needs to be clear, Fr Cameli continues:

We do not construct the mission; we receive the mission. It is given to us by Jesus Christ as the continuation of his mission in the world. And that mission brings good news to the world by proclaiming that all things are reconciled and recapitulated in Christ.

And “if co-responsibility for the mission is at the heart of synodality, and if that mission is ultimately a movement to communion, then what is the pathway to implement the mission?” he further asks.

The answer here, he says, is the promotion of participation, a key synodal theme. And this is achieved in four ways: “dialogue, witness, worship and a retrieval of history.”

Here we will focus on the last of those four actions that he identifies: the retrieval of history.

Remembering the role of the Cardijn movements

“A retrieval of history of co-responsibility in mission lived out in the past can be very helpful for today’s formation” because “co-responsibility is not an entirely new reality in the life of the church,” Fr Cameli notes.

In fact, “before Vatican II and, in some sense, feeding into its dynamism, there were movements that captured and lived out a shared responsibility for the mission, especially for laity,” he explains.

Here he cites the history of Chicago, which for so long was the centre of action and activity for the Cardijn movements in the USA:

The experience of these movements in my own local church, the Archdiocese of Chicago, during the 1940s and 1950s can be instructive. Groups like the Young Christian Workers and Young Catholic Students, originally founded by Cardinal Joseph Cardijn in Belgium, fostered a sense of mission and purpose for students and workers in the context of school and workplace. This further developed into various forms of Catholic Action in our local church. The Christian Family Movement, developed by Pat and Patty Crowley, helped married people and their families to live out the Gospel mission in their lives. In its own way, the Cursillo movement in Chicago and elsewhere prepared its participants to evangelize.

“The retrieval of this history can form and inspire people today on the synodal path,” Fr Cameli concludes.

If we deliberately and intentionally call people to a synodal conversion by summoning them to it and drawing them into dialogue, witness, worship and the retrieval of past experiences of co-responsibility, then by God’s grace, people will begin to claim their responsibility to carry the mission forward. Eventually, a critical mass of convinced believers will emerge: people who take ownership and responsibility for the mission. As that happens, a larger collective conversion will begin to take hold in the community of believers.

As Fr Cameli proposes, a retrieval or indeed a revival of the Cardijn movements in the US – and elsewhere – will sure assist in the promotion of a synodal Church in which lay people and clergy share responsibility for mission.

Stefan Gigacz


Louis J. Cameli, Clericalism isn’t the only thing stopping the Catholic Church from embracing synodality (America magazine)


Fr. Louis J. Cameli – 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time-2020 (YouTube)