Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 27, 2003
'Dialogue!!' says McCaffery
By BILL GLEN
WCR Staff Writer
"Don't confuse me with the facts, I've already made up my mind."
Father Mike McCaffery uttered those poignant words to this year's graduates of Newman Theological College as guest speaker of their Oct. 18 convocation.
His point was simple in principle but difficult in execution - for effective ministry, it is imperative that civil dialogue be exchanged based upon a willingness to learn someone else's points of view.
A recent article in Time magazine suggested the greatest challenge facing society today is between the forces of fanatic fundamentalism and those of tolerance, McCaffery told the class of 30 graduates, faculty, friends and family who filled the college's chapel.
"In my own Roman Catholic traditions, in my limited observations, I think we are experiencing flip-flopping in liturgy, ecumenism, sexuality, authority - to name but a few. I think we know the tension, polarization, controversies large and small although rarely in the areas of basic doctrine, are nothing new in our Church," he said.
"But the differences do divide us."
Father Walter Burkhardt, a popular Jesuit theologian, McCaffery said, summed up the kind of dialogue people should try and enter with one another.
"The crucial questions are - Can we differ without disliking? Can we contradict without condemning? Can we debate without hate? Burkhardt concluded that when we reach the golden gate, God the Judge will not ask us, Did you solve the ministry? God will simply ask, Did you love me above all else, and did you love your brothers and sisters as if they were your own self?"
McCaffery said the Gospel reminds us that we want to be the greatest if we want to be number one. If we want to be a good minister, then we have to be a servant to all.
"Each of has a mission to fulfill. A mission of love and service, especially to the unloved, the unwanted and the uncared for. Do this, and you will be effective graduates. It is not an easy task.
"To paraphrase St. Francis on his death bed, Newman Theological College faculty has done what there was to do. Now, you must do what is yours to do. Go forth, dialogue and serve."