FCM’s biannual national assembly took place in Cleveland at the beginning of August. Three keynote addresses set the tone for the assembly. Marianne Duddy-Burke, Executive Director of Dignity, USA opened on Friday evening. On Saturday, retired Episcopalian Bishop John Shelby Spong offered two talks on updating the way we interpret scripture. John Dorhauer, General Minister and President of United Church of Christ spoke on white privilege in America. Workshops filled the days with additional options.
As the Sunday morning breakfast and Membership Meeting occurred, FCM President Tom Cusack ended the Assembly with the following comments.
President Tom Cusack’s Closing Talk—FCM Assembly August 7, 2016
Jerika Bolen is 14 years old. While that is young, she has already gone to a prom. It was a prom held in her honor. Guests came to Appleton, WI from CA, FL and from around the country.
Jerika has spinal muscular atrophy type 2. It destroys brain cells in the brain stem and in the spinal cord that control voluntary muscular activity. The muscles waste away, and she is in constant pain. The prognosis is terminal.
This summer she decided with her mom that she will go into hospice, unhook her ventilator and die. Word of her decision and her wish for a prom spread, and 1000 people attended. Flowers blessings and people poured in.
She was escorted to the dance by a motorcade of 17 police cars, sirens and lights on. They all came to support Jerika.
She is a young person, confronted with a life challenge and she is bravely responding to it as best she can. Her situation hit the news through USA Today. It went viral. Our lives usually do not go viral. Yet we know that times and events put some people into unique circumstances in which their response touches many lives. Obvious names come to mind: Dr. King, Nelson Mandela, and Mahatma Gandhi. Their great inner light met the times and circumstances, and their light fed us all.
We need not look far in FCM for beacons of light. We got the sad news that a great FCM member, Peter Paul Brennan, passed away this week. He has been a leader in so many aspects of Catholic Church reform. He has touched many, many lives with his leadership and charismatic efforts to move that church toward greater inclusion. He has joined the company of the saints. Arrangements are yet to be announced.
The light in FCM is not limited to those who have passed from us. With each Circle meeting I read the thumbnail sketches of those to be commissioned and endorsed. I continue to be amazed at the extent of study, life preparation and personal reflection these new members bring to FCM, enriching us all. And yet even the high levels of light and grace that so many in FCM display are not enough. And this is an easy judgement for me and you to make. You see, I am using as my yardstick the level of “God realization” shown by our teacher, Jesus the Christ. We are not at that level yet, but our goal is to reach his level and then to exceed it. He has stated this goal for us.
So I am asking each to ramp up your spiritual life. If you pray, add meditation. If you meditate, add scripture reading. If you read scripture, add action in the field of justice and peace. All of these are avenues to increasing your spiritual capacity. That is our challenge, the most difficult challenge: to increase our spiritual capacity. With greater spiritual capacity, we can have greater effects on those around us. With greater spiritual capacity, these effects will more and more clearly be the effects of the Holy Spirit, and not of us. This is our goal.