We Are The Church:
A Lay Congress for Valley Catholics.
Panel Members (l to r): Sister Kate Kuenstler, Edinburg Attorney Mark Peña, Lena Woltering, and St. John the Baptist Parishioner Alva Peña.
On March 17, 2007, approximately fifty Catholics from throughout the Diocese of Brownsville, with participants from over ten parishes, gathered at the Palm Aire Hotel in Weslaco for the first Lay Congress for the Rio Grande Valley.
Lena Woltering, one of the original organizers of the Lay Synod movement, opened the Congress with a history of this successful national movement. The keynote, Sister Kate Kuenstler, PHJC, JCD, a canon lawyer from Belleville (IL), spoke on the “Rights of Lay Catholics in Canon Law.”
The day was spent in discussions that explored the implications of what Canon Law (the law of the Catholic Church) says about the rights and responsibilities of all the Christian Faithful within the communio, the Body of Christ that is the Church.
What arose from these discussions was a strong desire to contribute to the building up of an inclusive Church, where everyone is welcome and respected, and to the building up of an open, dynamic Church, in which the laity are empowered collaborators with the clergy and the hierarchy in living and carrying the Gospel message to the whole world.
As a result of these discussions, the Lay Congress of the Rio Grande Valley presented the following recommendations to Bishop Raymundo Peña:
The Lay Congress recommends that catechesis [religious education and formation] in the Diocese be a program for adults as well as for youth and children.
The Lay Congress recommends that catechesis in the Diocese include instruction in the teachings of Vatican II and in the rights of the Christian Faithful in Canon Law.
The Lay Congress recommends that a formal process be established so that all the Christian Faithful can participate in the selection of their pastor .
The Lay Congress recommends that there be established, in every parish, both a Pastoral Council and a Finance Committee and that these be chosen openly and operate transparently.
The Lay Congress recommends that a Peace and Justice Office be established in the Diocese and that there be a Peace and Justice Committee in every parish.
This Lay Congress is the first ever held in Texas, and discussions for further sessions in the Valley have already begun. Later this year, Dallas-Ft. Worth and Northern California will have similar gatherings.
For more information: contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.laycongressrgv.org