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Tensions in the Church: Facing the Challenges, Seizing the Opportunities.

The many and alleged Marian apparitions remind me of Minnesotan John Hassler's novel that chronicles a message from Mary: Keep Minnesota green. Life (or at least religious life) imitates advertising. Ain't it grand?

Hassler's newest novel, Dear James (NCR, May 28), is also grand. This love story raises chastity and patient endurance beyond virtue to an art form.

When I taught pastoral liturgy at this summer's Institute in Pastoral Ministry at St. Mary's College of Minnesota, I brought a box of new books for the students. These graduate students, for the most part, are church employees who go about their duties while working toward a master of arts degree in pastoral theology. I invited them to dig into the box and take the one that appealed to them in their own sitz im leben, to provide for us an overview of how current authors are serving current pastoral need.

The value of the assignment was in allowing pastoral types to pick and pan for NCR readers, may of whom are busy about pastoral duties as well.

Poor Servant of the Mother of God Margaret Farragher grew up in Ireland, joined her community in London and now teaches at Holy Spirit School in Philadelphia. She chose Single in the Church: New Ways to Minister with 52 Percent of God's People, (Washington, D.C.: The Alban Institute, 164 pages, $15.95 paperback), by Kay Collier-Stone.

Collier-Stone, as Margaret reads her, deals compassionately with the fears and needs of singles, pointing out that the church often unintentionally ignores this large segment of God's people.

Clergy and laity will find the book friendly and practical; it offers challenging insights for all denominations. Margaret recommends it as sensitizing and practical for everyone in pastoral ministry.

Therese Hebert has spent nine years in pastoral ministry in Iowa, Missouri and Illinois, working as a general practitioner busy with duties ranging from sacramental preparation to bell repair. She is director of religious education at St. Mary's parish in Waverly, Iowa. She chose When God Becomes a Drug: Breaking the Chains of Religious Addiction & Abuse, by Episcopalian Fr. Leo Booth (Tarcher/Perigee, 273 pages, $12.95 paperback).

Booth, according to Therese, gives a lucid and convincing presentation of an issue that causes many to cringe. He points to parallels with other addictions, and shows how religion can be adopted as rigid and negative, disabling people in the same way as other addictions. Such an experience differs from authentic spirituality wits healthy relationship with a loving, forgiving God.

Booth writes for those willing to begin recognizing personal religious dysfunction and wishing to recover, as well as for those who counsel. He relates personal experiences and stories in a readable manner. Therese reports that she came away from the book with a sense of hope for those who move from religious addiction to seek a healthy spirituality.

Barb Bunkers, married and the mother of five children, is director of religious education at St. Gabriel's parish in Fulda, Minn. She chose Women of the Gospel: Sharing God's Compassion, by Passionist Fr. Isaias Powers, illustrated by Betty Iovine (Twenty-Third Publication, 153 pages, $5.95 paperback).

Barb found the book delightful, enjoying Powers as master storyteller bringing to life 28 women of the gospel. Each tells her experience of Jesus and the compassion of God.

Barb observes that it is no coincidence that readers feel a bond with these 28, each of whose story can be read in a quick sitting. Our lives, like theirs, are troubled and perplexing. In our ordinariness, in our struggles with self and others, we also seek the compassionate love of God.

The book is a good read for women and men who recognize their brokenness and who are invited into wholeness through their personal encounters with Jesus.

Kay Dressler is a divorced parent from St. Paul, Minn., whose daughter finished medical school in June. A 26-year employee of the University of Minnesota, Kay is executive assistant in the Department of Human Resources. She chose A Woman's Healing Song: Prayers of Consolation for the Separated and Divorced, by Kerrie Hide (Twenty-Third Publications, 80 pages, $7.95 paperback).

Kay observes that few of life's hurts are as devastating as divorce or as likely to throw a wrench into one's spiritual life. Hide's book offers prayerful ways for Christian women to transform the pain of divorce or separation into a time of spiritual growth.

Through 12 meditations, Hide draws on scripture to show God's awareness of and love for those in pain. She introduces hurting women to Julian of Norwich as an illustration of how God's love soothes fears and frustrations.

According to Kay, spiritual, directors will find this book a rich resource. lndividuals will find there a guide for prayer. Groups will appreciate the outlines for prayer, discussion and shared activities.

Beth Guss has called Salt Lake City home for more than 20 years. She belongs to the Newman Center/St. Catherine of Sienna Parish. She is married, the mother of two and works in the business world. She chose two books. The first is The Joy of Kindness, by Robert Furey (Crossroad, 155 pages, $10.95 paperback).

Furey offers a new look at health and at hope. He weaves important threads of human interaction to suggest a deeper appreciation of the self and of each one's important contribution to the world.

He contends that kindness heals. And kindness can change the world, giving purpose to lives. He offers useful and practical ideas, and offers examples that diverse audiences can relate to.

Beth suggests that young readers and social action groups will particularly benefit from reading Furey. She judges his book to be a good read, providing a good personal or group reflection.

Beth also read The Sacred-World of the Christian: Sensed in Faith, by Benedictine Sr. Mary Anthony Wagner (Liturgical Press, 144 pages, $9.95 paperback).

Wagner describes American Indian myth and rituals, showing how they express beliefs, relationship, community. She leads the reader to look at Christian faith and history, pointing out that ordinary actions are sacraments of God's love.

With economy of expression, Wagner offers scholarly analysis, thought-provoking questions and study group materials for older teens.

Beth found she wanted to savor every word, appreciating Wagner's suggestion that the sensory world has answers beyond number to important questions.

Ronnie Nosek coordinates religious education at St. James Parish in Davis, Calif. She is married and the mother of three. She chose Everybody Has a Guardian Angel, and Other Lasting Lessons I Learned in Catholic Schools, by Mitch Finley (Crossroad, 188 pages, $16.95 hardbound).

In a delightful narrative, Finley traces the profound effect on himself of a Catholic education from elementary through graduate school. He identifies the lessons he learned early on and how life's experiences built on this foundation.

He invites the reader into his own faith story in a straightforward, personal way. According to Ronnie, this prompts the reader to trace her or his own roots and influences.

As an added bonus, she appreciated the theological update blended into the narrative.

Sandra Shaurette lives and works in her hometown of Chippewa Falls, Wis., and is the pastoral associate in her home parish of St. Charles Borromeo. She also serves on assorted committees in the diocese of LaCrosse. She chose The Authentic Doctrine of the Eucharist by Teresa Whalen (Sheed & Ward, 180 pages, $12.95 paperback).

Sandra reports having appreciated almost every aspect of the book, including the concise overview of the development of the sacrament, the questions at the end of each chapter, the end notes and resource list. She found the book an easy-to-use reference.

Whalen chronicles the rich developments since Vatican II, on Schillebeeckx, Boff and others. She notes a shift in emphasis in recent years that sees the Eucharist as more multidimensional. Her understanding of the real presence is broadened to include more than the presence in the elements alone. She also celebrates the link tbe Eucharist has with justice and liberation.

Parents and educators alike will profit from Whalen's work.

School Sister of St. Francis Susanne Maly is director of music and liturgy at St. Thomas More Parish in Elgin, Ill. She chose Life After Easter: Mystagogia for Everyone, day-by-day reflections for having a resurrection faith between Easter and Pentecost, by Pamela Smith (Paulist, 88 pages, $4.95 paperback).

Smith offers her book to those who seek always to sustain the momentum of falling in love with the Lord, with the whole church, failing into the arms of grace.

Her reflections spring from the lectionary and are meditations and prayers that are excellent, said Susanne, for Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults groups, bible study or any individual.

She judges that Smith's little book is successful for all who need mystagogia: new Christians and weathered believers alike.

Marie Neis is director of adult education and adviser for parish cluster development at St. Matthew Church, Glendale Heights, Ill. She is married and has two daughters. She chose Tensions in the Church: Facing the Challenge, Seizing the Opportunities, by James J. Bacik (Sheed & Ward, 171 pages, $9.95 paperback).

In this collection of articles, Bacik considers four sources of tension in the church: dissent, polarization, ministry and ecumenism. He presents shortcomings in practice and structure, suggesting that rampant individualism, distorted views and personal bias need also be avoided. He sensitively deals with other issues, including anti-Catholic bias, returning Catholics, in vitro fertilization and more.

Bacik's work will be valuable reading, according to Marie, for those who would be Catholic without embarrassment, having with the tensions that prove the church is alive and moving.

Regina Lamoureux is a member of St. Columbkille's parish in Varina, Iowa, where she serves on the RCIA team. She also serves on various diocesan organizations, including the peace and justice commission. She and her husband of 20 years are farm partners, and she is the stepmother of his eight children. The fact that many of these eight have studied on different campuses caused her to choose College Catholics: A New Counter Culture, by Paulist Father Michael J. Hunt (Paulist, 172 pages, $9.95 paperback).

Hunt draws on 18 years experience as a college chaplain and offers insight into the sociological and psychological behavior of college students in a world he sees as countercultural. Though students may not be well-schooled in doctrine, the faith flourishes in campuses, and allegiance to the faith is often an act of independence or a refusal to be defined by campus culture.

According to Regina, Hunt suggests that the attractiveness of worship on campus has important lessons for the whole church. He sees contemporary liturgy as living out Vatican II. He is hopeful that today's young Catholics are the church's greatest resource ensuring vitality for tomorrow's parishes. Those who minister to college youth will want to share Hunt's hopeful vision.

Mark Nuehring is youth minister at Christ the King Parish in Des Moines. He reports that the day after sending off his review, he and a number of his charges were off on pilgrimage to see the pope in Denver. Mark chose Collaborative Ministry, by Norman Cooper (Paulist, 203 pages, $14.95 paperback).

Cooper asserts that to achieve collaboration, a theological foundation is necessary. He sets out to establish a process by which a parish or diocese can combine an understanding of ecclesiological spiritual and interpersonal dimensions of collaboration with a pastoral plan of implementation. Each chapter is a step-by-step guide.

Mark said the text would be a good resource for those interested in pursuing the call to collaboration.

Working with all these well-formed ministers made me choose Leaving Home, by Herbert Anderson and Kenneth R. Mitchell (Westminster/John Knox, 160 pages, $9.99 paperback). Acknowledging that leaving home is a lifelong process, they write for parents who celebrate a son or daughter's leaving and who struggle to let him or her go graciously. Also targeted are those who are professional helpers in the complex task.

The authors (Mitchell died in 1991) write from the perspective of pastoral theology. Their reflections are perceptive and helpful as they consider leaving home to be a religious act because it implies transcendence, inviting one to unconditional discipleship. Those who leave strengthen the resolve to fulfill the vocation to make the world a home. This book will provide a good September consideration for many.

I have a seminary classmate about to resign his pastorate on the north shore of Lake Superior because cancer is ravaging his body. I sent him a copy of How to Handle Trouble: A Guide to Peace of Mind, by John Carmody (Doubleday, 182 pages, $20 hardbound).

Because my friend's illness is proving to be a conduit for grace - both for himself and his loving, supportive parish community - he will no doubt appreciate Carmody's sensitive reflections written after his April 1992 diagnosis of bone cancer. He writes as a fellow sufferer for people in trouble, those who feel pain.

Garmody proposes techniques to take back control, regaining the feeling that life is in one's hands. He looks to handle trouble, lessen pain. His courage and faith are sure to light the way for others.
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Author:Graham, William C.
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 10, 1993
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