The Independent Newsweekly
Issue Date: November 7, 2003
From the Editor's Desk
New York offerings
I spent a few lovely days in New York recently, in the lead-up to the Voice of the Faithful gathering at Fordham University Oct. 25.
It was pleasant to walk the route of my old commute without having to worry, on either side of the day, about catching buses and about the condition of the New Jersey Turnpike and the Garden State Parkway. For the first few years, my commute went across town from the Port Authority Bus Terminal to the Jesuits America House, where America magazine is published. Religious News Service, for whom I worked at the time, rented a floor in that building. One of the greatest things about that building (aside from holiday celebrations to which we were often invited) was the list of all visiting Jesuits and other, usually clerical, dignitaries staying at the house. I grabbed a number of really good interviews off the elevator list.
My last few years of working in New York were mostly spent going straight up Eighth Avenue from the bus station to our offices at 53rd Street. (The whole operation, renamed Religion News Service, has since relocated to Washington.)
I wasnt looking for signs of stability in a tumultuous world but I found one, during my recent visit, on Eighth Avenue, just above 52nd Street. There, despite the almost magical replacement of crack houses and other dens of iniquity along that strip with the likes of upscale delis, new Italian bistros and a nearby Starbucks, DAiutos Bakery remains, virtually unchanged, as I remembered it, with the same big blue Best Cheesecake in New York sign on the door. One still squeezes past a refrigerated case and the lines still become confusing in the cramped space in front of the pastry counter. However, one can yet, with the single word regular, get a coffee with milk in one of those little paper cups with the blue design, which everyone knows on sight but Id bet few could describe in any detail. Shelves behind the counter have held varieties of biscotti and pizzelle (childhood favorites, I must confess) long before they became the fare in chic coffee shops. And the same woman who was dishing out treats and pouring coffee 10 years ago is still behind the counter.
This space of late has held readers ruminations about hope, and there are still some waiting in the wings, but this week Id like to add a few notes of my own. More than 1,500 attended the Voice of the Faithful gathering (a full report will appear in next issue). From the stirring welcome by Jesuit Fr. Joseph McShane, who was installed as the new president of Fordham the day before the conference, to the closing liturgy, I most profoundly sensed it as a day with the people of God, not in some manner of celestial glow, but in the deeper, down-to-earth pursuits of holiness and wholeness in an aching church. (My role in the conference was to deliver a talk, the full text of which can be found at NCRonline.org.)
Voice of the Faithful has clearly evolved out of the sex abuse crisis -- and it remains, as it should, attentive to the still-unraveling story of victims and the churchs role in the scandal.
But its larger purpose, its more significant calling, is to bring to bear on the church the force of its collective experience, wisdom and love for the church. And that last phrase is not an idle one, I think. Why else spend a beautiful Saturday sitting on metal folding chairs on a college gym floor? Calling the whole church to account is the work of responsible laity in this era of scandal. Voice of the Faithful is one of the signs of hope in todays church.
-- Tom Roberts
National Catholic Reporter, November 7, 2003
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