Seeking the light together

February 1, 2022 - 12:00am -- Living City

Seeking the light together

Our popular “Ethics in action” column has come to an end — but a new team is ready to answer your questions on faith

By Susanne Janssen

Often, our faith accompanies us from childhood. We take the first steps, we go through crises, we understand our tradition in a deeper way. 

Yet there are always questions that arise. Why did this tradition develop? How can I live out this commandment? What does this or that word of the Gospel actually mean?

To answer these and all kinds of faith questions, a group of priests living all over the U.S. is at the ready. They are focolarini priests, aiming at living out the Focolare’s spirituality of unity. And they believe that together they can better understand how to respond.

For close to four years now, Msgr. Michael Magee in the popular column “Ethics in action,” answered questions on small or bigger dilemmas: how to balance speaking the truth and charity, how to deal with divisions in our own families, to name just a couple of examples. Msgr. Magee won a first prize for Best Column on Religious Life by the Catholic Media Association in 2019. And many of our sister editions republished or translated his columns.

After taking on more tasks in his job as a professor at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary (Archdiocese of Philadelphia), Msgr. Magee asked if someone else could continue, though he truly enjoyed writing the installments. 

We thank Msgr. Magee for his dedication to work on the toughest questions, for his wisdom and guidance! And while we are sad to end this chapter, we’ve got a new series on the horizon.

Starting next month, the group of focolarini priests will answer questions about how to put out faith into practice, and how to align our life with the social doctrine of the Church. With Jesus’ promise of being present where two or more are gathered in his name (Mt 18:20), they will seek the light and the Holy Spirit to find the answers. 

“We recognize that insight comes more when we rely not on ourselves, but on the unity that comes from Jesus among us. No one of us feels an expert, but together, we can come up with practical thoughts that may be useful in connecting the charism of unity with daily living and with the challenges that are present in our world today,” says Fr. Timothy Hayes, a priest in the diocese of Columbus, Ohio, who will be the main writer. “I had an English major in college, so I was chosen,” he shares. 

The Priest Focolare is separated by distance in the U.S. and Canada. However, they have worked several years to find ways to keep in contact and to keep Jesus in their midst across the distances. It began with annual retreats for priests at Focolare’s little city Mariapolis Luminosa, in Hyde Park, New York. It’s a tradition that continued via conference calls and now Zoom meetings. 

“Through the years, we have kept a practice of a weekly call, now using Zoom,” says Fr. Clint Ressler, a priest in the diocese of Galveston-Houston, who made national news when he visited his parishioners by bicycle during the Covid lockdown. 

To get to know each other in a deeper way, they all spend some vacation days together in the Fall. “We have visited one another’s parishes, which means different worlds, to spend time together and to learn how we can be a support in one another’s ministries,” Fr. Clint says.

The other members are Fr. Darryl De Souza, originally from India, who serves at the Holy Family parish in Corpus Christi, Texas; Fr. Peter Iorio, from Tennessee; and Fr. Tyler Mattson, a young priest from the diocese of Sioux Fall in South Dakota. 

Five priests from different parts of the country, with different backgrounds and from different generations — what binds them together? 

“We have often discovered that our time together enables us to renew our commitment to the task of seeking to build unity in our own spheres,” says Fr. Tim. “This may be helpful to others to know that it is possible. It has been surprising that many times our experiences in parish life, primarily, but also in relation to other matters, has been similar. This is an encouragement, when we feel we are on the right track, and it helps us to ‘start again’ when things have not gone so well. 

“One of the little signs that we are really able to be together at a relative depth at a distance is the fact that our Zoom calls and our time together in person are characterized by a spontaneous joy. We laugh together, and the smiles we find whenever the members of the Focolare gather throughout the world are also found among us. 

“At present, some are going through rather difficult experiences, and we are able to encourage one another.”

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