I’m very happy to say that U.S. Catholic magazine has published an article I wrote for them on Catholics and credit unions.
It was a great exercise in recalling my own upbringing around money and how much the financial industry has changed, even just in my lifetime.
U.S. Catholic chooses some articles – like mine – to post first online with a reader survey, then they run the survey results along with the article in the print magazine. So right now this article is only available online, but will be in the February 2013 print edition of the magazine.
One of the first questions to ask when assessing one’s own financial social responsibility is: How quickly does my dollar leave my neighborhood? Or as one community organizer put it: How many of your neighbors’ hands does your money pass through before it leaves your immediate community? Generally speaking, the bigger the financial corporation, the quicker your dollar exits.
Credit unions, as we know them today, originated in Europe in the 1800s as financial self-help cooperatives among small business owners and farmers in particular locales, geared toward providing for and protecting their economic sovereignty. Many of them were started by Catholics and were based on principles of Catholic Social Teaching. For example, both St. Anthony Claret (1807-1870)–founder of the Claretians, who publish this magazine–and Franciszek Stefczyk (1861–1924) worked in rural areas to establish credit unions among poor farmers. Both wanted famers to own their farms and market their own crops, and they understood that one’s financial health was intimately connected with one’s family and local community. Stefczyk’s community organizations were intended to be “schools of character” for enhancing human dignity and stabilizing local communities.
As immigrant Catholics brought credit unions to America, they became organized around seven principles that reflect Catholic teaching: 1) voluntary membership, 2) democratic governance, 3) member control of capital, 4) autonomy and independence, 5) education of members and public in cooperative principles, 6) cooperation between cooperatives, and 7) concern for the local community. Most credit unions today are still built around these principles.
“If love is wise,” wrote Pope Benedict in his 2009 encyclical Charity in Truth, “it can find ways of working in accordance with provident and just expediency, as is illustrated in a significant way by much of the experience of credit unions.” … –Rose Marie Berger
Hi Megan– Thanks so very much for posting on the Sept 26: Sunday Without Women. I’m getting more and more comments at my blog everyday from women around the world who are standing up for women’s justice in the Catholic church.
I had a brief email interview with Jennifer Sleeman this week. She’s seeing lots of support bubbling up. The great thing is that women are coming up with all kinds of creative ideas. Many have decided to go to Mass on Saturday night in order to participate fully in the weekly liturgy. But will join with other women (and men) on Sunday morning during regular Mass time to pray together for the Holy Spirit and Mary and the women saints to intercede for the male Catholic hierarchy to receive new wisdom on an egalitarian model of Catholicism.
In Europe and the UK, men and some women decided to attend Mass but are wearing green armbands to signify their protest. In Portland, Oregon, several churches are banding together for a public prayer witness.
Jennifer Sleeman’s call was to “boycott Mass,” in part because she wanted to avoid any protest that would disrupt the liturgy. And I think she has a valid point there.
Keep the conversation going. Peace and All Good–
Several folks have asked me what’s happening with the Vatican investigation into U.S. Catholic women’s religious orders, so I thought I’d post a few things here. This is mostly a roundup and timeline of the investigation.
In January 2009, the Vatican informed American women religious that it would be instituting a “two-year study of their life,” ostensibly to determine why vocations were dropping. It was really to investigate women who may have embraced Vatican II more than the Pope likes.
Sr. Mary Clare Millea, an American and superior general of the very traditional order Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, was asked by the Vatican to be the “apostolic visitator,” director of the inquiry. Phase one of the inquiry was personal interviews with selected heads of women’s orders by Sr. Millea, which concluded July 31.
On July 28, Sr. Millea sent a letter to the heads of women religious congregations in the U.S., along with a working paper that outlined the next steps of the investigation. She indicated that the heads of every women’s religious order would be receiving a questionnaire “relating to the life and operations of their orders” to be filled out and returned to her by November 1.
The working paper says that after Vatican officials have analyzed the data received in the questionnaires, there will be “on-site visits” of religious institutes in early 2010. To participate in these visiting teams, you must sign a fidelity oath to uphold the Code of Canon Law of the Catholic Church and submit to the teachings of the bishops, “as authentic doctors and teachers of the faith.”
According to the National Catholic Reporter article (Aug. 3, 2009),
The areas of concern identified in the questionnaire include identity; governance; vocation promotion; admission and formation policies; spiritual life and common life; mission and ministry; and finances.
A recent Associated Press story by Eric Gorski (“Catholic Sisters Queried About Doctrine, Fidelity”) puts it this way:
A Vatican-ordered investigation into Roman Catholic sisters in the U.S., shrouded in mystery when it was announced seven months ago, is shaping up to be a tough examination of whether women’s religious communities have strayed too far from church teaching.
The review “is intended as a constructive assessment and an expression of genuine concern for the quality of the life” of roughly 59,000 U.S. Catholic sisters, according to a Vatican working paper delivered in the past few days to leaders of 341 religious congregations that describes the scope in new detail.
LCWR has its national meeting next week in New Orleans from August 11-14. No doubt, the Vatican investigation will be a hot topic of conversation.
Two responses to these Vatican investigations highlight the approaches taken by Catholic women leaders. The first is by Benedictine sister Joan Chittister (“If They Really Mean It, It’s About Time”), who writes:
[Catholic sisters] of this stock had founded 469 Catholic hospitals from 1866-1917. They had nursed both armies on the Civil War battlefield despite the dismay of church leaders. They had put over 50,000 sister-teachers in parochial schools during the same period and by 1920 had almost two million pupils in 6,550 Catholic schools. These women, had, for all practical purposes, built the Catholic church in the United States. But, suddenly, sometime in the early ’60’s, things began to change. …
This time the women who had built the largest private school system in the world turned it over to the Catholics who had been trained in it and began to build again. They sold hospitals and opened nursing homes for the elderly and began free clinics instead.
With the same kind of zeal that fired their small groups of foundresses to give their lives to make life better and the faith deeper for poor Catholic immigrants in a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant country, this generation of the 1960’s ventured out of the Catholic ghettoes of their own time to do the same.
In my work on the renewal of Religious Life over the last eight years I have come to the conclusion that Congregations like ours [the kind represented by LCWR in this country] have, in fact, birthed a new form of Religious Life. We are really no longer “Congregations dedicated to works of the apostolate” –that is, monastic communities whose members “go out” to do institutionalized works basically assigned by the hierarchy as an extension of their agendas, e.g., in Catholic schools and hospitals, etc. We are ministerial Religious. Ministry is integral to our identity and vocation. It arises from our baptism specified by profession, discerned with our Congregational leadership and effected according to the charism of our Congregation, not by delegation from the hierarchy.
In future posts, I’ll give more of my own insight into this investigation. Suffice it to say that I’m suspicious of the Vatican’s motives. Particularly since such “visitations” are usually reserved for major scandals, like priests and pedophilia or extensive financial abuse.
My thanks to Michael Bayly over at The Wild Reed for his list of other articles on this topic.