Chair of the Advisory Committee Message
On behalf of the Catholic Common Ground Advisory Committee, greetings to all of you!
At this difficult time in the life of the Church the need for prayerful discernment and pursuit of common ground is urgently needed. It is our hope that the spirit of the Initiative as well as the resources for promoting dialogue that CCGI has developed will be of help to the pastoral life of the Church.

Recently, the Advisory Committee met in conjunction with the conferral of the Bernardin Award and the presentation of the Murnion Lecture described in this newsletter. We were pleased to welcome new members of the Committee. Their addition is part of our on-going efforts to strengthen the Committee. We continued our planning for a Conference in the fall of 2019.
Fr. Michael Place
The Committee’s reflections were aided by the stimulating analysis contained in Father Thomas Nairn’s 2018 Murnion Lecture. While the focus of his reflections was Cardinal Bernardin Consistent Ethic of Life I would suggest that his insights also have relevance for the work of CCGI. Father Nairn explored the attitude that sustains the Cardinal’s writings on the Consistent Ethic.  He identified three dimensions to that attitude:

  1. A profound respect for the other
  2. Acknowledgement of the complexity of contemporary moral questions
  3. An understanding of the development of moral theology in the context of a theological articulation of the work of the Holy Spirit.

As I listened to Father’s astute presentation it struck me that this attitude also is relevant to the work of the Initiative. The Initiative begins its work recognizing the profound dignity of each person. One of the reasons or occasions for the common ground dialogue is the complexity of the issues and challenges facing the church. And, the very heart of the dialogue is the belief that gathering in prayerful dialogue can be the occasion for the Holy Spirit to guide the church toward the common ground that is rooted in the person and teaching of Jesus Christ.  

As we approach the hopeful season of Advent let us pray that this attitude can come to be present throughout the family of faith. 

Fr. Michael Place
Chair of the Catholic Common Ground Initiative Advisory Committee
Bernardin Center Director's Message
Your copy should address
Steve Millies
Dear friends,
All around us, we see increasing evidence of the need in our church and our world for common ground. I think there has not been a moment since Cardinal Bernardin launched the Catholic Common Ground Initiative when this important ministry has been needed more.
My own research on political polarization has disclosed the disheartening way that, “Catholics find themselves...bearing a distinct and unavoidable kind of responsibility for marshaling the forces that combined to lead the United States and the world to where we are.” Yet, from
the time when Msgr. Philip Murnion described the divisions of parish communities into “parties” more than twenty-five years ago, these divisions among us have been growing. We did not get here overnight. Now we return to a fundamental question—“Will the Catholic church in the United States…[be] a church of promise, augmented by the faith of rising generations and able to be a leavening force in our culture?” With you, I want the   answer to be, ‘yes.’ But we strive to be that church now in a world where polarization seems to prevail and in a church deeply compromised by its own mistakes. The challenge is enormous.
We need now more than ever the committed support and help of every person of good will who wants to live in a world where dialogue shapes our relationships and common ground is our shared goal. We are grateful for your interest and support, and we invite you to become even more involved in Common Ground, in your parish, and in the church. The work goes on, and it is work for all of us to do.
Steven P. Millies, Ph.D.
Director of the Bernardin Center for Theology and Ministry
New Members Join the Advisory Committee
Darren Henson
Darren Henson, Ph.D.
Darren Henson is System Vice President, Mission and Discernment for Presence Health, recently acquired by Ascension. He earned a PH.D. in religious studies with a specialization in Catholic healthcare from Marquette University.

During that time he was an ethics fellow at Columbia-St. Mary's in Milwaukee. He previously earned the pontifical degree Licentiate in Sacred Theology and a Master of Divinity at the University of St. Mary of the Lake. His bachelor's degree is in international
business from Drake University. Darren’s past professional experience include serving as the Vice President of Mission & Ethics at Mercy Health System of Kansas. He also served nearly a decade in pastoral ministry. He authored a chapter entitled “Eucharist as the Heart of the Ministry,” in Incarnate Grace: Perspectives on the Ministry of Catholic Health Care. Other published works have appeared in the Catholic Health Association’s Health Progress; The Heythrop Journal; Theological Studies; and publications for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and Georgetown University among others.

He is a member of the Society of Christian Ethics, and the Catholic Theological Society of America. Previously, he served on the Board of Directors for the American Society of Bioethics and Humanities and remains an active member. He is currently a board member for the Supportive Care Coalition that serves Catholic health systems’ efforts to advance and advocate for palliative care.

His current scholarship interests include the influence of sacramental-liturgical theology in Catholic healthcare ministry, human healing, ethical and theological matters pertaining to chronic illness, palliative care, Catholic social justice, and the intersection of medicine and religion.
Rev. Francis J. Hoffman, J.C.D.
Rev. Francis, (Fr. Rocky) is the Executive Director/CEO of Relevant Radio since 2010. Relevant Radio currently broadcasts on 130 AM/FM stations in the USA, reaching 140MM souls. The Relevant Radio mobile App has been downloaded 380,000 times in 192 countries. The “Father Rocky” Facebook page has four million likes and allows Relevant Radio to broadcast the daily Mass and Rosary around the world.

Fr. Hoffman was born in Lake Forest, IL, and holds a BA from Northwestern in History; an MBA from the University of Notre Dame; and a Doctorate in Canon Law from the Pontifical
Rev. Francis Hoffman
University of the Holy Cross, Summa cum laude. He is the author of four books and has appeared on the major national television and radio networks. He was ordained as a priest for the Prelature of Opus Dei in 1992 by Saint John Paul II. Prior to ordination he worked for Inland Steel Company (Chicago) in Sales Management, and then Crowe, Chizek & Company CPAs in Tax and Audit. His Doctoral Thesis “Ex Corde Ecclesiae and Catholic Universities in the USA” was published in 1996. From 2003 to 2016 he wrote a bi-monthly column for The Catholic Answer (OSV) which was republished in various diocesan newspapers. From 1998-2009, Fr. Hoffman was Chaplain for Northridge Prep School in Niles, IL; and from 1994-2009 he served as Chaplain for the YSI (Opus Dei) Summer Service Projects in rural  Michoacan, Mexico. He speaks English, Spanish, and Italian, and learned enough Latin, Greek and Hebrew to qualify for his ecclesiastical doctorate.

Here is what Fr. Rocky had to say about joining the CCGI committee:

I am hoping that my participation in the Catholic Common Ground Initiative will be an opportunity to learn from the broad spectrum of pastoral work of others in the Church, as well as a chance to share my own experiences from youth and family ministry, education, third world mission work, and mass media. The Pontificate of Pope Francis and his deliberate outreach to the peripheries, now makes the Church more self-consciously global, both geographically and culturally. In a world where 47% of the human race has no access to the internet, are there lessons we can learn from the poor about the universal longing for the meaning and joy of life?
2018 Cardinal Joseph Bernardin Award and
Msgr. Philip J. Murnion Lecture
Pictured above are the Advisory Committee members in attendance with the 2018 Bernardin Award Honoree, Sr. Doris Gottemoeller, R.S.M. and Murnion Lecturer, Fr. Thomas Nairn, O.F.M.

View the 2018 Cardinal Bernardin Award Presentation to Sr. Doris Gottemoeller, R.S.M. and the 2018 Philip J. Murnion lecture by Fr. Thomas Nairn O.F.M., The Consistent Ethic of Cardinal Bernardin and the Integral Ecology of Pope Francis: Calls for a 'Wider Moral Vision'
Sr. Doris Gottemoeller
2018 Bernardin Award Honoree
Sr. Doris Gottemoeller, R.S.M., Ph.D. received the Cardinal Joseph Bernardin Award on Friday, September 28, 2018 at the Catholic Theological Union, in Chicago, Illinois, home of the Bernardin Center for Theology and Ministry.

Sister Doris Gottemoeller is the chair of Partners in Catholic Health Ministry, the sponsor of Mercy Health, and a member of the Board of Trustees. A member of the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, she has served in congregational leadership and on numerous health care, higher education, high school, seminary, and social service boards.
She chaired the boards of the Catholic Health Association and of the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth Health System. She was the first president of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas (1991-1999), the Provincial of the Sisters of Mercy of the Cincinnati Province (1983-1990), the president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (1993), a delegate to the International Union of Superiors General, and an auditor at the Synod on Consecrated Life. 

Other ministry experience includes writing and lecturing throughout the United States and abroad on topics of ministry, ecclesiology, and religious life. She holds an M.S. in chemistry from the University of Notre Dame and an M.A. and Ph.D. in theology from Fordham University.
2018 Murnion Lecturer
Fr. Thomas Nairn, O.F.M. , gave the Msgr. Philip J. Murnion Lecture. Fr. Thomas Nairn’s, entitled, The Consistent Ethic of Cardinal Bernardin and the Integral Ecology of Pope Francis: Calls for a "Wider Moral Vision ” drew on the his experience with dialogue to inspire the building of common ground into the future. Fr. Thomas Nairn is the Minister Provincial of the Sacred Heart Province of Franciscans, headquartered in Saint Louis, Missouri. Prior to his election, he was the Senior Director for Theology and Ethics at the Catholic Health Association of the United States. He holds a Ph.D. in Christian ethics from the Divinity
Fr. Thomas Nairn
School of the University of Chicago and has taught in graduate programs of theology in the United States and throughout the world. He has authored four books on ethics, and his essays have been published in both scholarly and popular journals. In 2014, he was appointed by the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Laity (now the Dycastery for Laity, Family and Life) to be the Ecclesiastical Assistant to the International Catholic Committee for Nurses and Medical Workers.
"Reflecting on the Past, Looking to the Future"
On Friday, September 28th, the Catholic Common Ground Initiative held the 2018 Bernardin Award and Murnion Lecture at Catholic Theological Union.

The Bernardin Award was presented to Sr. Doris Gottemoeller, R.S.M. one of the founding members of the Catholic Common Ground Initiative. In response to receiving her award, Sr. Doris described her personal journey as a “centrist” and its impact on her life’s work towards creating common ground,
“Being on neither on the right or the left, being a centrist, so to speak, is not a position of weakness. Being a centrist means the ability to go deeper. Taking…from either side, but going deeper and reaching higher. And that’s what it means to be a centrist.” Sr. Doris’ model is surely needed in our world today.
Meaningful dialogue is not proving that one is right and the other is wrong. Rather, it invites each of us to look from both sides of the conversation and understanding that this is where the true conversation begins.

In her concluding remarks, Sr. Doris quoted Pope Benedict XV’s, Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum : “no one should consider himself entitled to affix on those who merely do not agree with his ideas the stigma of disloyalty to faith or to discipline. It is, moreover, Our will that Catholics should abstain from certain appellations which have recently been brought into use to distinguish one group of Catholics from another.”

Following the award ceremony, Fr. Thomas Nairn, O.F.M. delivered the 2018 Murnion Lecture titled, “The Consistent Ethic of Cardinal Bernardin and the Integral Ecology of Pope Francis: Calls for a ‘Wider Moral Vision’”. Fr. Nairn began his lecture by referencing Cardinal Bernardin’s lecture at Saint Louis University, in March of 1984, “Life is both sacred and social…
And therefore, that the church needs to protect the right of life of the most vulnerable while supporting the right to life of the most powerless, whether that really can be a consistent ethic.” The challenge that Cardinal Bernardin presented in 1984 of a consistent moral ethic is still a challenge in our church today.

At the heart of the many challenges facing the church today is the lack of a consistent moral response to those who have been hurt by the actions of others.
Fr. Nairn’s lecture is a reminder that the response to these challenges does not begin from an external response, but an internal one. We are challenged to critically reflect on our personal values and determine if it truly reflects the spirit of the church. It is within that sacred space where we can generate an authentic response to these challenges.
The search for common ground continues. Through the experiences and wisdom from both Sr. Doris and Fr. Nairn, the starting point is clear. It begins by embracing a consistent ethic of healthy dialogue where we are challenged to look past our notions of what is right and wrong. We are to embrace openness and practice active listening to those we do not know or understand. It is through this unknown that common ground exists. It is a hope we must not lose sight of and keep fighting for.
Upcoming Events in 2019
Mark your calendars! Here are some of important events coming up in 2019:

  • The Cardinal Joseph Bernardin and Msgr. Philip J. Murnion Lecture will take place on Friday, March 29 at Catholic Theological Union, home of the Bernardin Center.

  • The Bernardin Conference will be held on Friday, October 4th - Sunday, October 6th. The conference is titled, “Communion in the Digital Age of Francis” which will focus on the technological innovations and what they mean for dialogue understood, in this sense, in which poses immediate implications for CCGI and the for the larger church. More information will be announced on a later date.
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