Irish author & priest focuses on religious life in the world

July 3, 2015 by

Diarmuid O'Murchu

Diarmuid O’Murchu

SCROLL DOWN FOR A SHORT SLIDESHOW OF PHOTOS
FROM THE 2015 THEOLOGICAL INSTITUTE

Irish author and priest Diarmuid O’Murchu cited the words of an American Catholic sister as the “mission statement” for his four-day seminar at the Nazareth Motherhouse in Concordia:

“The voice (of women and men religious) must be the voice that brings to the public debate the best in tradition, the finest in theological analysis, the keenest in social perception and the most challenging of Gospel values,” he quoted from a work by Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister.

“We are not people locked away in convents and monasteries,” he told the more than 125 women religious, priests, retired priests and laypeople who packed the Motherhouse auditorium. “Now should we ever be; we are obligated to be in the world.”

Father O’Murchu, a member of the Sacred Heart Missionary Order, was the presenter for the 20th annual Theological Institute July 2-5, sponsored by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia and organized by Manna House of Prayer.

A prolific author and social psychologist, Father O’Murchu has devoted most of his working life to social ministry, predominantly in London. He has done couple’s counseling, AIDS-HIV counseling and bereavement work, and more recently has worked with homeless people and refugees. He now lives in Dublin.

“His feet are in the street,” said Sister Marcia Allen in her introduction of Father O’Murchu as the seminar began.

But his mind is also on the Catholic Church, faith, religious life and what all of those mean today. Some of his best-known books include “Quantum Theology,” “Christianity’s Dangerous Memory,” “God in the Mist of Change” and “On Being a Postcolonial Christian.” He has led workshops and lectured worldwide, taking part in programs in the U.S. and Canada, across Europe and in Australia, The Philippines, Thailand, India, Peru and several African nations.

His topic in Concordia was “Religious Life: Evolving through the 21st century.”

He said the word “evolution,” as he uses it, “denotes three things:” Growth, change and development.

Father O’Murchu focused the participants’ attention on the evolution of the traditional three vows of poverty, obedience and chastity.

He reinterpreted the vow of poverty as mutual sustainability, the vow of obedience as mutual collaboration and the vow of chastity or celibacy as relatedness. In that reinterpretation, he not only moved the language and meaning into the 21st century but also into the concerns that Pope Francis has addressed in his 2013 apostolic exhortation titled “The Joy of the Gospel” and in “Laudato Si’,” his encyclical released last month addressing climate change.

At the end of the seminar, the whole community of Sisters of St. Joseph spent a weeklong retreat reflecting on Father O’Murchu’s challenge for reinterpreting the vows.

The Sisters of St. Joseph began the Theological Institute, held each summer in Concordia, as a way of continuing their commitment to high quality education. Institutes over the years have featured a wide range of well-known theologians, historians and social justice advocates.

In 2016, the scheduled speaker is Richard Gaillardetz, professor of Catholic systemic theology at Boston College. That seminar is scheduled for the end of July and is titled “Power, Authority and Freedom in a Pilgrim Church.”

 

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