This short volume
begins with two pastoral experiences on the part of Cameli, a priest of
the Archdiocese of Chicago. The first was his visit to the leper colony
in Hawaii founded by St. Damian where he was struck by the reality of
compassion as the core of Catholic faith. The second was his tenure as
pastor in a Chicago parish where he witnessed a variety of commitments
to Catholic belief and practice.
Cameli believes the contemporary church needs to acknowledge that it
will continue to function in an increasingly secular culture (which he
does not regard as all bad) and it will also face a diminishing membership
as upcoming generations no longer see the importance of institutional
religious involvement. The church can respond to these realities in
three possible ways. The first is simply to do nothing and mourn the
decline. The second is more proactive, intentionally planning to adjust
to the inevitable reduction in membership. The final option is the
development of a plan of evangelization what will result in a new
hopeful spirit through an in-depth process of personal and institutional
renewal. In his Afterword Cardinal Cupich details how the Archdiocese of
Chicago is currently trying to implement Cameliís third option. Through
its multiyear ďRenew My ChurchĒ program currently in its beginning
Cameli organizes his text around four main questions: (1) What can we
expect?; (2) Are there unexpected possibilities?; (3) What can we do?;
(4) What ought we do?. He would be the first to admit that he does not
have complete answers to all these questions. But he is convinced the
church must undergo a comprehensive renewal that will result in a newly
energized Catholic community, particularly within the laity, which has
recognized its commitment to the person on Jesus and not merely to a set
of dogmas and rules.
This book is an excellent discussion starter for anyone committed to
church renewal today. Itís clear and appealing style renders it suitable
for theological schools, university classes and adult discussion groups.
Its only missing dimension is the necessary commitment to an ecumenical
and interreligious context for such a renewal of Catholicism.
This review will also appear in the
December 2017 issue of the CATHOLIC
LIBRARY WORLD published by the Catholic Library Association.