Early in November, Call to Action (Catholics working together for Justice and Equality) will hold its National Conference in Milwaukee with three intensive days of seminars, speeches, workshops, music, children and teen programs, prayer, and networking amongst progressive Catholics.  This blog will provide regular posts prior to, during, and in followup to the Convention.

Call To Action is a Catholic movement working for equality and justice in the Church and society. An independent national organization of over 25,000 people and 53 local chapters, Call To Action believes that the Spirit of God is at work in the whole Church, not just in its appointed leaders. The entire Catholic Church has the obligation of responding to the needs of the world and taking initiative in programs of peace and justice. Call To Action promotes its vision of a progressive, engaged Catholicism through its acclaimed annual conferences, award-winning publications, extensive network of regional groups and joint programs with other Catholic renewal organizations.

The theme of the 2009 National Convention is “Everyone at the Table: Rejoicing as People of God.”  Signup and registration info is here.  Here is the agenda for day one, Friday November 6th:

Pre-Conference Seminars: 9 AM – 3 PM

Frank DeBernardo and the Next Generation Leadership Team
Just Love: A Workshop/Retreat on Right Relationship

DeBernardoWhether you are lesbian, heterosexual, gay, bisexual, the question of what defines a life-giving and holy sexual relationship between yourself and a significant other can be a difficult one to explore. This program, designed for couples and singles, provides an overview of contemporary insights from theology and participants’ personal experiences. All ages are welcome. CTA’s NextGeneration Leadership Team guides and supports the activities of the NextGen community, an inclusive group of reform-minded Catholics in their 20’s and 30’s. Francis DeBernardo is Executive Director of New Ways Ministry, a national Catholic ministry of justice and education for lesbian/gay Catholics and the wider church. For the past 15 years, he has presented programs on sexuality, theology, personal development and spirituality, and pastoral care in scores of Catholic dioceses.

Edwina Gateley: In God’s Womb

GateleyIn a world of noise, activity and pressure we will spend this day sinking into the silence and grace of God. Through contemplative prayer, poetry and music we will spend time alone with God as we seek to enter into our inner consciousness. Silence is requested. Edwina Gateley is a poet, speaker, author of thirteen books and a mom. She founded the international volunteer missionary Movement (VMM) and Genesis House – a program for women in recovery from prostitution. Edwina has worked as a lay woman in the church for over 40 years and is still hanging in there.


David Saavedra, Ann Cass & Jorge Mújica Murias
Immigration: The Need for Just & Comprehensive Legislative Reform

SaavedraSaavedra, Cass, and Mújica Murias will explore the myths of undocumented immigration in the US and the need for just and comprehensive immigration reform legislation. The panel will respond to the intensified enforcement and militarization of border communities, and will lead discussion on detention and deportation abuses and workplace raids and their effects on communities throughout the country, while offering recommendations for alternative policies and practices. Ann Williams Cass is Executive Director of Proyecto Azteca in San Juan, Texas, a self-help housing program for migrant workers and people who reside in colonias, She has been actively involved in immigration issues in South Texas since 1981 and is a member of the US-Mexico Border and ImmigrationTask Force. David Saavedra is a licensed clinical social worker and a marriage and family therapist. He is clinical director for Hope Family Health Center, a nonprofit that provides primary medical and mental health services to the poor in McAllen, Tx. The agency provides services to a high number of immigrants. Mr. Saavedra is also on the national board of CTA. Born and raised in Mexico, Mújica has lived in the United States since 1987. An awarded journalist, he currently publishes an opinion column printed in over 30 newspapers in Mexico and the United States. Since 2006, Mújica has been the most visible face in the movement to achieve comprehensive immigration reform and legalization for some 12 million undocumented immigrants in the country.


Chris Schenk, Barbara Guerin & Dianne Bergant
Women and the Word: Bridging the Gap

Schenk / Guerin / BergantThis pre-conference day is designed to ‘bridge the gap’ between the reality of women’s biblical leadership and the experience of most church goers today. Participants will engage in a process designed to identify issues contributing to the invisibility of women’s biblical leadership in preaching and proclamation. Together we will explore creative strategies for overcoming obstacles to gender-balanced proclamation of the Word in your parish or small faith community. Sr. Dianne Bergant, CSA will provide her outstanding expertise and creativity in discussing biblical women leaders, how it came to be that we don’t hear about them in Church, and what preachers can do about it. She is Professor of Old Testament Studies at Chicago’s Catholic Theological Union and the author of Preaching the New Lectionary: Cycles A, B, and C and People of the Covenant. Sr. Chris Schenk CSJ will explore practical ways of overcoming obstacles to gender balanced proclamation of the Word both at home and in Rome. Schenk has a Master’s degrees in midwifery and theology and is the Executive Director of FutureChurch. In 2007 and 2008 Schenk coordinated an international effort to “put women back in the biblical picture” at the Vatican’s Synod on the Word. Ms. Barbara Guerin will share learnings from her many years of experience as Chair of the Women’s Ministry committee at her parish in Irvine CA. Barbara is an Executive Consultant for the IBM Company, a mother, grandmother and an MA candidate in Religious Studies at Mount St. Mary’s College in Los Angeles.



Pace e Bene Team
Everyone at the Table: Awakening Soul Force for a JustChurch

Butigan / Preston-PileKen Preston Pile, Ken Butigan, and the Pace e Bene team will use the tools of spiritually-grounded nonviolent change to invite participants to create a vision, challenge the obstacles, and create a road map to a JustChurch. The process will be creative and interactive and use a variety of learning styles. Part one of a four-part series. For Pace e Bene, nonviolence is more than a principle for effective protest – it is a way of life. For two decades Pace e Bene’s unique approach has been transforming lives and reaching people around the globe. Since its founding in 1989, over 25,000 people have taken 600 Pace e Bene workshops to gain tools for more healthy relationships and to create a new society. Pace e Bene has offices and associates in Oakland, Chicago, Las Vegas, New England, Washington, DC (Metro Area), Montreal, Australia, and Nigeria, and a growing number of partners and trainers in the US and around the world. Together they work with individuals, organizations, and movements to strengthen their efforts to end war, protect human rights, challenge injustice, and to meet today’s profound spiritual task: to build a more just and peaceful world.

Lena Woltering
Living Our Dream Without Forfeiting Our Catholic Identity

WolteringThe Lay Synod Movement is designed to create an experience of Church where we live out and share our moral convictions for the betterment of humankind. Ideally, religion is supposed to provide a nurturing environment for that work to be done, but sometimes it becomes an oppressive stumbling block. When Jesus saw that Judaism was no longer an environment that nurtured love, he felt obliged to reform it by reforming its members. Folks who have become involved in local lay synods are recognizing their responsibility to re-vision their roles as Catholics. They are people who have been grounded in Catholic Social teachings and gospel values and recognize that Catholicism is far more than a membership in an organization; it is an identity that no one (not even the Pope) can revoke or strip away. Lena Woltering has been active in Church Reform and Social Justice work for many years. She served on the National Board of CTA for 11 years and was Coordinator of Fellowship of Southern Illinois Laity (FOSIL) from 1993-2003. Lena served on the State Board of the Illinois Death Penalty Moratorium Project, has worked in prison ministry and served on the board of Seeds of Hope – a ministry advocating for people with disabilities. She currently does local chapter organizing for CTA and travels the country helping folks organize local lay synods.

Exhibits, Networking, Caucuses: 3 PM – 7 PM
Repairers of the Breach choir performs in the Exhibit Hall at 3:30 PM.
Regional caucuses in Plenary Hall.

Dinner: 5 PM – 7 PM

Opening Liturgy & Welcome Address: 7 PM
Co-Presidents Patty Hawk and Paul Scarbrough welcome attendees to Call To Action’s 2009 National Conference.

Keynote – Roy Bourgeois: 7:30 PM
A New Model of Being Church

BourgeoisThe exclusion of women from the priesthood in the Catholic Church is a grave injustice against women and a grave injustice against the God who calls women to be priests. In his keynote address, Bourgeois will explore the roots of sexism in the Church’s history and how an all-male clergy has led to a crisis in our present-day Church. Since justice is an integral part of our faith, Bourgeois will reflect upon what each of us can do to reform our Church and create a new model of being Church. A graduate of the University of Louisiana, Roy Bourgeois received a Purple Heart in Vietnam, entered the Maryknoll Order and was ordained in 1972, and went on to work with the poor of Bolivia. Bourgeois became an outspoken critic of US foreign policy in Latin America and has spent four years in prison for his nonviolent protests against the School of the Americas. In 2008, the Vatican ordered Bourgeois to recant his support of the ordination of women or face excommunication. He responded to the Vatican saying that, in conscience, he cannot recant.