This past weekend, the progressive Catholic group called Voice of the Faithful (VOTF) held its annual convention on Long Island.  Their slogan is “Keep the Faith, Change the Church.”  I reprint their press release below:


October 31, 2009

Sr. Joan Chittister and Fr. Tom Reese inspire VOTF members at LI conference

Melville, NY – Over 500 members of Voice of the Faithful were encouraged to see the good within in the institution of the Catholic Church. It was the message given by Father Tom Reese, one of the distinguished speakers at this year’s event held at the Huntington Hilton on Long Island. He also asked members to avail themselves of the social justice opportunities within Church, to be mindful of the importance of prayer and scripture reading, and recognize the importance of being welcoming community within their own parish.

The day began with Sr. Joan Chittister offering a new insight into the nature of leadership within the Church. She emphasized that power and leadership are not synonyms and that people should lead they way the wish to follow. Sr. Chittister said, “real reform brings people together, does not pit one group against one another,” a message taken to heart by the VOTF members in attendance.

Priest of Integrity Awards were given to Fr. Joseph Fowler of Louisville, a tireless advocate for victims rights in Kentucky, and Fr. Donald Cozzens, a noted author and a long-time advisor to Voice of the Faithful. Both priests were greeted with a hearty reception.

Jason Berry, an author and investigative journalist, received the St. Catherine of Siena Distinguished Lay Person award for his work in bringing the sexual abuse scandal to light and his persistent quest for justice for survivors.

VOTF members were also asked by Margaret Smith of John Jay College, a dedicated researcher on the “Causes and Context Study,” for their help in solving the mystery around the abuse crisis: how could such a moral lapse not have been recognized at the time? Ms. Smith also reported that the dimming number of clergy abuse reports were a positive sign of change.

President Dan Bartley said to the members, “I am encouraged by your support. We have so much work to do, especially with new Voices in Action campaign. Your presence here is a testament to your hard work and dedication.”

VOTF is restructuring and expanding.  FY 2009 budget of $450,000 will be increased to $600,000 for 2010 and $700,000 for 2011.  It hopes to expand its membership by 30% to 45,000.  The organization plans to become more collegial, collaborative, and grass roots, emphasizing lay involvement, an expanded role for women, and actualization of the spirit of Vatican II.  Here is a web based slide show with voice that outlines their plans and goals of their “Voices in Action Campaign”.  If you don’t care to watch and listen to this fifteen minute presentation, the highlights include a five pronged plan that includes:

Meanwhile, another progressive Catholic group named Call to Action will hold its annual convention in Milwaukee next weekend.  Over 2,000 persons are expected to attend, and I plan to be one of them with live blogs from the convention floor.