A Church At The Crossroads

Maria Teresa Martinez grew up in Mexico and came to the United States 33 years ago, eventually landing in Chicago. When she’s not watching her 3-year-old and 3-month-old grandchildren, the 60-year-old bundle of energy is volunteering at the legal clinic at her parish on the northwest side of the city. She can’t say enough good things about her pastor and doesn’t see much wrong with the Catholic Church.

Suzanne Morse lives in Boston and sees plenty wrong with the institutional church. Born after Vatican II, she never grew up with that "Father’s always right" attitude. So when The Boston Globe began exposing priest sex abusers, Morse, who was working in communications for a nonprofit research institution, got involved with the lay reform group Voice of the Faithful. Today she serves as the group’s public relations point person.

On the surface, Martinez and Morse - aside from both being Catholic women - may not seem to share much in common. One is a working-class Midwestern Latino woman with relatively traditional views about Catholicism. The other is a middle-class Eastern Anglo working for change in the church.

Both, however, are the faces of the future of the Catholic Church in the United States.

A church of many colors. At Our Lady of Mercy parish in Chicago, Martinez is the go-to woman for just about everything. The parish of 3,000 families is served by two priests, one who recently arrived from Colombia. Martinez can be found at the parish at least three or four nights a week; she has served on the parish council and handles the "Sharing Parish" relationship with a wealthier congregation in the city, in addition to helping out with the multitude of little things that help a parish run smoothly.

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Sojourners Magazine March 2005
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