Fr. Jerry Hagen hosted an inaugural night of dialogue and hospitality at Holy Family, Woodruff, on March 14. Attendees expressed interest in continuing the conversation in future events. (Submitted photo)

The Diocese of Superior is currently in the second year of an ongoing process of going from maintenance to mission. Part of the call to evangelize is reaching out to the margins of the church and of society. It is in that spirit that Holy Family Parish, Woodruff, inaugurated the evening of listening and dialogue.

On March 14, all were welcome to come to the church and pose questions about Catholicism for the pastor, Fr. Jerry Hagen. Fifty-one people, including active and non-practicing Catholics and anyone with questions about the faith – attended.

Questions were presented orally or in writing, and touched upon attendees’ concerns about a variety of topics, including clergy sex abuse and coverup, the problem of divorce and reception of the sacraments, married priests, being more accepting of cultural norms, the status of homosexual people and why Catholics focus on Mary.

These questions and issues sparked animated dialogue and an effort to answer them in the light of Catholic teaching and practice. “It was good that people felt comfortable enough to open up a difficult conversation,” Fr. Hagen commented. “It is our hope that people felt respected, valued, and listened to.”

“In many ways, the gathering was a reflection of the universal church,” he observed. “Some people are very conservative and traditional. Some people are very liberal and advocates for change. Many are in the middle and are hungry for greater learning about their faith. It was good to have a forum in which all could be heard.”

After an hour-and-a-half of lively and energetic sharing, a show of hands indicated a desire to meet again and to continue what was begun. Parish volunteers provided cookies, punch, coffee and a spirit of hospitality and welcome.
“It is our prayer that the Holy Spirit will continue to inspire us and guide us to reach out with the compassion and love of Jesus to those who are hurting and in need,” Fr. Hagen said.