Ordinary Catholics to be offered an inspirational balance to the clerical, male-dominated XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in October 2023

Spirit Unbounded, the new international network for reform-minded Christians, is delighted to announce the two keynote speakers for its event on October 8–14, 2023 (online only 8–12). They are Joan Chittister from the U.S. and Mary McAleese from Ireland.

The “Discipleship of Equals” event will be held in Rome, Bristol (UK), and online globally to witness to the complexities of life for Catholics today, to voice responses to the synod, and to showcase speakers for an emerging church looking to the future.

Sr Joan Chittister, OSB, is one of the most influential religious and social leaders of our time. For over 50 years she has passionately advocated on behalf of peace, human rights, women’s issues, and monastic and church renewal.

Sr. Joan is a much sought-after international speaker and a best-selling author of more than 60 books, hundreds of articles, and an online column for the National Catholic Reporter. The Time Is Now (Penguin Random House) is her most recent published exhortation for a Vatican II spirituality. According to the Chicago Tribune, “Chittister has earned her place as one of the illuminators of our age.” Orbis Books identifies her as a “Modern Spiritual Master.”

Dr. Mary McAleese was two-term president of Ireland from 1997 to 2011. The theme of her presidency was “Building Bridges” and working for peace and reconciliation. She is a leading critic of Catholic Church teaching on women, homosexuality, church members’ human rights, children’s rights, church governance, and episcopal accountability, among other issues. She is a broadcaster and academic lawyer, and has a licentiate and doctorate in canon law from the Pontifical Gregorian University. Her 2021 presentation for Root & Branch’s lay-led synod, “No Synodality without Freedom of Speech,” is available here.

“Discipleship of Equals” speakers Sr. Joan Chittister (L) and Dr. Mary McAleese (R)

Other speakers for the week-long “Discipleship of Equals” event have yet to be decided.

The culmination of “Discipleship of Equals” will be on October 13 and 14. The event will be delivered in a hybrid format, with both an “in-person” presence in Rome and Bristol and an online presence globally. In this way cost and environmental concerns will not be barriers to attendance.

“Pope Francis has raised expectations with his Synodal Journey,” said Spirit Unbounded spokesperson Brian Devlin. “The Discipleship of Equals will focus on ways for ordinary Catholics to contribute their Spirit-given talents towards building a beatitudinal Church where ALL are equal, grounded in the sensus fidelium—consent of the faithful.”

Today’s American Catholic is excited to announce that we have joined with Spirit Unbounded as a “Companion on the Road.” We are looking forward to consultations with key reform groups in the next few weeks to help prepare for—and hopefully contribute to—the “Discipleship of Equals” event. You can read more about the origins and mission of Spirit Unbounded here.

Individuals and groups are encouraged to ally with Spirit Unbounded. Individuals can contribute stories about experiencing the complexity of being Catholic today. Read others’ stories and find information about how to contribute at the Spirit Unbounded “Our Stories” page. Note that anonymous stories are welcome.

Groups might join Spirit Unbounded as a “Companion on the Road” by emailing their logo and a 100-word description to hello@spiritunbounded.org. ♦

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