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Book Chapter

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Paulist Press


Discipleship, as we all know, is a vocation to which one can never respond in a final and definitive way. It is a call to ongoing conversion, to an ever deeper appreciation of the mystery of Christ. To be a disciple is to incarnate the identity and mission of Jesus in our own personal, historical, and cultural context. For us, then, discipleship means living ever more deeply and effectively the mystery of Christ in the American Church of the late twentieth century.

There is a characteristic of our recent American Catholic experience that is at once glaringly evident and profoundly confusing, particularly because it is so discontinuous with the experience which formed most of us as American Catholic children . I am speaking of the deep ambivalence toward the authoritative institutions of both our country and our Church that many of us contend with on a daily basis. Nothing was more integral, even central, to the formation of young Catholics in the American parochial school system of the 1940's and 1950's than the positive evaluation of lawfully constituted institutions summed up in the oft-cited, though decontextualized quotation from Romans: "All authority comes from God."

Chapter of

New Wineskins: Re-Imagining Religious Life Today


Much of the material in the following essay was originally developed for the members of the National Religious Formation Conference, delivered at their bi-annual meeting in Philadelphia in November of 1981, and published in their 1981 Proceedings: Formation in the American Church. It was later reworked at the invitation of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious and the Conference of Major Superiors of Men, delivered at their joint annual meeting in San Francisco in August of 1982, and published in their 1982 Proceedings: To Build a Bridge. It has since been used by a number of congregations in their respective renewal processes, in preparations for chapters, and as input for committees working on revisions of constitutions.

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