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On a Firm Foundation: I Choose Hope


Mary Quilici Aumack

Executive Director
Catholic Community Foundation
of Santa Clara County

Last month we held our Planned Giving Conference. At this event, we seek to inspire Parish and School leaders in the area of Legacy Giving. We encourage them to give people the gift of remembering “Church” in their estate plans.

We can’t talk about Church right now without confronting with abhorrence the most recent findings of horrific actions by priests at all levels, for many decades.

My good friend, Monsignor Patrick Browne, had been invited to lead us in prayer. This is what he said:

“This may not be the ideal time to discuss the subject of legacy given recent coverage of the Church in Pennsylvania. I do not think it possible to overstate the impact of those facts and that seventy-year history. Layers of denial have not served us well nor has failure to act in the face of organizational ineptitude and malfeasance. The Church does not need any more custodians to keep it running the way it has been. It does not need pastors or leaders who will conduct business as usual. Because we are in an emergency situation in our Church where the Gospel matters decisively. The hall mark of the Church is not certitude, it is openness to the Spirit of Jesus. Remember Jesus got himself killed because he exposed the false ordering of power that paid no attention to the little ones, among whom he counted himself. Think about what that means today. The Church must tell the Jesus stories with conviction and relevance. Holiness does not come about in large, grand, religious, magnificent ways. It happens where a son is welcomed home, where a neighbor is honored and cared for, where a prostitute is respected and loved, where a leper is touched and cleansed, where a crowd is fed, where a guilty man is forgiven, where a crippled woman stands up straight and laughs and dances. The Church must tell these stories with confidence because in the life of Jesus we see all that God intends and wants and acts and asks of us. This is the face of God the people seek and the face of God that each of us must provide in our own way. The generosity found in the God of Jesus, the God called Abba, invites our generosity. The Church will survive crises when it learns to imitate the generosity of its God because no one turns away from a generous spirit. That’s the message of today.”

A few years ago I was asked to manage the first hour of Good Friday service at the Cathedral, a great honor. As I often do, I turned to Monsignor Browne for assistance. I knew that I wanted to end with a message of HOPE. Here is what he told me:

Like faith, hope is not knowledge but a positive disposition of openness to the future in a CONVICTION that the end, like the origin, will be grounded in God. There are reasons for such hope, but they do not add up to anything like a demonstration. Faith in Jesus’s resurrection is hope for the future. A drive toward life and toward life to its fullest underlies existence itself. Such an impulse is instinctual and part of the nature of human existence. Life is full of fragmentary signs of peace, justice and wellbeing that hold out a note of promise to our human imagination. These signals come together in the Christian hope for resurrection and eternal life.

Frederick Buechnerwrote:
“I think it is hope that lies at our hearts and hope that finally brings us all here. Hope that in spite of all the devastating evidence to the contrary, the ground we stand on is holy ground because Christ walked here and walks here still. Hope that we are known, each one of us, by name, and that out of the burning moments of our lives he will call us by our names to the lives he would have us live and the selves he would have us become. Hope that into the secret grief and pain and bewilderment of each of us and of our world he will come at last to heal and to save.

“I don’t have words of healing, though I pray ardently for it. And not just healing, but justice, at all levels. My faith remains strong, and my will to live as a part of the Body of Christ is undeterred. My personal relationship with God can never be marred by the actions of others, however disgusting and opposite of all that Jesus professed.”

In concluding his remarks at our conference, Msgr. Browne led us with this prayer:
Let us pause for a few moments to pray for the future of our community of believers, Gracious God, as a people entrusted with the message of Jesus, we seek the faith and courage,

To run risks for justice in a brutalizing society
To run risks for forgiveness in a vengeful society
To run risks for hospitality in an exclusionary society
To run risks for generosity in a parsimonious society
As followers of Jesus, may we live this day:
Compassionate of heart
Clear in word
Gracious in awareness
Courageous in thought
Generous in love