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President's Christmas Message 2016

Recently, we finished the Year of Mercy with an emphasis on God's grace in our lives.  For all of us, I would like to propose a Year of Peace.  There is little doubt that we have witnessed incredible divisiveness in our world, in many of the nations, and in our church.  The separation between those who stress inclusion and those who focus on difference could not be wider.   The U. S. election was certainly one that emphasized derision and hostility.  Whether it was the conservatives focusing blame on those who are different, immigrants, Muslims, or minorities or the liberals accusing the wealthy of malfeasance and greediness, there was little that we agreed upon.  The campaigns took on an ugliness that we have not seen for a while.  In our church we experience similar conflict.  The traditionalists concentrate on the need to preserve the long-standing rules and accuse others of relativism.  The progressives regard the traditionalists as being intolerant and out of touch.  It seems clear to me that we are not going to make any progress in bringing about the reign of God by carrying on this way.
During the past year, I have received letters that demonstrate a kind of ugliness that has nothing to do with the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth.  A couple of individuals accused me of doing the work of Satan.  Still others have condemned me for trying to destroy the church.  There were those who refused to attend our mini conference in October, suggesting that we were a bunch of old, disgruntled, Vatican II Catholics who have become irrelevant.  On some occasions, we have chosen to be critical of individuals themselves as much as we have opposed their ideas.  
One of my tasks as an expert in professional development is to mediate in organizations who are enduring intense conflict.  In almost every instance, communication has broken down and the two (or sometimes three) sides see their opponents as enemies rather than colleagues.  The only strategy that works in these cases is to find a third or fourth solution.  The resolution of conflict is almost never a matter of deciding which side is right.   In this process, I spend many hours interviewing everyone in the group.  The conversation seeks to discover the relational issues because the content of the arguments is not where the problem lies.  The quarreling parties cannot get to a point of reconciliation until they recognize the hurt they have caused one another.  The ongoing conflict leads the participants to turn each other into objects instead of people.  Once I get to the root of the relational difficulty I can then begin the process of formulating a possible solution.  In other words, I learn more about each party's objectives, challenges, and passions.  Then we can move to some set of solutions that preserve their dignity and focuses on a healthy relationship, which includes healthier methods of conflict.  
What I suggest for this beginning of the liturgical year is that we begin the process of seeking to learn more about each other in a similar fashion.  Rather than continuing our tendency to accuse the other of violating core principles or, more importantly, some negative intent, we should be willing to listen to each other.  A key element in every conflict is that both parties are contributing to it somehow.  We must be ready to own our part in the division.  Until we are willing to do that, we cannot begin to listen and we certainly will not be open to solutions not yet imagined.  The interesting thing about this is that I have learned that as long as we wait for the others to turn and listen to us, it will remain a standoff.  I personally commit to listening to other perspectives and not to demonize the other.  I sincerely hope that those who wish to explain their perceptions can do the same.  Let us focus on listening first and then perhaps we can find the "third way" solution.
"Glory to God in the Highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests." (Luke 2:14)  
Let us be responsible for carrying out the angels' prayer.  The rights of Catholics in the Church, as anywhere, can only be brought about when we recognize the obligation that is placed on every one of us to love one another.  
Peace and all that is good,
Merry Christmas and a Joyous New Year.
Patrick B. Sullivan, DPA
Remember we rely on your generous support to continue our work.  We want to spend this year reaching out to as many people as we can with a message of peace.  That includes those who have separated themselves from the Church, those who suffer in some way from the conflict, and those who seek justice in this world.  We are also especially interested in reaching out to the younger members of our church.  They are the present church as much as they are its future.  Consider ARCC in your estate planning and leave a legacy that seeks the justice that is found in teachings of Jesus Christ.
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