Over the past months, I had the honor of visiting with Catholics in Tulsa, St. Paul, Rochester, Buffalo, Syracuse and Albany to share my insights about the Synod on the Family after closely following it in Rome in 2014 and 2015. At each stop, I met people for whom the Joy of Love has long been a way of life. It was heartening. It was humbling.  

In Tulsa, a small band of Catholics keep the dream of Vatican II alive through their educational programs and outreach.  They are the faithful ones who tenaciously bring God’s Word to their world.

In St. Paul, the Sisters of St. Joseph are at the epicenter of faithful and yet, prophetic educational work. Resources from Good Ground Press (goodgroundpress.com) break open the Word of God for Catholics of all ages integrating modern scholarship into all of their work.  

In Rochester, faithful Catholics, both women and men, are preaching the Good News via a website, God’s Word, Many Voices (godswordmanyvoices.org).

In Albany, at the University of St. Rose, there is an upper room, the Hubbard Interfaith Sanctuary, where Spirit-led Catholics create a sacred space for prophetic voices thus making God’s dream a reality.

St. Lucy’s Church in Syracuse is holy ground. When you enter, one of the first things you notice is a sign recalling all our faithful prophetic sisters and brothers who have been silenced. Upon entering, the walls are filled with large black and white photos of modern day saints and prophets from Gandhi to the Berrigan brothers to Rosa Parks. A weekday reading at Mass included an excerpt from the book, Catholic Women Speak.  It was truly a spiritual experience.

Still, I was especially touched by a sign that stood at the entrance of the Newman Center in Buffalo. It beautifully illustrated the kind of community many Catholics and Pope Francis want. It could have rightly been the banner cry for the 2-year synod process. The sign read:

What we mean by EVERYBODY WELCOME!

Single, twice-divorced, under 30, gay, filthy rich, black and proud,

poor as dirt, can’t sing, no habla inglés, married with pets,

older than God, more Catholic than the Pope, workaholic, bad speller,

screaming babies, three-times divorced, passive aggressive, obsessive compulsive,

tourists, seekers, doubters, bleeding hearts,


As I read the message over and over, tears of gratitude streamed down my cheeks. This is the Church we long for. This is the message that should be/can be The Joy of Love. At that moment, I loved this wondrously messy Church more deeply than ever. Filled with saints and sinners, this is the place where the unconditional love of our God has a chance to sprout and grow.