Relative to FutureChurch, the AUSCP (Association of U.S.Catholic Priests) is a novice in the work of realizing the Spirit-inspired dreams of Vatican II – a 50-year old ecumenical council unlike any in our history.

The AUSCP has been honored in recent years to have the support of FutureChurch at our assemblies. From our start in 2011, the AUSCP has intended to build Bridges to the Laity, but due to time and organizational constraints, was not able to give it the full attention we intended. This year we made that intention a formal goal that included building bridges with FutureChurch, Voice of the Faithful and Leadership Conference of Women Religious. That goal passed at the assembly this year and our work together will be on our agenda this year and the coming year.

AUSCP’s vision is to be “a priests’ voice of hope and joy within our pilgrim church.” We priests have a servant-leader role to the priestly-prophetic-leader role of all the baptized. Future Church has been playing those roles for more than 25 years now, with the involvement and support of some ordained. AUSCP hopes that we can enable greater collective collaboration.

Each of our AUSCP assemblies has focused on one or other of the Vatican II Constitutions. This year we focused, for a second time, on Gaudium et Spes. We live in a blessed moment when Pope Francis has reignited our hopes with his focus on the Joy of the Gospel and on Mercy. That  focus is crucial in a time when our world is too full of anger and violence, sadness and despair, cynicism and disgust. Our faith and our work are premised on the conviction that God is at work in and through us. We believe that our efforts enable the Spirit to accomplish something that makes a difference. By bridging our inspirations and energies together as Church, present and future, we enable the Spirit to do wonders beyond our imagination.

At this year’s assembly, AUSCP priests pondered the challenges of environment, migration, and being Church in the World -- for it rather than against it. We acknowledged clericalism in ordained and laity. We corporately lamented the reality of child abuse by priests. We prayed for forgiveness and affirmed our hope for God’s healing of the abused and their families, the wrongly accused, the abusers, our leaders and all our pilgrim church.

We addressed the reality of priestless parishes and the merging/closing of parishes, caused in large part by the worsening shortage of priests. Deb Rose-Milavec led a colloquium sharing the insights and work of FutureChurch in this area. We committed ourselves to help find a better national pastoral response.

The Bridges we hope to build have many planks with various organizations, some already identified: enabling the laity to preach, eliminating racism in our church, deepening our commitment to gospel non-violence, closing the equality gap by fighting for $15 minimum wage, abolishing the death penalty, reducing gun violence and, working together. All that is intimidating, but by working together where possible, we can enable the Spirit to. . .turn our Vatican II hopes and dreams into joys. May it be so. We’ve only just begun.