Recently, I was led to reflect on my years with FCM. It has been a long journey, going back just shy of 50 years, when the Federation of Christian ministries (FCM) was in its infancy, and was known by its original title "Society oF Priests for a Free Ministry".
I had been ordained in June, 1955. Like so many other priests of my day, I was inspired by the teachings o the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). Further, I was happy to see that the teachings of this Vatican Council rescued us from the doldrums of a church saddled with a dying theology and a legalist moral approach. Documents, like the Declaration on Religious Freedom, The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy and The Document on the Church and the Modern World, encouraged us to a more energized and effective ministry.
Like so many other priests of that time, my priesthood had gone around an unexpected corner. By the middle years of the 1960s, I had come to realize in my research studies, that celibacy was not an essential element for the Roman Catholic Priesthood. It was just an old tradition that the Vatican was holding onto. Some theologians felt it was time to change it, at least to optional celibacy. I felt the church would not abandon it unless we priests nudged them on, by leaving our celibate positions and pressing for optional celibacy.
My journey led me to take time for additional studies at Temple University, so after 13 wonderful years of parish life, I moved to Philadelphia and took up the graduate studies program in religion.
Here I found many other priests, some still in parishes, but most having taken a similar road as I. Shortly after arriving in Philadelphia, I was introduced to "Priests for a Free Ministry'. It was a dynamic, but small group at that point, and we met periodically.
This early group provided me and others, important support and encouragement. It not only encouraged socialization, but also and very importantly, employment support and job leads, as well as housing suggestions and very practical counsel on changing from parish house living.
As many will recall, this small group, grew nationally and faithful to its goals, it developed and broadened the idea of ministry to help us see that our work and ideals continued to ve very important ministries to building the "City of God".
After several years, this original group grew eventually into the "Federation of Christian Ministries" (FCM). Under its wise leadership, FCM became increasingly organized and even governmentally recognized, and in position to supporting interested women and men in ministries, commissioning and/or certifying them.
Over these past 48 years, I found valuable support in the many shared meetings and writings which FCM presented. We realized that our ministries were still vital, though usually in areas and often with people who had found their church/parish unable to meet their needs.
To this day, FCM has broadened the concept of ministry and though its commissioning and endorsement processes, has given many more people a clear path for vitalizing their lives, and the encouragement to respond more effectively to the needs, spiritual and otherwise, of the many women and men seeking their help.
We know not were the Spirit of God will lead us, but I'm very grateful to be part of this inspired organization. I'm grateful for the creative initiatives of its members since 1968. FCM, (this "Society for a Free Ministry") has been drawing on the good will, talents and support of the members. We trust the Spirit will continue to take these Federation on a journey both effective and meaningful for us all.