By Marie Sweeney, Dignity/Columbus, Board member elect.
DignityUSA chapters have been in the forefront of advocating for full inclusion for almost fifty years now. Our unique voice has come from strong faith rooted in the Catholic tradition that is most often communally expressed in Eucharist. Through our chapters we have prayed to become what we celebrate: the Body of Christ. Across the US, other small communities have also gathered for Eucharist, based in a cross-section of US Catholics in need of a deeper expression of shared faith. All these communities have been referred to as Intentional Eucharistic Communities (IECs).
The weekend before our Seattle Convention I was delighted to attend a conference on IECs . I found myself sitting disciple-like at the feet of William D'Antonio, a sociologist who has spent a career at the Center for Applied Research of the Apostolate (CARA). When we read about the percentage of Catholics who left formal membership in the institutional Catholic Church, more than likely we're looking at Bill's work. When National Catholic Reporter (NCR) and other publications quote the faith priorities of Catholics, the data predictably comes from this faith-filled social scientist. He is an elder now, but still has the curiosity of a child, wondering how "Catholic" is currently experienced and expressed. He has studied IECs previously, but verbalized his amazement at the number represented at the June conference. "I had no idea that there were this many IECs alive!" If Bill doesn't know even an estimate of how many IECs there are, then no one does. This IEC movement has become a significant expression of being Catholic in the US, alluded to in many articles. We need to know how significant all of us are.
Bill believes Dignity has a network of IECs with the most longevity in the US Catholic Church. There are some individual communities that precede Dignity, but no other network of communities like ours. We have demanded full inclusion in the Church, and William D'Antonio is actively requesting our inclusion in his research. He is asking for individuals, not chapters, to answer a survey found at intentionaleuchristic.org. It's right at the top of the page and took me about five minutes to complete. This is a golden opportunity for Dignity members to be included as an active participant in a much larger expression of Church in the US. Let's avoid the exclusion that is so familiar and be counted for a change!