UDQuickly Home My Old House Snapshots UD Magazine
Send A Class Notes

@DayMag

What can the laity do? Ask Matt Dunn ’91

12:12 PM  Jun 25th, 2015
by Matt Dunn ’91

Answering questions in this issue is Matt Dunn ’91, executive director of the Montgomery County (Ohio) Arts and Cultural District, whose volunteer work includes serving on the national leadership council for the Marianist laity. Questions not appearing in the print edition are listed first.

 

How has your experience as a Lay Marianist influenced both your career (not only the “what you do” but also the “how you do it”) and your involvement with the Marianists at the national level?

—AMY D. LOPEZ-MATTHEWS ’86, DAYTON

My professional life and volunteer commitments have always been geared toward service and making the world a better place. My commitment as a lay Marianist has guided, affirmed, and reinforced the choices I have made professionally and within the Marianist Family. As a Marianist lay person, I believe the way I live my life should be a model of the new evangelization, where the way I live my life is itself a mission. I also believe we all have gifts to share. I share mine through volunteerism and working to strengthen the Marianist Family in circles beyond my own local community. At the national and international levels we say we are a community of communities. So I always keep in mind that I’m part of something bigger. The idea of individual gifts is also present to me in everyday relationships. One aspect of the Marianists is mixed composition and discipleship of equals. We are a family of sisters, brothers, priests, and lay people. We are all equals and each have something to contribute in our own way. I take that into the workplace and other settings remembering that everyone has a voice, everyone has value, everyone has their own unique way of contributing to a combined effort.

 

What influence has family had on your aspiration and commitment to be part of the Marianist community?

—LINDA C. LOPEZ ’81, KETTERING, OHIO

The family spirit that so many experience at UD is a hallmark of the Marianist charism. What I have found in the Marianist Family, even beyond UD, is people who care for one another, challenge one another, support one another, pray together, share meals together, and celebrate with one another. The Marianist Family really is a family. Even when we don’t agree, we still love each other and realize we are all on this journey together. If anything, I think the Marianist sense of family and community has helped in my own relationships with family and friends!

 

What are the gifts that lay Marianists bring to the larger Church today?

—MARY HARVAN GORGETTE ’81, PARIS

The Marianist charism is a wonderful gift to the church. In some ways it’s what keeps me Catholic. The charism is manifested in our experience of Mary, community, faith, inclusiveness/hospitality, and mission. The Marianist family is a place of welcome where priests, brothers, sisters, and laity are equals, although each has their role. The church needs to be a place where all are welcome and valued. The idea of community reminds us that we are part of something larger than ourselves. Church is more than what we do on Sunday. As a faith community Marianists understand this. Pope Francis has said we need to be a more Marian church. We are blessed to model our lives after Mary, not as someone on a pedestal to be worshiped, but as a model of courage, strength, and willingness to say “yes” to God’s call in our lives. Because laity “live in the world” we have a unique opportunity to bear Christ to the world by how we live on a daily a basis. We evangelize by how we live our lives. I’ve often heard people say they feel more Marianist than Catholic. The reality is that by being Marianist, they are being Catholic. To me that’s the real gift to the Church.

 

Volunteering at the national level with the Marianists must take quite a bit of your personal time.  What motivates you to continue at that level?

—AMY D. LOPEZ-MATTHEWS ’86, DAYTON

I volunteer with the Marianist Lay Network and other Marianist entities because I believe in what the Marianist Family has to offer the church and world. Our charism is a gift. I also believe in the notion that we are each part of something larger than ourselves. While I’m involved locally, I also feel an obligation to support our effort as a community of communities, across the country and around the world. I’m particularly motivated because my involvement allows me, as a lay person, to make a difference in the world at a time when religious vocations have decreased. It allows me to live my baptismal call and honors the fact that we are all called to share in the priesthood of Christ.

 

How can lay people live out the Marianist charism through their day to day lives as working professionals?

—STEPHEN MACKELL ’13, DAYTON

Many people can cite such elements of the Marianist charism as community, faith, mission, Mary, inclusivity, etc. We don’t often think of a Marianist spirituality. As a Marianist lay person, I believe the way we live our lives should be a model of the new evangelization, whereby the way we live our lives is a form of mission. As a lay person we may not use religious language in everyday life but we can live Father Chaminade’s “System of Virtues” in order to be more Christ-like. In many ways, these are realized when we take a step back from a situation, when we hold our tongues when we’d otherwise lash out or criticize, when we don’t make assumptions or let our imaginations get the best of us, etc. We replace bad habits with good habits. I also believe we all have gifts to share. It is important to recognize the gifts of others and encourage them to use their gifts. Believing in and participating in teamwork and collaboration and respecting the voice of others is another way to live the charism. Being open to the unexpected, as Mary was, is a way to grow and to pursue something we might not otherwise have considered. Organizationally, I believe Father Chaminade’s use of the three-office structure (education, spirituality, temporalities) can be applied in a workplace. Some people are good with ideas and vision. Some are good with implementation, numbers, and details. Others are good at connecting the dots, shaping conversations, and making sure everyone’s on the same page. Some have specific knowledge or skills to apply to a task or situation. Forming teams that encompass each can serve to maximize the team’s potential. So there are practical and spiritual ways we can live the charism on a daily basis.

 

What has been the greatest gift of the Marianist charism for your own journey of faith?

—BRIAN HALDERMAN ’99, SAN ANTONIO

The greatest gift of the Marianist charism for my own faith journey has been that of welcome/hospitality/inclusivity/family. I’ve had a very personal relationship with God, Jesus, and Mary since my childhood. I’ve been active in the Church and in parish life, including being employed by the Church. I considered the priesthood. More than once, however, I’ve thought about leaving the Church because I felt the Church didn’t want me. I’ve never experienced that within the Marianist Family. It is because of the Marianists that I remain Catholic today.

 

What does it take to become a Lay Marianist? Is it like being an Associate as some other orders like the Franciscans or Benedictines have? Does it take a long time? Do you have to say special prayers? Would I know one on the street? Does one have to be part of a local community? Where do I go to find out more?

—SUSAN VOGT ’69, COVINGTON, KENTUCKY

There are many points of entry into the Marianist Family. Yet most lay formation has been through programs administered by the Society of Mary, including those at the universities. Though the lay branch has seen a resurgence in the last couple decades — and in 2006 received canonical status from the Vatican — it has been slow to adopt internationally accepted standards for what it takes to become a lay Marianist or to live as a lay Marianist. However, as an association of the faithful, recognized by the Vatican, official status is dependent upon being listed in a country’s national lay directory, and subsequently the international directory. So, membership in MLNNA is critical for Marianist Lay Communities and those who identify as lay Marianists. MLNNA leadership, along with their counterparts around the world, are currently working to establish common guidelines and expectations for becoming and living as a lay Marianist. One can learn more about MLNNA at www.mlnna.org and can also learn about lay formation at www.marianist.com/mlfi.

 

Of the five elements of the Marianist charism (Faith, Community, Mission, Discipleship of Equals, Mary) which do you find most attractive? What attracted you to become a Lay Marianist?

—SUSAN VOGT ’69, COVINGTON, KENTUCKY

Discipleship of Equals, translated to hospitality, diversity, and inclusion is that sense of family and welcome that most of us feel when we first come into contact with Marianists. I know it’s what drew me. It is a strong element of the charism that makes the Marianists unique in many Church circles. Not every religious organization is built on the idea that priests, brothers, sisters, and laity can be equals in the life of the Church. That element continues to play a role for me today although I think I’ve grown in my understanding and appreciation of community, faith, mission and Mary. I’ve always had a relationship with Mary, but she has played a much larger role in my adult life as I discern and accept the plans that God has for me. We are blessed to have her as a model and we are blessed to have community so that we are not on our journey alone.

 

Do you have to live around a Marianist university to be a Lay Marianist?  (e.g., Dayton, Honolulu, San Antonio)

—MARGE CAVANAUGH ’67, ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA

The three Marianist universities are certainly hubs of Marianist activity. This is largely due to the numbers of vowed religious who have worked at the schools, employees who have become lay Marianists and students who have become lay Marianists. However, lay Marianists exist all over the world. There are many Marianist Lay Communities in cities where there isn’t a vowed Marianist presence. There are even more lay Marianists who are out on their own because we are such a mobile society. Being a mobile and international organization, one of our challenges is to stay connected. Some people contact MLNNA seeking Marianist lay communities in certain parts of the country. Others stay connected by participating in virtual or cyber communities where members share prayers via email, visit one another via video conferencing, and periodically come together for a retreat/reunion. Some people belong to more than one community. They stay connected to one community virtually but they also belong to one whose face to face interaction is more consistent. Lay Marianists are also encouraged to start communities so that we can grow our presence in the world.

 

The following questions and answers appeared in the University of Dayton Magazine, Summer 2015, vol. 7, no. 4.

 

Are lay Marianists a branch of the Marianist brothers and priests?

—JIM VOGT ’68, COVINGTON, KY.

Laity are not a branch of the religious. Unlike other religious orders who established associate organizations for lay people, Father Chaminade founded the Marianists by first forming small Christian communities known as sodalities. Religious vocations grew out of the sodalities. The branches of the Marianist Family collaborate but remain autonomous.

 

Has the lay branch of the Marianist family always been as active as it is today?

—STEPHEN MACKELL ’13, DAYTON

The involvement of laity in the Marianist Family has ebbed and flowed. In the last couple decades, however, a vocation among Marianist laity has grown. In 2006, Marianist Lay Communities, collectively as an international entity, were officially recognized by the Vatican as a private association of faithful, giving the lay branch canonical status in the church. Marianist laity work in their chosen career fields; some work in Marianist institutions. Some have started ministries, such as the Mission of Mary Farm in Dayton.

 

The Marianists are known for creating inclusive and hospitable communities of faith. How do you help bring this to life as a lay Marianist?

—BRIAN HALDERMAN ’99, SAN ANTONIO

I’d like to think I am inclusive in all aspects of my life — my friends, workplace relationships, volunteer commitments. Within the Marianist Family, I have worked to make communities more welcoming of LGBT people by participating on the LGBT issue team of the Marianist Social Justice Collaborative (MSJC). Additionally, through MSJC and through my involvement in national leadership, I have participated in efforts to bridge intergenerational gaps. Within my Marianist Lay Community, we are diverse in composition. Some of us are single, some are married, some have kids, etc.

 

What do you do as part of the national leadership council for Marianist laity?

—AMY D. LOPEZ-MATTHEWS ’86, DAYTON

The lay branch is led by the volunteer leadership team of the Marianist Lay Network of North America (MLNNA). MLNNA maintains a directory/database of lay Marianists and Marianist Lay Communities in North America. We hold assemblies that bring people together from across the country. We have a monthly newsletter and use other social media. We help fund ministries such as the Marianist Social Justice Collaborative and the Marianist Lay Formation Initiative. One of my current responsibilities is to lead MLNNA through the process of clarifying how someone becomes a lay Marianist. I also serve on the Marianist Family Council of North America, which consists of representation by all three branches.

 

Tell us about your experience at the International Marianist Meeting in Peru last summer?

—LAURA LEMING ’87, DAYTON

An international Marianist meeting is like family reunion and like the experience of the Apostles at Pentecost. To be in a place where people don’t speak the same language yet everyone has a common vocabulary is exhilarating and inspiring. The more we are able to gather and share ideas, the more we learn better ways to evangelize, strengthen our small Christian communities and bring Christ to the world.

 

What’s new from the Marianist Social Justice Collaborative?

—MARY HARVAN GORGETTE ’81, PARIS

Some recent MSJC efforts have been to engage young adults in service projects and immersion experiences in the context of the Marianist charism. MSJC and the Marianist Environmental Education Center will also have materials and suggested actions for individuals and communities to consider when Pope Francis releases his encyclical on the environment. MSJC also recently published a document, Addressing LGBT Issues with Youth, to help Marianist educators create a pastoral, safe and inclusive environment for LGBT students.

 

What would you like to see develop among Marianist laity? 

—JOAN SCHIML ’90, DAYTON

A greater institutional capacity to serve the Marianist Family, church and world. Without sacrificing diversity and flexibility, we could benefit from a more formalized identity. Additionally, with the decreasing numbers of vowed religious, it will take committed lay people to continue Marianist ministries as well as respond to the signs of the times by starting new ones. It is time for lay people to be bold in their aspirations and to begin initiatives without relying on others to tell us how to do it.

 

For more about the Marianist Lay Network of North America, see www.mlnna.org.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Connect with Facebook


*