Catholic Watershed is an outstanding book that offers personal perspectives of six priests during a pivotal time in our American Catholic history. All ordained in Chicago in 1969, Mike Ahlstrom, Larry Duris, Bob Heidenreich, Tom Libera, Ed Upton, and Bill Zavaski, were born in the midst of World War II, raised pre Vatican II, thrust into the changes of Vatican II during their seminary years, served in communities in racially turbulent times, and now are persevering through the clerical sexual abuse scandals.
Readers who have lived through part or all of the same time period will find the priests’ honest reflections fascinating. We remember how it was for us as laity. Learning how it was from the other side of the Catholic fence is insightful.
How different the men’s lives were in the old seminary when they had little opportunity to bond with fellow seminarians and were heavily controlled by their professors yet later encouraged to work together, think for themselves, and interact with the community of faith. Vatican II’s mission of promoting understanding that all members of the Church are the Church meant that the seminary also had to reverse their approach from authority and submission to community. Every member—clergy, religious women, and lay men, women, and children—must now work towards the ultimate goal of raising each other to a greater relationship with the Lord.
The book follows the priests from their differing childhoods, through their seminary years, and into their priesthoods. The men offer honest reflections on serving under three very different bishops: Cardinals John Cody, Joseph Bernadin, and Francis George, cardinals who were national leaders among US bishops. The priests also share their thoughts on homilies, their ministries, their faith, and relationships between them and other members of the clergy as well as laity, and visions of the future Church.
Catholic Watershed is a big book at 394 pages but don’t be intimidated by its size. It’s well-worth your time. The book is well-written and moves quickly. I thoroughly enjoyed reading every bit of it.