observance of the 5Oth Anniversary of La
Roche College, the Department of Religious Studies/Philosophy proposed
the establishment of a Catholic Common Ground Initiative at La Roche University in
honor of Father Eugene F. Lauer, S.T.D.
Lauer was one of the early professors at La Roche University. During his tenure, he served as Chair of the
Department of Theology and Academic Dean of the University. He was also instrumental in La Roche obtaining
accreditation from Middle Atlantic States.
Since leaving La Roche in 1975, Father Lauer has taught at Duquesne
University, Wheeling Jesuit University, the University of Notre Dame, and
Catholic University of America.
is a recognized scholar, with several publications. He holds a Doctorate in
Theology from the illustrious Pontificia
Universitas Gregoriana in Rome, an academic institution educating
international scholars since 1556. In
addition to his scholarship, Father Lauer is a popular pastoral minister, a
conference speaker, and a retreat master.
He served as co-director of the Hesburg Center at the Catholic
Theological Union and was recently the Director of the National Pastoral Life
Center in New York City.
August 12, 1996, the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, Archbishop of Chicago,
issued a statement, entitled “Called to Be Catholic Church in a Time of Peril.”
The document inaugurated the Catholic Common Ground Initiative – a movement
whose effort is to lessen the unnecessarily polarizing differences among church
leaders and members, which hinder efforts to build the church community and to
carry out its mission.
lectures, conferences, and programs in Catholic parishes, schools, and
organizations, the Catholic Common Ground Initiative continues to promote
dialogue within the Church on a variety of theological and social issues, including the changing
roles of women, human sexuality, healthcare reform, and immigration –
challenges facing, not only the
American Catholic Church, but the
United States as a whole.
The Mission Statement
Catholic Common Ground Initiative, inspirited by the call to be one in Christ, invites Catholics with
differing views about critical issues in the Church to engage in prayerful
dialogue for the sake of building up communion in the Church.
Overview of the
- February 1992:
Cardinal Bernardin issues a statement:
“The Parish in the Contemporary Church.”
- Spring 1992:
Conversations between Cardinal Bernardin and the Rev. Philip J. Murnion
about pastoral concerns and polarization
- December 1992: Meeting
of a group to discuss concerns.
- 1993-1996: Five more meetings are
held with various participants.
- 1995-1996: “Called to Be Church in a Time of Peril”
statement is developed.
- Spring 1996: Decision by Cardinal Bernardin to establish the
Catholic Common Ground Project. The
committee is formed. The secretariat of
the Initiative is established at the National Pastoral Life Center in New York.
- August 12, 1996: Press
Conference is held by Cardinal Bernardin to announce the project and to release
- October 24, 1996: First Meeting of the
Initiative Committee. Public address by
Cardinal Bernardin spelling out the purposes of the Catholic Common Ground Initiative.
- November 14, 1996: Cardinal Bernardin
- November 1996-November 2009: National Pastoral Life Center provides
leadership for furthering the Initiative.
- November 14, 2009: The
Initiative moved to the Bernardin Center for Theology and Ministry of Catholic
Theological Union of Chicago.
Conversations at La Roche University
Format For the Conversations
- Small Group discussion.
Respectful listening to diverse views.
Honestly speaking from one’s heart as well as one’s mind. Raising questions. Seeking wisdom.
- Participants are
invited to make a free-will offering, the proceeds of which will be placed in
the Sister Candace Introcaso Student Emergency Fund.
Purpose for the
To provide an opportunity to gather and dialogue
about critical issues in both the Church and the world.
Participants in the Conversations
Alumni of La Roche University, the La Roche University Community,
the Sisters of Divine Providence, the members of the Association of the Pittsburgh Priests, the members of the Sunday liturgical worshipping community of La
Roche College Chapel, and all other interested parties.
The Department of Religious Studies/Philosophy, the Office
of Mission and Service, the Office of Alumni Affairs and Donor Relations, and
the Congregation of the Sisters of Divine Providence.
"Ground Rules for the Common Ground Conversations”
Common Ground Partners affirm and promote the full range and
demands of authentic unity, acceptable diversity, and respectful dialogue, not
only as a way to lessen conflict, but as a way to make conflicts
constructive. This will only be achieved
if the following practical rules are observed:
- Those who
have a tendency to always be the first to speak, should “hold back” until
at least two other people have spoken
- Those who
almost never speak up in public are invited to express at least one opinion
of her/his own. Participants are encouraged to offer a
reason for why they agree, or disagree, avoiding minimal statements such as “I
- Be a
respectful listener; do not interrupt unless the person speaking is using more
than her/his fair share of oxygen in the room.
- Be open to
the possibility that you might change your mind.
- Be open to
the reality that in the real world we must deal with ambiguity
The Goal of Common Ground Conversations
The format of the Common Ground Conversations is
intended to model adult conversation partners, who can engage in dynamic,
enlightened conversations about controversial topics and ultimately become
better persons as a result.
Common Ground Conversations are not intended to
lead to definite decisions at the end of a session. They are intended to be a springboard into
deeper ongoing conversations that in due course lead to action on behalf of the
greater good of all people
Past Topics for the Conversations
- November 20, 2012: “Methodological
Considerations for Common Ground Conversations”
Eugene F. Lauer, S.T.D.
- March 19, 2013 : “The Role of Laity in the Church” Dr. Ed Brett
- November 19, 2013: “The Role of Women in the
Church” Patricia McCann, R.S.M.
- March 18, 2014: “An Evaluation of Francis I’s First Year of Ministry”
Tom Schaefer, Ph.
D., Rita Yeasted, Ph.D.
- November 18, 2014: “Can Catholic Identity and Academic Freedom be Harmonized?” Michele Bisbey, Ph.D., Linda Jordan Platt, Ph. D, Rita Yeasted,
- March 24, 2015: “Ethical Issues of
Responsible Journalism” Prof. Ed Stankowski
- November 11, 2015: “The
Beatification of Oscar Romero” Dr . Ed Brett
- April 27, 2016: “Pope Francis’s
Ecology through the Lens of Food, Agriculture and Culture: Michael Woods, S.J.
- November 9, 2016 - God’s Mercy and the Demands of Social Justice: Dr. Maureen Crossen
- November 1, 2017- “Did Vatican II Make the Reformation Obsolete”? Dr. Frederick Foltz