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Spotlight Report

Lay Catholics organize local 'Voice' chapter

By Emily Shartin, Globe Staff Correspondent, 6/30/2002

Pledging to work for change in the Catholic church, a local chapter of Voice of the Faithful voted to become an official organization last week.

The chapter, which meets at St. Paul's School in Hingham Square, is one of several that have formed over the past six months in response to the priest sexual-abuse scandal that has engulfed the church.

Voice of the Faithful, which began in Wellesley, is meant to offer lay Catholics a place to talk about their concerns, support one another, and find ways to participate more actively in church governance, organizers have said. Interest in the organization, which has about 16,000 members, has sprung up across the country and around the world.

"This is moving along very quickly," said Eileen Doherty, a founder of the Hingham chapter. "The word is getting out nationally and internationally."

On a steamy evening Wednesday, about 60 people showed up at St. Paul's School for the Hingham chapter's third meeting, ready to talk about how the group can begin using its collective voice to rally for change.

Terry Gorman, a Scituate resident, believes Voice of the Faithful will help the laity claim a larger role in what happens within the church. "It's time for us to take charge and open [the doors] wide again, and get at that table," Gorman said.

But although momentum and energy levels are high right now, members said, they recognize that bringing change to church institutions will take time and perseverance. "It's not going to be an immediate thing," said Stan Doherty, Eileen's husband. "We're in for the long haul."

A majority of the local chapter's members are from Hingham, but some come from Scituate, Cohasset, Hull and other nearby towns. Mary Dever, a Hingham resident, believes Voice of the Faithful offers lay Catholics who might be thinking about leaving the church a place to voice their skepticism and frustrations.

"I think people are confused, they're hurting and they don't know what to do," Dever said. The meetings have helped her understand that faith can extend beyond the institutions of the church.

"I think it's made my faith stronger," she said.

Emily Shartin can be reached by e-mail at eshartin@globe.com.

This story ran on page S12 of the Boston Globe on 6/30/2002.
Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.


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