By John Heuertz
Special to the Catholic Key
What is Holy Scripture’s practical answer to the question, how are we to live? Its answer is that we are to live like Jesus and Mary.
Fr. Peter Marsalek is a Canadian Texas transplant, a published academic authority on stormwater, a former tennis pro, and the new General Priest Servant of SOLT, the Society of Our Lady of the Trinity – a Catholic religious body once headquartered in our diocese for 20 years.
On January 15 at the Catholic Center, Fr. Marsalek gave a talk entitled “A Scriptural View: Living As A Child Of God” that outlined Holy Scripture’s remarkable consistency concerning how all humans should live.
Citing the New Testament and St. Thomas Aquinas, he began by saying that Catholics who wish to evangelize should begin with the central truths of the Faith. One central truth is that each of us is made an adopted child of God by Baptism.
“Nothing comes close to the root of our dignity like the fact that we are God’s adopted children,” Fr. Marsalek said.
And if we are His children then we are also His heirs – heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, St. Paul wrote in Romans 8.
We first learn about our heavenly Father by experiencing our earthly fathers. Other influences include Revelation, Holy Scripture, friends, society and especially free will.
But there is only one input into who Jesus is, and that is His heavenly Father. “If you know Me, then you will also know My Father” (Jn.14:7).
With characteristic precision and insight, St. Thomas outlined four ways we can know God as Father in this world and the next.
“But with adoption comes responsibility,” Fr. Marsalek said. “Do my actions reveal that I am a child of God? Have I absorbed the values of my Father?”
We show by our actions that we are adopted sons of God by being like Jesus. “So be imitators of God, as His beloved children,” St. Paul wrote to the Christians at Ephesus.
And not only God. “Mary is the perfect adopted child of God. May we imitate her perfectly,” Fr. Marsalek said.
Perhaps passion for imitating the Mother of God indicates that Mary, the perfect adopted child of God, inspired a visionary young college student to found SOLT.
Before he graduated from Boston College in the 1950s, Jim Flanagan had the idea that priests, nuns, sisters and laity could form pastoral teams to do the work of the Lord in the world together. After long prayer and discernment, he presented this idea to his archbishop, Richard Cardinal Cushing.
The Cardinal may have sensed how radically Flanagan’s vision departed from the Church’s traditional, hierarchical understanding of itself in the world – while at the same time giving rich new expression to the Church’s traditional understanding that it should live in the world like Jesus and Mary did.
To encourage both prudence and fortitude, he gave Flanagan the wise counsel to let this vision develop for five years.
Five years later, Fr. James Flanagan got the Cardinal’s blessing to pursue his vision, and the Cardinal’s permission to move to the Archdiocese of Santa Fe with a handful of companions at the invitation of Santa Fe Archbishop Edwin Byrne.
SOLT was first established in 1958 in the Immaculate Heart of Mary parish in Holman, New Mexico – an economically disadvantaged area high in the Sangre de Cristo mountains that needed help with its church and school.
Volunteers began to arrive and stay. Some came from Boston College at the urging of Fr. Joseph Flanagan SJ, the other Fr. Flanagan’s brother and the Chairman of BC’s Philosophy Department for many years.
Marian bishops have always been crucial to the SOLT story. Being very Marian, Bishop Charles Helmsing invited Fr. Flanagan and his companions to Kansas City in 1964. Fr. Flanagan became the pastor of St. Francis Seraph parish in the East Bottoms, and SOLT’s next 20 years in Kansas City were most productive.
SOLT members organized spiritual and corporal works of mercy here with the team approach that is gaining SOLT increased renown inside and outside the Church.
The group started the suicide hotline called Human Rescue, and started a transition house for the recently incarcerated called Dismas House.
It helped integrate a transitional neighborhood in the marketplace way, and helped Vietnamese refugees find work and housing.
Its nurses helped the sick at Truman Medical Center, and its teachers ran grammar schools and helped teach special needs children.
SOLT’s interest in migrants was perhaps the most important apostolate to SOLT’s long-term development. Many came into the USA through places that are part of the Diocese of Corpus Christi. Because of this interest, the bishop invited SOLT to base its administration there, where it is still located.
SOLT began its first mission in Mexico in 1965 and in the Philippines in 1975. In 1998 SOLT began forming seminarians at the Angelicum, the Dominican Pontifical University in Rome, and started pastoral work in Rome in 2000.
Today the Society of Our Lady of the Trinity is active in 12 countries on five continents. The Society says that the gift that our Heavenly Father gives in Jesus to the Church today through The Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity is the Trinitarian Life of Jesus.
Fr. Marsalek was elected SOLT’s fourth General Priest Servant last July and visited Kansas City last week as part of visiting SOLT teams everywhere. Contact Dr. Jim Doughterty at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about SOLT.