Our brother and fellow Elephant, Fr. Lartry Pettke, was laid to rest Nov. 16. Details are on our In Memoriam page.

Elephants in the Living Room Home Page

Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019, 1pm

Image: Sr. Helen Prejean, csj "River of Fire"

Saint James Church

Our Mother of Perpetual Help Parish
241 Pearson Ave., Ferndale, MI
Driving Directions

Sister Helen Prejean csj is known around the world for her tireless work against the death penalty. She has been instrumental is sparking national dialogue on capital punishment and in shaping the Catholic Church's vigorous opposition to all executions.

Sister Helen began her prison ministry in 1981 when she dedicated her life to the poor of New Orleans. While living in the St. Thomas housing project, she became pen pals with Patrick Sonnier, the convicted killer of two teenagers, sentenced to die in the electric chair of Louisiana's Angola State Prison. At Sonnier's request, Sister Helen repeatedly visited him as his spiritual advisor. In doing so, her eyes were opened to the Louisiana execution process.

Sister Helen turned her experiences into "Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty", a book that not only made the 1994 American Library Associates Notable Book List but was also nominated for a 1993 Pulitzer Prize. In January 1996, the book was developed into a major motion picture starring Susan Sarandon as Sister Helen and Sean Penn as a death row inmate.

In the Preface to her newest book, "River of Fire," she writes: "They killed a man with fire one night," recalling her culture-shifting 1993 book. "Strapped him in an oaken chair and pumped electricity into his body until he was dead. His killing was a legal act. No religious leaders protested the killing that night. But I was there. I saw it with my own eyes. And what I saw set my soul on fire—a fire that burns in me still."

Over the decades she has made personal approaches to two popes: John Paul II and Francis, urging them to establish the Catholic Church's position as unequivocally opposed to capital punishment. In August 2018. Pope Francis revised the Catholic catechism, declaring the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person, with no exceptions.

Although capital punishment is still on the books in 30 states, it has fallen into disuse in most of those states. Sister Helen continues her work, between educating the public, counseling individual death row prisoners, and working with murder victims' family members. Since "Dead Man Walking", Sister Helen has written two books, "The Death of Innocents: An Eyewitness Account of Wrongful Executions", published in 2004; and "River of Fire: My Spiritual Journey", in 2019, the subject of this presentation.

* A light lunch will be served at noon. Please RSVP Tom Kyle at tom.j.kyle.1939@gmil.com or at 248 987 2223 if you would like to have lunch.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019, 1pm
Robert Mickens

State of the Vatican
Francis' Efforts at Reform of the Curia and Vatican Culture

Ss. Simon & Jude
32500 Palmer Rd.
Westland MI

Robert Mickens is editor-in-chief of Global Pulse. Since 1986, he has lived in Rome, where he studied theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University before working 11 years at Vatican Radio, and then another decade as correspondent for The Tablet of London. He identifies himself as "The Roman Observer". Robert Mickens addressed the Elephants as recently as November 2017 to great approval and requests to bring him back. Some of the topics he can address which are of interest to the Elephants, include Pope Francis' encyclical on the family, his encyclical on the environment, his reorganization of the Curia, his reorganization of Church governance with the appointment of twelve cardinals to assist him, including Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston, return of control of the Roman Missal to national bishops conferences like the USCCB, on clericalism, on the selection of bishops, and ongoing efforts to change the culture of the Vatican.

If you are diligent, you may get pieces of these subjects in select media; but Robert Mickens is at the heart of where this is happening and can provide a most interesting and fulfilling analysis of Pope Francis and the Vatican.

A light lunch will be served at noon. Please RSVP Tom Kyle at tom.j.kyle.1939@gmail.com, or at 248 987 2223 if you would like to have lunch.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019, 1pm
Tom Lumpkin Receives The Bishop Gumbleton / Elephant Award.

Tom Lumpkin"A priest, activist, spiritual advisor, rebel, pastor, peacekeeper, servant. . . all of these words describe Fr. Tom Lumpkin. One could also add artist, cook, writer, mystic and many other labels," wrote my late friend and social justice activist.

The custom in the Archdiocese of Detroit in 1960 was to send two graduates of the Sacred Heart seminary on to Rome to study. However, Cardinal Dearden, who was newly appointed, recommended that two more be sent to Louvain (Leuven), Belgium. Tom was chosen for this honor and that relocation began the most influential period of his life.

Tom did not speak French, which was the official language of the area, but necessity soon made him fluent enough to handle his classes. Unlike the students in Rome, those in Louvain were free to travel during vacation times and for three months in the summer. "This opportunity opened his eyes to the 'world' and he saw sights that have stayed with him to this day. He saw many of the great cities of Europe. Some were still recovering from the effects of World War II, and he saw poverty on a scale he never imagined."

In addition to extensive travel, Tom spent several weeks living with "worker priests" in France. "This experience profoundly affected him and deepened his concern for the poor. He became more aware of the world around him, and began to think critically, asking questions and looking for solutions. He moved from knowing information about Christ to knowing Christ as a person during this period."

His parents attended his ordination in Louvain in 1964; his first Mass in the USA was in Baltimore, MD; and his first celebration of Mass in the Archdiocese of Detroit took place at St. Mary's of Redford. Although Tom's assignments included: Our Lady Queen of All Saints Parish, St. Louise Parish and St. Brigid's Parish, he had a desire to work and live with those in poverty. This led him to the Catholic Worker. After visiting several Catholic Worker houses from Chicago to Los Angeles, he returned to Detroit. He and friends bought the house on Trumbull, fixed it up and in August 1977, Fr. Tom began his residence at Day House. Soon thereafter, he became active at the Manna Meal Soup Kitchen at the nearby St. Peter's Episcopal Church; he continues to serve at this location today.

Throughout his life Tom has focused on dedication to peace and social justice issues; he traveled to Selma and joined hundreds of others at rallies that led up to the March from Selma to Montgomery; he worked for voting rights, civil rights, peace (an end to the Vietnam war).

Prior to many Detroit parish closings in 1989, Tom served on a Task Force that made recommendations to the Archdiocese about the Catholic Church in the City: "The viability of a parish should not be determined by its wealth", and suggested ways to keep parishes open.

However, as we know, the AOD decided to close 30 parishes, including St. Ignatius of Antioch, that summer. Many members of St. Ignatius felt strongly about remaining a community and soon began to gather for Mass at Nativity Church; and then at a storefront on Conner and Chelsea in 1990. Fr. Tom was one of four priests who celebrated Mass for them, and he offered to go with them if they found their own place to gather. The group continues to meet, now at the Samaritan Center in Detroit. Tom is the pastor.

Fr. Tom's activism for peace and justice issues has led to several arrests, and he has served jail time. His life is strongly influenced by the writings of Thomas Merton and Daniel Berrigan.

Tom was elected president of the Elephants in the Living Room in 2004, and he has served in that office from that time.

Tom turned 80 in February; he says he is retiring. His definition of retirement is not shared by many. He doesn't know the meaning of slowing down. He will only give up his Day House responsibilities. His schedule will continue to be overwhelming to most of us in this third stage of life. He will continue his work at the soup kitchen, in jail ministry, house churches, and various boards he serves on in our Detroit community.

Blessings on our Fr. Tom Lumpkin, who has been one of Detroit's finest, a beacon of faith, hope and love! It is an honor to have had Fr. Tom in our lives!

(Provided by Carol Jachim and Mary Black)

Tuesday, May 21, 2019, 1pm
Oscar Chacón

Immigrants in a Time of Fear and Anxiety:
Understanding Their True Role in America Today

McAuley (Mercy) Center
28600 W. Eleven Mile Road
Farmington Hills MI

McAuley (Mercy) Center Chapel is on the grounds of the Costick Center at the above address.
Use the 4th drive East of Middlebelt. See the map at the bottom of this page.)

Oscar A. Chacón is a co-founder and executive director of Alianza Americas (formerly known as National Alliance of Latin American & Caribbean Communities)—(NALACC), an umbrella of immigrant-led and immigrant-serving organizations based in the United States of America, dedicated to improving the quality of life of Latino immigrant communities in the US, as well as of peoples throughout the Americas.

Prior to his designation in 2007 in his current role, Oscar served in leadership positions at the Chicago-based Heartland Alliance for Human Needs and Human Rights, the Northern California Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, the Boston-based Centro Presente, and several other community-based and international development organizations.

Oscar has also served in multiple advisory committees on national and international processes including the Civil Society Consultation process associated to the Global Forum on Migration and Development and the World Social Forum on Migration.

Oscar is a frequent national and international spokesperson on transnationalism, economic justice, the link between migration and development, migrants' integration processes, human mobility, migration policies, racism and xenophobia; and U.S. Latino community issues.

A light lunch will be served at noon. Please RSVP Tom Kyle at tom.j.kyle.1939@gmail.com or at 248 987 2223 if you would like to have lunch.

Map of McAuley Center

Click on the above map to enlarge/print it.

The Root Causes of the Sexual Abuse Crisis

Rev. Donald Cozzens
Wednesday, April 3, 2019, 1pm
St. Louis Church, 24415 Crocker Boulevard
Clinton Township, MI

Rev. Donald Cozzens has appeared twice before the Elephants, and is widely regarded as one of the most knowledgeable and compelling of speakers.
Rev. Donald CozzensHe previously spoke to the Elephants on Sept. 18, 2006 concerning the Challenge to Be Adult Disciples, and on Sept. 17, 2014, when his topic was New Pope, New Hope: Out from the Underground.

Fr. Cozzens, as an author and lecturer, urges faithful Catholics to speak up in an effort to help the church they love. While some people try to ignore the fractured foundation of our Church, Father Donald Cozzens calls attention to the cracks in hopes of inspiring enough people to work together to repair the damage.

"I believe the Church is always in need of ongoing renewal and reform," says the Cleveland priest about the structure of the Church.

In his lectures, TV appearances and award-winning books, Father Cozzens confronts controversial topics that many members of the clergy and laity think about but won't address publicly.

He believes secrecy and silence caused many of the problems the Church is experiencing today. Father Cozzens, who describes himself as "a moderate in many ways," has been both praised and criticized for addressing such subjects as homosexuality in the priesthood, the roots of the clergy sex-abuse crisis and the rights of lay Catholics.

When he encourages laypeople to ask questions and challenge Church leaders, his views are rooted in the teachings of the Second Vatican Council. For example, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church says that "the laity are entitled, and indeed sometimes duty-bound, to express their opinion on matters which concern the good of the Church" (#37). Based on the new leadership of Pope Francis, there is renewed hope. His talk is based on his published books, Sacred Silence, Denial and the Crisis in the Church; Freeing Celibacy; The Changing Face of the Priesthood.

A light lunch will be served at noon in the Parish Hall, after which we will move to the Parish Church for the Forum. Please RSVP Tom Kyle at tom.j.kyle.1939@gmail.com or at (248) 987-2223 if you would like to have lunch.

A Woman's Perspective on the Church

Deborah Rose-Milavec
Wednesday, January 16, 2019 1pm
SS. Simon and Jude
32500 Palmer Rd.
Westland, MI

Deborah  Rose-Milavec

Deborah Rose-Milavec serves as the Executive director of FutureChurch. She has more than 20 years of experience working in community and church-based organizations, with a strong background in theology, Church history and Catholic social teaching.

Her professional experience includes serving as Executive director at the Domestic violence Prevention Agency and shelter in Shelby County, Ohio; Program director for the American Friends Service Committee; and prior to coming on the Board for FutureChurch, Vice-President and Project director for Catherine of Siena Virtual College, offering women's and gender studies worldwide, with a special outreach in Africa, China, the Philippines. Thailand, and other countries in Asia.

Deborah holds a Master's Degree in Theology and a Bachelor's Degree in International Studies.

She trained as a lay pastoral minister in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and is an Associate of the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati.

A light lunch will be served at noon—for a lunch reservation, please RSVP Tom Kyle via email at tom.j.kyle.1939@gmail.com or call (248) 987•2223.

Last Updated December 1, 2019

We are an organization of priests of the Archdiocese of Detroit, strongly supported by participating laity, who seek renewal of the Church of Detroit. Our purpose is to offer opportunities for education and creating an open forum for discussion and dialog that will lead to developing and advocating more collegial solutions to the challenges we face. Membership is open to Catholic clergy, religious and laity. We firmly believe these efforts will contribute to a greater solidarity among priests and a renewed Church of Detroit.