Daniel J. Olsen, Ph.D: 2012 AAIF Plenary Speaker at 7:30 PM on Saturday July 14

 “How Interchurch Family Prayer ‘Happens’: Models for Negotiating Our Differences”

Speaker:  Daniel J. Olsen, Ph.D. 

Dr. Olsen received his Ph.D. in Constructive Theology from Loyola University Chicago in 2008.  Since that time he has taught at several Catholic Liberal Arts Universities in both Minnesota and Illinois.  He currently resides in suburban Chicago with his wife, Tracy, and two children Abigail and Matthew.

Daniel J. Olsen spoke in 2008 at the AAIF Biennial Conference in Louisville, KY

Prior to entering graduate studies at Loyola University in Chicago, Daniel Olsen had worked in pastoral care of families in Roman Catholic Parishes. It was during that time that he recognized that the needs of Interchurch Families had not yet been addressed regarding their pastoral care.
Dr. Olsen’s thesis was:
Living bridges: Interchurch families as domestic church
by Olsen, Daniel J., Ph.D., LOYOLA UNIVERSITY CHICAGO, 2008, 325 pages; 3332363
Adviser Jon Nilson
Source DAI/A 69-10, p. , Dec 2008
Source Type Dissertation
Subjects ReligionTheology
Publication Number 3332363

In this dissertation, I argue that the experiences of interchurch families have yet to be included meaningfully in Roman Catholic theological reflection on the Christian family as “domestic church.” This situation contributes to their marginalized status within the Christian community and mutes their ability to contribute to the ecumenical movement. Thus, in order to better serve their pastoral needs and to recognize their ecumenical giftedness, I examine their unique experiences of being a small church in the midst of ecclesial diversity.

In the first half of this work, I trace a growing trend in Catholic magisterial and theological reflection, particularly in the American context, toward recognizing the ecumenical giftedness of the interchurch home. Despite this noteworthy trend, little has been done to integrate these insights into the growing body of literature on the ecclesial status of the Christian family as domestic church. The constructive portion of this dissertation, therefore, explores how the experiences of the Christian interchurch family as domestic church offer new insights into the ecumenical needs of contemporary Christian education, the centrality of baptism for the mission of the domestic church and understandings of koinonia(communion) ecclesiology.

First, while many theologians argue that a key component of the Christian family is to educate its members religiously, interchurch families integrate a needed ecumenical awareness into this pedagogical mission. As interchurch family members instruct each other, their relatives and their communities about the shared riches to be found in their ecclesial traditions, they reveal the need for ecumenical education in the currently divided Church of Christ. Second, interchurch families underscore that the ecclesial mission of the Christian family originates in a mutually recognized baptism in Christ. Rooting their mission as a family in the spiritual bonds brought about through baptism allows them to explore their shared duty as Christians while anchoring their call for Eucharistic sharing within their unique setting. Finally, as these families explore daily their unity-in-difference as a small church, they manifest the ecclesial koinonia that Christians seek. Their ability to fully and visibly become church despite ecclesial difference offers important models of ecclesial fellowship for all Christians.

At the 2010 AAIF Biennial Conference Daniel J. Olsen introduced for a group discussion Matthew 18:3
English Standard Version (©2001)
and (Jesus)  said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

During the intervening years since we met in 2010, this subject has been explored further by various contributors to the ARK, a publication of the American Association of Interchurch Families.

Many have noted that children have no preconceived ideas for how things should be and that they may see possibilities that adults can no longer see nor consider.

Barbara Brown Taylor, the theologian and author of several books, believes that at the time that Jesus stated this that children were of such a low status in the community that they were completely discounted. It is their lack of status and consequent humility that Jesus is referring to when he speaks to the Apostles who had wanted to know which one of them was the best Apostle. Jesus wants them not to try to be the best, but to become the least so that they might be able to serve.

Others have noticed the willingness of children to learn new things. Observing that children keep falling down as they learn to walk, but that they get up again and again until they master the ability to walk, which quickly leads to being able to run and to jump.

For children, they tend to view many things that adults take for granted, with a fresh and joyous sense of awe. They tend to bring this sense of awe to the attention of the adults around them.

They may enjoy singing even if they will not become famous singers; it is singing for the sheer joy of that experience.

They enjoy dancing or jumping because they enjoy  doing those things. We may call it play, but it is also being done with a great sense of joy at simply existing and being able to do those things.

One reader explained that children are willing to explore all of the possibilities that may exist in any given situation. They want to know the nature of whatever has caught their attention. As she explored what it would be like to become more like a child, she became aware that “It is when grown-ups assume that they have all the answers where they tend to fall short from being able to be more like children.”

I believe that she may have grasped the essence of the message. I would like to thank Daniel Olsen for bringing this Bible passage to our attention for us to consider during the intervening years between our AAIF Biennial Conferences. ~ M.J. Glauber

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