|Denise Funke talking with Cardinal Velasio De Paolis|
Denise Funke, the North American representative among the five general
councilors for the new government of the Regnum Christi consecrated
women, granted a more extensive interview for the North American
Regnum Christi audience.
1. Did you think this was a possibility
when you came to Rome?
Absolutely not! It never even crossed
my mind that I would be elected to participate in
the assembly. I was cozy in Dallas with my community
there, working in the Highlands school community and serving the
consecrated women of North America on the territorial council. I
was not expecting anything to change…
2. What in your
background will help you in this new position?
To be honest,
I think what will most help me is the work
that God has been working in my soul over the
past couple of years. He has taught me a lot
of very important lessons – humility, living in an attitude
of listening to the Holy Spirit, learning to listen to
others, how to live in the truth while living the
love Jesus asked us to…
Aside from that, I have
served my consecrated companions previously in other positions and I
think these years of trial, renewal and purification have given
me and all of us a better understanding of what
the service of authority and obedience is within the Church
in consecrated life.
3. What are you most apprehensive about?
don’t really feel apprehensive. I do have sadness for those
I will leave behind in Dallas and around North America.
And while I know from experience that these friendships last
beyond space and time, its not the same as seeing
someone on a daily or monthly basis. I will miss
my work at school. I really love what I do
with the kids, families and all that work at the
school. Being farther away from my family is also a
I feel the weight of the responsibility and mission
I have been tasked with. I do not take it
lightly at all. The consecrated women, along with the rest
of our charismatic family of Regnum Christi have been through
a lot over these past years where we discovered the
truth about our founder’s life and then began to delve
into the process of understanding how that affected our rule
of life and our formation. There are many challenges that
face us in the upcoming years and it will require
a lot of love, courage, understanding and patience as well
as hard work. When I look at myself I know
that this is much bigger than I am and so
I place my faith in Him and will strive to
seek always to be where He is. I also take
comfort in knowing we have many people with years of
experience in consecrated life in the Church that are more
than willing to continue to advise and counsel us. Thankfully
none of us think we know everything or that we
can do this on our own so I have no
doubt we will be taking them up on their offer
I may not be “apprehensive” but I can tell
you my worst fear is that any well intentioned word
or action of mine will be erroneous and fall short
and instead of helping someone will hurt them, not to
mention the fact that I have to accept that I
am human and struggle with my own sinfulness like everyone.
While I may want and strive to be loving to
God and others always, my ego is always there and
I can and do fall, fail and sin.
4. You have
been known to watch ice hockey - how will you
handle not being able to see much of it in
When living in Ireland for 8 years I never saw
a single game. At the time I managed. It will
make it a lot easier knowing that the Flames have
not made the playoffs for years! If they were Stanley
Cup bound then I would be suffering more as I
enter this hiatus from hockey! I think I will be
doing some traveling to North America so hopefully I will
be able to catch some games once in a while!
How familiar are you with Rome?
I have never lived in
Rome, but while I was stationed in Ireland I would
spend every Christmas there with our boarding students. I also
had to travel there a couple of times a year
for meetings and events. So, it is not completely new
to me. Being in the heart of the Church, being
able to see so much history, see and hear the
Holy Father in person and meet so many Catholics from
all over the world is a wonderful experience of the
universality of our faith and it greatly broadens your horizons.
I do not speak Italian and so will need to
start lessons. Also, our official language is Spanish and while
I was fluent, having been in the US for almost
9 years, I am a little rusty. Besides the language,
I am not at all looking forward to driving in
Rome. It seems a bit crazy to me. Being Canadian
we have a lot more space and tend to follow
the rules of the road! We drive a lot slower
6. Do you know the other members of the leadership
team? (Any secrets you want to divulge?)
Yes, thankfully I do.
While I have met Gloria a couple of times I
never have lived and worked with her. Paula I know
well from the year that we lived and worked together
in Mexico in 1996. She was such a big sister
to me and marked my consecrated life. Mari Carmen and
I never lived together but since she was principal of
our boarding school in Switzerland while I was principal in
Ireland we did work together. I was young and felt
the weight of what I was doing and she was
a great support to me and would always be willing
to help me talk things through when I had tough
decisions to make. Viviana and Cristina I just met now
at the assembly but its funny, the three of us
clicked immediately. One of the first work commissions that was
set up during the assembly included the 3 of us
(long before the day of the elections) and we gelled
together really well. I am eager to get to know
them and work with them. Jim, I don’t know that
I know any secrets and if I did, not so
sure I would divulge them to you!
7. What will you
miss most about Texas?
The people! Definitely the people. Southerners have
a warmth and openness about them. And the weather of
course. I love the heat and bright blue sunny skies.
I will miss that.
8. What do you see as the
biggest challenges facing the leadership team for the next year?
Next five years?
At the end of the assembly all the
participants gave their input to what they saw as priorities
for the upcoming 6 years. These women were from different
communities in different countries and I can see that we
will need to spend time in each territory to respond
to the particular needs and assist them. Our women and
the people they serve are what we are dedicated to
serve. The challenge with this will be that we also
at the same time need to prepare our Ratio institutionis,
along with some other guiding documents while also working with
the other branches of the Movement on the way we
are going to work together. I think the variety of
tasks will be a challenge as well as the quantity
of work. We will need to be careful to not
fall into the frenzied pace we used to think we
could work at. It is important that we also live
our consecrated life fully – participating in the responsibilities and
activities of our community, giving ourselves the time needed to
cultivate our spiritual lives, making time for continued studying in
order to serve better, and just being humble and recognizing
our human limitations that require that we live a balanced
9. How will you stay connected to the "real
world" from Rome?
There are two ways to do that –
bring those at the ground level into the work that
we are doing and go out to the ground level
where it is all at and be a part of
that, see it first hand and listen. I imagine we
will do both. Soliciting input from everyone on what we
are doing and involving people on work commissions while also
trying to travel as much as possible.
10. Where do you
see the Movement in the renewal process?
That’s a big question.
How much time do you have? I can look back
to 5 years ago and see how far we have
come. I look ahead and see we have a long
way to go. And then I try to settle into
the present and respond to what the next step before
us is. I can imagine that for people on the
outside they can’t imagine how we could live a life
within the Movement and not have suspected what was wrong
not only with our founder but also where we were
wrong. I will not go into that because I believe
the letter we wrote from the assembly which recognizes these
points is now available on the web site in English.
I hope that letter makes its way to the far
corners of the earth to so many people who have
been in contact with us over the years and had
noticed some things that were not right and who may
have suffered at our hands.
After we found out the truth
about our founder I waited to hear from the authorities
in the Church. Before going further I think I need
to address that… The very first part of the renewal
process forced each of us to ask, “can I trust
the Church?”. Over the past decades the world has been
made more aware of the sin and errors within the
hierarchy of the Church. That leads some people to not
be able to follow and trust what those in the
Church say. I can understand that. We see that throughout
Church history. The biography of Luther is one that always
makes me reflect deeply on what that man, a priest
faced. He saw first-hand, up close, that other priests, bishops
and even Popes were acting and behaving in ways obviously
contrary to the Gospel and even to natural law. In
the middle of that, what is one man to do?
What an awful place to find yourself. And each of
us in our own way has to grapple with that
same question. The people in the Church are just that
– people. Human beings that have within them grace and
sin, good and evil, good intentions and selfish ones. We
are a mixed bag. And our sin hurts others. We
are not islands that live unattached from others. So my
point is… when our Movement was in turmoil and we
discovered lies and objective wrongs each was faced with the
question, “Can I trust the Church?”. The media has helped
to make us all aware of the wrongs within the
Church committed by those who guide us.
I had to go
back to the Lord and ask, “So, you wanted to
found a Church?”. Jesus clearly established a Church to be
His witness throughout the ages and for 2000 years the
gates of hell and the weakness and sinfulness of those
who make up the Church have not been able to
diminish the fact that we can find Jesus in the
Sacraments, we can receive grace in them and forgiveness. In
the tradition and doctrine we can come to know God.
But it is up to each individual to enter into
relationship with God and know Him personally and then live
coherently with that. And every man fails at that.
was the first step and some could not believe that
renewal could happen. So while the authority of the Church
said that there was a charism given by God within
Regnum Christi and that there was legitimate good the Church
wanted to work to assure it continued while at the
same time recognizing that there was legitimate wrong and error
that needed to be purified.
The consecrated women have spent
about 2 years looking at our life and vocation, learning
from Church documents about consecrated life and then sifting through
what is from God and what needs to be purified.
Again here I will refer you to the letter we
wrote in the assembly to get a picture of all
that needed purification. This past month 42 women met to
work on and approve the final version of our new
Statutes that we will have ad experimentem over the next
6 years. As Cardinal de Paolis and Father Montan have
insisted to us, we know that these statutes are not
perfect. They are not divine and are the work of
the hands of women. However, God enters into the history
of mankind and He is with us and will walk
with us as we desire to live for Him and
serve Him. The statutes will guide us but it is
in the daily living in truth before God where the
true renewal will be seen.
So, where are we, the consecrated
women, at in the renewal? We have prayed, studied and
looked deeply at our life and vocation. We have discussed
and reflected. We have made proposals and changes have been
made. We are living from this new perspective and putting
into practice the changes. But honestly Jim, the renewal is
inside the mind, heart and soul of each of us.
That is where the real renewal is and the Statutes
are just a reflection of where we are all at.
The people that have known and worked with me in
Dallas for the past 7 years will tell you they
see renewal. They experience it every day working side by
side with us. That would be an interesting interview, don’t
you think Jim? Talk to them about seeing the renewal
as a first row spectator.
So the renewal is well on
its way, but it is in no way over. As
we live out what we have seen in these past
years and continue to pray, reflect and discuss we will
continue to renew, continue to align ourselves with what we
see and feel the Lord is calling us to. It
requires us to be humble, listen and be willing to
be surprised with what He may ask of us or
where He may lead.