History of FOSIL
The Fellowship of Southern Illinois Laity (FOSIL) was founded on Jan. 31, 1971, three years before the formation of the national Call To Action organization. It was created because of a need and hunger of lay people in the Diocese of Belleville for spiritual renewal and faith education. Members of FOSIL love the Church and wish to claim our adult baptismal responsibility for shaping the future of the Church and change an impersonal institution into the living Body of Christ.
Members of FOSIL are not dissident Catholics or second-class citizens. We’re official members of the Catholic Church; our ID card is our baptismal certificate. Vatican Council II placed a special emphasis on the importance for lay people to take their rightful place within the whole People of God. FOSIL members respond to this call. Many are active members of parishes throughout the diocese, serving as lectors, Outreach ministers, parish council members, Eucharistic ministers, teachers, etc.
During the early years of FOSIL, religious education programs were held for diocesan clergy but not laity. With the approval of Bishop Albert Zuroweste, FOSIL sponsored its first series of lectures – a Lenten series of five different lectures presented, simultaneously, at five different diocesan locations, by scholars from the St. Louis School of Divinity.
FOSIL continued to sponsor lectures but the need lessened after Bishop William Cosgrove became bishop. It became customary then to have the presenters at clergy workshops also give presentations and workshops to the laity. FOSIL became dormant.
In 1993, FOSIL was resurrected when Bishop James Keleher removed Fr. Richard McBrien’s weekly column from the diocesan newspaper. Believing that censorship is wrong and insulting, FOSIL began purchasing, publishing and distributing the McBrien essays. Along with McBrien’s column, FOSIL also publishes a weekly commentary on the Sunday Scripture readings by Fr. Roger Karban. We’re proud to provide this service to over 2,000 subscribers worldwide.
FOSIL sponsors two major events each year: Spring Faith Enrichment Day and the Fall Lecture Series (formally John XXIII Lecture), both with nationally recognized presenters. In addition, FOSIL has been involved in a variety of events through the years. They include:
• Quarterly meeting with Bishop Wilton Gregory, resulting in several positive changes in the diocese
• Ash Wednesday Prayer Service, calling attention to national priest shortage
• Workshop on Capital Punishment, financed by diocesan grant, for high school juniors. Presented in all diocesan Catholic high schools and Loyola Academy in Chicago
• Prayer Vigil on Pope John Paul II’s arrival in St. Louis, calling for full participation of women in the church and an end to sexism
• Annual Good Friday anti-death penalty prayer service at Tamms super-maximum security prison
Six Lay Synods, addressing various Church issues such as sex abuse crisis, rights and responsibilities of lay people, selection of bishops, and servant leadership.
• Survey for laity to assist in the selection of bishops
• Demonstration outside bishops residence to voice FOSIL’s opposition to Bishop Braxton’s initial top priority to redecorate his residence. Made front page news throughout Metro St. Louis area.
• Peaceful demonstration outside Cathedral to show FOSIL’s objection to selection and installation of Bishop Braxton on July 22, 2005.
• FOSIL received the annual ICHTHUS Award, presented by the Southern Illinois Association of Priests (SIAP) for fidelity, integrity, service and humanity.
• FOSIL’s first annual Gus & Arlou Koch Award presented to Robert McClory
• Changed name to Faithful of Southern Illinois
• Changed “John XXIII” Lecture to “In the Spirit of Vatican II”
• Letter of support to all women religious in area
• Corporate By-Laws updated; new website created
Bishop Braxton continues his refusal to meet with representatives of FOSIL and allow FOSIL to use church facilities. Braxton has stated that some matters can only be discussed with “officially-recognized ecclesial bodies”. FOSIL members remain puzzled over the inability of our bishop to discuss with us important church issues.
FOSIL will continue its mission of adult faith formation and education. We will continue to work for justice and accountability in the church and offer opportunities for people to gather and openly address current issues impacting our church and faith communities. FOSIL is grateful to those who participate in our ministry. The generosity of your personal and financial support allows the voice of faith-filled people to remain a constant and continuing witness to the mission of Jesus.