Tuesday, December 30, 2008

B16 on theologians and "the humility of faith"

Fr. Z had another post related to Fr. McBrien on his blog yesterday.
Pope Benedict XVI, in his address to the Plenary Session of the International Theological Commission (5 Dec 2008) said:
"From the subjective point of view, that is from the viewpoint of the one who does theology, the fundamental virtue of the theologian is to seek obedience to faith, the humility of faith that opens our eyes. This humility renders the theologian a collaborator of the truth. In this way it will not happen that he speaks of himself. Interiorly purified by obedience to the truth, he will reach, instead, the point that the Truth itself, that the Lord, can speak through the theologian and theology."

I can think of several theologians besides Fr. McBrien who might benefit from a long meditation on this paragraph.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Fr. McBrien and the Catholic Courier

One day after I wondered out loud whether the Catholic Courier had dropped Fr. McBrien's column my question was answered.

Unfortunately, the answer is "No."

See here.

What's wrong with this picture?

Another story in Mark Hare's ongoing series about faith in the Rochester area is on the front page of today's D&C.  This one focuses on the various Orthodox churches in Monroe County.

Accompanying his story is a second article by Hare attempting to show the relationship between Catholicism and the various Orthodox churches:

Orthodoxy's roots trace to early Christianity

As Christianity spread across the Roman Empire in the first three centuries after the death of Christ, leadership was invested in the bishops of five major cities: Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, Rome and finally, Constantinople (today Istanbul).

Known as patriarchs (or in Rome, the pope), these bishops worked together to govern the church. The teaching, doctrines and traditions of the church were developed and defended with no single patriarch exercising primal authority.

Following the legal recognition of Christianity by the Byzantine Emperor Constantine in 312, the church began to clarify and express its beliefs at Ecumenical Councils. In the fifth century, disagreement over these issues led the Assyrian Church of the East and the Oriental Orthodox Churches to leave the original union of the church. They are still separated from the Orthodox Church.

In the aftermath of the fall of the Roman Empire in the West in 476, the patriarch (pope) of Rome began, of necessity, to exercise more civil authority. But in doing so, he also began to assert his position as the primal leader of the Christian Church. Such a claim was unacceptable to the other patriarchs.

The final break, known as the Great Schism, came in 1054, when each side excommunicated the other ...

As sources for the above Hare cites, "Joseph Kelly, professor emeritus of religious studies at Nazareth College and liaison from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester to the Orthodox community; and Rev. Ken James Stavrevsky, rector of St. John the Baptist Orthodox Church in Rochester."

This is a somewhat interesting retelling of Church history which, I believe, would come as something of a surprise to such folks as Irenaeus, Ignatius of Antioch and Augustine of Hippo, to name but a few of the early Church leaders - both from the  East and the West - who looked to the Bishop of Rome for leadership in faith and morals.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Has the Catholic Courier dropped Fr. McBrien?


Fr. Z. has a new post on his blog reporting on a recent Boston Globe interview of Fr. Richard McBrien and this exchange caught my attention:

IDEAS: Your column is not running in some places that it used to run.

McBRIEN: If I had all the papers that once carried the column, I’d have nearly 50 papers, which is a lot in the Catholic market. Don’t ask me how many I do have, because I never really know, but I have a relative handful of that number.

IDEAS: What happened?

McBRIEN: As the Catholic hierarchy became more conservative under Pope John Paul II, bishops who were open to a diversity of viewpoints in the church either died or retired, and were replaced, in almost every case, by bishops who were more, let’s say, attuned to the desires and intentions of the Holy See. I used to kid, I’d say bishops get points if they drop my column. They get noticed, and then they get promoted eventually, and so forth ...

As I read this it occurred to me that I didn't recall seeing a Fr. McBrien column in the last couple of print issues of the Catholic Courier and a check of their web site shows that they haven't posted one of his columns online since late October.

Has the Catholic Courier (quietly) dropped Fr. McBrien's column?  If so, I doubt that concerns over his orthodoxy are at the heart of the decision.  Perhaps it's just a cost-cutting measure.  Whatever the reason, however, I'm happy to see him go.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

New DOR Schools Ad

A new 30 second spot appeared yesterday on SchoolTube.

The ad promotes our Catholic schools and one supposes that it will be showing up on TV shortly before 2009-2010 registration period begins on January 26.

If it does it would signal a 180 degree turnaround from last year when the diocese refused to publicly promote its schools, thus making the enrollment level predicted by its panel of "experts" a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Monday, December 15, 2008

"A good foundation and a sound establishment"

Columnist Bob Marcotte has a piece in today's D&C on people important in the growth of Rochester.  Among his choices is our first Catholic bishop.

Bishop Bernard McQuaid, as in the Catholic high school, was the first bishop of the Diocese of Rochester, from 1868 to 1909. During his tenure, the diocese increased from 35 parishes and 29 mission churches to 93 parishes and 36 missions. The number of Catholics in the diocese more than doubled, to 121,000, including such diverse ethnic groups as Irish, Germans, Poles, Italians and others. McQuaid managed to keep the diocese united. More than 50 parish schools were established as well as St. Bernard's Seminary. He "left a good foundation and a sound establishment," notes the diocese.

Today, while DOR claims some 340,000 Catholics, only about 84,000 are at Mass on any given weekend.  The total number of parishes and mission churches is the same (129) but is certain to fall in the not too distant future. Finally, the number of elementary schools is now in the teens and St. Bernard's Seminary is but a distant memory.

It sure looks like we've squandered that good foundation and sound establishment.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Catholic Schools Save U.S. Taxpayers $19.8 Billion Per Year

With hundreds of billions of dollars going to the recent bailouts of financial institutions and insurance companies, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that the nation's network of almost 7,400 Catholic schools is saving the taxpayers about $20 billion each and every year.

The WSJ reports,

Catholic schools provide $19.8 billion in savings each year for the nation. The figure is based on the average public school per pupil cost of $8,701 and the total Catholic school enrollment of more than 2.2 million students.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

CMA continues to lag in parishes that lost schools

As a group, the Monroe County parishes that had their schools closed by Bishop Clark last June are now lagging some 11.5% behind the group that got to keep their schools in reaching their 2008-09 CMA assessments. Data now posted on dor.org show that, were the first group pledging at the same rate as the second, their combined pledges would now be some $88,450 higher than they actually are.

Of the parishes that lost their schools, only Blessed Sacrament and St Charles Borromeo are significantly ahead of the diocesan average.

Of the parishes that kept their schools, Our Mother of Sorrows, St. Pius the Tenth, St. Louis and St. Joseph are outpacing the diocesan average.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thanks for the Memories

As the recipient of many well-deserved scoldings from several nuns during my career as a Catholic grammar school student a half century or so ago, this piece from Mary Rose at True Confessions of a Prodigal Daughter brought back a flood of memories. (I'm smiling as I write this but were Sister Juliana or Sister Clement or Sister Georgiana still around I'm certain they would be telling me, "Wipe that smirk off your face, young man!")

This past Sunday, I witnessed something I hadn't seen (or heard) in years. A scolding from a nun.

Who can scold like a nun? Heck, who still scolds, period? Everyone is running around, trying to be "sensitive" to other people's feelings and/or politically correct. It is just so un-PC to scold because really, who am I to tell anyone that what they're doing is wrong?

Enter the ardent nun, clad in her habit and wielding a powerful knowing that can't be denied. After all, this is a woman who has given up an opportunity to marry and have children just so she can pray all the time. She is not a woman to be trifled with.

And so I found myself slightly surprised when I was munching on my chocolate-glazed donut and suddenly witnessed an honest-to-goodness, old-fashioned scolding of a young boy by a nun. He was the altar boy for the Mass we had just attended and according to the nun, was too fidgety and obviously not paying proper respect to his duties. I couldn't help but smile when an adult friend pointed out this young boy wanted to become a priest and the nun snapped back, "Well, I can't imagine you would do well since priests must be very disciplined and you seem to lack that trait."

Wow, eh? What amazed me more was the fact that the young boy's mother came over to chat with me and the family friend notified her of said scolding. Her response? "Good. He needs to hear that. I'm glad she told him." I mean, double wow! Can you imagine if this type of exchange had happened in most schools? Oh, whoever did the scolding would have probably been dragged into an administrator's office to receive a verbal warning, and the parent would have wailed to high heaven that her perfect child was being abused.

The whole scenario was so refreshing but yet so rare that I had to think of what had happened to our culture over the past two decades that made such a scolding uncommon. It doesn't take long to see that when a nation loses its sense of right and wrong, it loses its way. It's no wonder so many young people are disrespectful and willful. When they have no one to tell them what they're doing is wrong, they'll keep doing the wrong thing.

Thank God (and I cannot say this enough) for the old-fashioned nuns who aren't afraid to speak up. I'm tired of the waffling, mamby-pamby type of spiritual coddling that makes up the majority of "spiritual formation" that is going on in churches and schools. Bring back the tough nun! Those glorious women who wear no make-up, don't care a whit about their hair, but are obsessed about their Spouse and will kick our butts hard if we don't straighten up and fly right.

God bless them!

Catholic Culture and the Presidential Election

Not mincing his words in the least, Rev. Thomas J. Euteneuer, President of Human Life International, gives us his take on our recent election ...

It is impossible to speak of a “Catholic culture” in America any longer. A whole segment of the populace who call themselves “Catholics” do not feel bound by any standard of Catholic orthodoxy or sanity. In fact, it is impossible to even speak of a Catholic culture in most parishes! At a recent “ministry faire” of a large Catholic parish in south Florida, the Respect Life ministry of the parish displayed its pro-life materials next to the table of the “social justice” committee of the same parish. Any commonality between the two ministries was simply in the space they shared. Their worldviews could not have been further apart, but they both call themselves Catholic.

In fact, the “social justice” people were positively aglow about the election of their new messiah, Barack Obama. Several of them were speaking of their plans to attend the Inauguration and were utterly unaware that there would be 100,000 people marching on the nation’s Capitol two days later for the right to life of unborn Americans which they had just voted into irrelevancy by electing Obama to the highest office of the land. One of them even expressed shock at the provisions of the upcoming Freedom of Choice Act until he was confronted with the nasty little fact that his messiah had been a sponsor of that pernicious bill in the last Congress. True to form, he steadfastly refused to allow that truth to have any effect on his euphoria. His mind was made up, and he would not let himself be confused by facts. Needless to say, the orthodox, practicing, believing Catholic pro-lifers will not be attending the Inauguration.

How can these two groups sit side-by-side in the same pews and display their ministries in the same space at the same Catholic parish? Simply because this contradiction has been tolerated for years by those in charge of our Church. In this election season neither of these two groups received any guidance about voting according to Catholic principles because, as per usual, there was silence from the pulpit on the issue. The absolute failure of our church leaders to define for us what membership in the Church means—and then to enforce it—has led to the degradation of Catholic culture and the loss of meaning for things that are sacred. When Christ and Belial are considered equal partners in the sanctuary, then nothing in the sanctuary means anything any more and no meaningful standard exists to distinguish a true Catholic from a false Catholic.

The degradation of Catholic culture is largely, but not exclusively, the fault of the clergy. For four decades in the Catholic Church in America we have seen:

  1. Liturgical abuses run rampant, aided and abetted by those in charge
  2. Two or three generations of Catholics left un-catechized or taught with flimsy, Protestantized fluff passed off as Catholic education
  3. Sexual abuse by clergy excused and unaddressed by the hierarchy
  4. A blind eye turned to high profile dissent and political class heretics
  5. Wholesale attacks on sacred teachings that receive virtually no response from our pastors (and if it weren’t for Catholic Answers, EWTN and the Catholic League we would have no defense whatsoever)
  6. The succumbing of our Catholic institutions of higher education to the ravages of political correctness, and the list goes on.

In the face of all this, should we be surprised that 54% of “Catholics” voted for Barack? Hardly.

The battle for Catholic culture begins with us, and there is no time like the present to don the armor of spiritual warfare. We either believe and practice what the Church teaches or we live as part of the shadow church, falsely trading on the Name Catholic for its benefits without at the same time shouldering the crosses that this entails.

There is, however, great hope for the future because the battle has already been engaged: new Catholic colleges are springing up to replace the old decrepit houses of heresy, new religious orders with abundant vocations and orthodoxy have arisen, home schooling families and strong lay movements are abundant now. Only when we take back our beloved Church from the false Catholics and clerics will our Church be able to stand up and rebuke the storm winds of paganism that are building faster than we care to admit. This project is not without its price, however. The cost of being a true believer will undoubtedly be much higher than ever before in our lifetime. Starting now and into the next generation we as Catholics will have to show the world not only what we believe but that we are willing to lay down our lives for it as a witness to the truth.

Sincerely Yours in Christ,

Rev. Thomas J. Euteneuer,
President, Human Life International

Tip: LarryD at Acts of the Apostasy

Saturday, November 22, 2008

"Catholic education does not begin in college"

Sixteen years ago a group of determined Catholic families started with almost nothing (in a material sense) and today there exists an excellent grade 6 through 12 school serving 550 children in rural South Carolina.

Father Dwight Longenecker tells us the rest of the story while making a little fund-raising pitch ...

My main job is chaplain to St Joseph's School in Greenville, South Carolina. St Joe's is a wonderful school. Just sixteen years old, it was started by nine families who felt called by God to start a Catholic school in upstate South Carolina.

They started with $800.00 in the bank and nine students in a house borrowed from the local Lutheran pastor. Sixteen years later we occupy a 38 acre campus and have nearly 550 students in grades 6 - 12

St Joseph's is a school that can best be described as 'classically Catholic.' We are orthodox and always faithful to the church's magisterium. This sounds maybe a little bit, ummm shall we say, 'stuffy'?

Not so. The school is an open hearted, loving and enthusiastic community with truly committed families, faculty and staff. With a full range of fine arts and athletics programs as well as high academic standards, the school also has a fine commitment to the pastoral work and spiritual development of the students--seeking to form hearts and minds in the image of Christ.

Here's the school website, and here are the photo galleries. See what a great school God has given us!

Now here's why I'm writing all this: Every year St Joe's has a big fundraiser. Our Knight Before Christmas gala has a raffle. Each year you can win a car (or take the cash) Second prize is a home theater system with 47" screen and all the trimmings. Third prize is a vacation in San Francisco.

Tickets are expensive: $100.00 each, but there are only 2,000 of them, so your chances of winning are pretty good.

It would be great if some readers went to the site to buy some tickets. It would also be great, if you have a blog to help spread the word about St Joseph's and this raffle. Talk about St Joe's. Link to the school website, and use the link below to help people buy tickets.

This is a fun and practical way to support a terrific Catholic School.

Remember, Catholic education does not begin in college...

Help us educate the next generation of 'classical Catholics' to help renew Christ's Church.

Link here for more information on how to buy tickets.

One wonders if being "orthodox and always faithful to the church's magisterium" might have anything to do with St. Joe's success.  Bishop Clark and a steady stream of failed MCCS Superintendents have tried just about everything else, with disastrous results.  Perhaps it's time to give orthodoxy a try.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The CMA is lagging in parishes that lost their schools

The diocese has been updating its online CMA progress page quite regularly of late. I've been visiting every few days and capturing whatever happens to be there at the time. Since I've now got about a month's worth of numbers I thought it might be time to do a little "data mining" and see what information might be buried in all those figures.

One very interesting result has emerged. When all the parishes that kept their schools are treated as one group and all those that had their schools closed are treated as a second group, it is blindingly obvious that the former group is outperforming the latter.

As of last Friday the spread between the two groups was 10.53% of CMA Assessment. Translating that percent to dollars, if the Closed Schools group were pledging at the same rate as the Open Schools group, their combined pledges would be almost $81,000 higher than they actually are.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The CMA is taking a hit at Holy Cross

Today's bulletin seems to confirm what many had expected might happen: The 2008-09 CMA drive appears to be in serious trouble at Holy Cross Church.

Despite many long hours of hard effort on the part of the parish's Stewardship Committee and despite weekly mentions of the importance of the CMA drive from the pulpit, Holy Cross parishioners are being much slower in supporting the CMA this year than they have been in the past:

Thank you to the 200 members of Holy Cross have who pledged a total of $ 27,713 to the Diocesan Ministry Appeal as of November 12. This takes us to 39% of our goal.

At this time last year, the pledges of 281 parishioners had gotten us to 56% of our goal.

Last year Holy Cross had a CMA assessment of $65,019. That and the 56% mentioned in the last sentence tells us that total CMA pledges this time last year were some $36,411.

The number of pledges is down by 81, or 29%:


The total pledged is also down, in this case by almost $8,700, or 24%:


Perhaps the economy has something to do with this downturn, but the sheer magnitude of the numbers would suggest it could only be playing a minor role, if any.

One can only wonder how the other parishes that had their schools closed are doing relative to last year.

Say it ain't so, Papa Ratz!

At the tail end of a piece on the next round of ad limina visits to Rome by the American bishops, Whispers in the Loggia's Rocco Palmo dropped a little bombshell that almost caused me to lose my breakfast.

... the buzz has since gained further steam that the Congregation for Bishops has proposed raising the episcopal retirement age to 78. As with all things, the reported move remains under papal consideration.

As of right now Bishop Matthew Clark has 44 months before he turns 75 and must offer his resignation to the pope. Even given his history of closing parishes, of closing Catholic schools, of putting radical feminists in charge of once solid parishes and thereby driving parishioners out of their pews, of tolerating and even encouraging all sorts of liturgical abuse and of just plain failing to teach the Faith, I thought there still was a chance of DOR surviving those 3+ years somewhat intact.

I am afraid, however, that an additional 36 months of this kind of leadership is more than we will be able to bear.

This is one proposal that His Holiness needs to reject out of hand.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Second Collections, Mass Attendance and Religious Ed

My parish no longer has a Catholic school (thank you, Bishop Clark), but this story on stewardship, Mass attendance and Catholic schools still caught my eye.

One of the reasons is the parish's method of eliminating the need for physically taking up a second collection, a practice of which I've never been a big fan.  The money is still collected, but each parishioner just puts a single check in his/her envelope and, on the front, designates how much of that check goes to each of the various funds.

How simple!

Another interesting part of the story is the dramatic increase in Mass attendance that can come from requiring families with kids in a Catholic school to actually attend weekend Mass or risk losing their parish subsidy.

I wonder if that same approach would work for the families with kids in our religious ed program. We have a policy that kids have to attend religious ed in order to celebrate the Sacrament of Confirmation - which usually happens in the 8th grade - but there is no requirement that they attend weekend Mass.  As a result, on average less than 50% of them actually do. (That's my own observation based on my 5 years as a junior high religious ed catechist.)

Maybe if a kid couldn't get confirmed without showing that he takes his faith seriously enough to attend weekly Mass, that number might go up a bit.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

This Ain't Wal-Mart

Thanks to Fr. Philip Neri Powell, O.P. at Hanc Aquam for the following ...

I had a much longer piece, but I scrapped it for something a lot shorter and more to the point.

1). The Roman Catholic Church isn't WalMart or Burger King; it's the Body of Christ.

2). Catholic priests, nuns, sisters/brothers and laity aren't employees; we are members of the Body of Christ.

3). The doctrine and dogma of the Catholic Church are not consumer products that the Church's employees sell to those who want them; Catholic doctrine and dogma express the unchanging truth of the faith.

4). Life in a Catholic parish is not a trip to Disney Land or Target or McDonald's where your consumer needs and whims are catered to by the whimpering clergy and lay staff; parish life is the life of Christ for the local Catholic family.

5). You do not come into the Catholic Church b/c you like the building better than you like the Methodist chapel; or because the priest at the Catholic parish is cuter than the Baptist preacher; or because you heard that the homilies are shorter at St. Bubba's by the Lake than they are at the Unitarian Church. You come into the Catholic Church because you believe that the Catholic faith is the truth of the gospel taught by Christ himself and given to his apostles.

6). Leaving the Catholic Church because a priest was mean to you, or because sister whacked you with a ruler, or because the church secretary looked at you funny is as stupid as giving up on the truths of math because you hate your high school algebra teacher. Why would anyone let a crazy priest or a cranky nun or anyone else for the matter drive you out of the faith you believe is true? My only conclusion: you never thought it was true to begin with; or, you have a favorite sin the Church teaches against and crazy priests and cranky nuns is as good an excuse as any to leave and pursue your sin all the while feeling justified b/c Father and/or Sister are such jerks.

7). Anyone who comes in the Catholic Church thinking that they will find clouds of angels at Mass dressed as parishioners; hordes of perfect saints kneeling for communion; seminaries packed with angelic young men burning to be priests; a parish hall stacked to the ceiling with morally pure people eager to serve; and a priest without flaw or blemish, well, you're cracked and you probably need to go back and try again. Telling Catholics that they aren't perfect makes as much sense as telling fish they're wet. We know already. Move on.

8). Of the hundreds of priests and religious I know, I know two who could count as saints right now. The rest of us are deeply flawed, impure, struggling creatures who know all too well that we fail utterly to meet the basic standards of holiness. For that matter: so do you. Get in line.

9). The Catholic Church owes no one a revision of her doctrine or dogma. She didn't change to save most of Europe from becoming Protestant, why would you imagine that she would change just to get you in one of her parishes?

10). If you want to become Catholic, do it. But do it because you think the Church teaches the true faith. If a cranky priest on a blogsite is enough to keep you from embracing the truth of the faith, then two things are painfully clear: 1) you do not believe the Church teaches the faith; 2) and you care more about expresssing your hurt consumer feelings than you do for your immortal soul.

Fr. Philip, OP

UPDATE: Yes, I am a priest, and a huge part of my ministry is to console, to be present, to advise, and to try my best to shine out the light of Christ. As a Dominican friar, I do all of that first and best by telling the truth! The best pastoral approach is always to tell the truth, so please, forget the notion that "to be pastoral" is somehow opposed to "telling the truth" or "teaching the faith."

The Truth is Always Pastoral.

Tip: Larry D. at Acts of the Apostasy

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Buffalo Rd. is Watching You

Those of you who are not regular readers of Rich Leonardi's Ten Reasons might be missing out on a very interesting video and accompanying discussion.  It seems that last Saturday at Good Shepherd Parish in Henrietta  a lay person gave a lengthy "reflection" on the readings after the celebrant had delivered a very short homily.

This, sadly, is all too common in DOR. In spite of rather clear written instructions from Rome to the contrary, Bishop Clark feels he has the power to authorize lay people to preach during Mass. The appropriate Vatican officials seem to be aware of this situation but, for reasons known only to them, have yet to take any action.

Anyway, Rich's post is here.

My primary reason for this post is the follow-up Rich has posted, based on one of over 30 comments to his original article. I found a part of this comment so disturbing that I am reprinting it here, with my emphasis applied to the chilling paragraph.

Also, be sure to read the comments in the follow-up to see what Buffalo Rd. considers subversive behavior.

The problem ... is that ...most people sitting in the pews (particularly after 30-odd years of this trash in the DOR) have no clue that what is happening is WRONG, as Rich points out.

Playing fast and loose with the rules like this results in an overall dilution of the liturgy, it seduces the undercatechized lay Catholic into confusion about the proper order of things, promotes acceptance of the unacceptable, and contributes to the decay and decline of the Faith that is prevalent here.

We here in the DOR should NOT say this is "okay" at any time, and we should identify and address these issues each and every time they arise, both locally and on over to Rome.

This past summer's round of closings and reassignments is very telling. IMO, Bp. Clark is going into overdrive to clear out as much orthodoxy and to get rid of "dissenting" (in other words, traditional/orthodox) priests as his DOR days wind down. I know, personally, of two such men who have been brought back from the outer reaches of the Diocese and placed at parishes in close proximity with "Buffalo Road," and not by happenstance. They are suddenly seeing DOR personnel attending daily Masses with pen and paper in plain sight.

It is appalling and humiliating to be asked to pray for vocations each week when you see what is being done to the few we already have here.

Interestingly, the DOR is advertising for a Diocesan Director of Liturgy to supervise and homogenize the liturgy throughout the Diocese. I'm sure the ideal candidate will be one that is a poster child for "diversity," and I'll bet money no clerical collar will be worn by the final selection.

It's Payback Time

Last winter after Bishop Clark announced he was closing 13 Monroe County Catholic schools, parents and others involved with 6 of them decided they would make an attempt to keep their schools open. Save-our-school committees were formed and educational and financial plans were developed that would have allowed each of them to operate independently of the diocese.

But the bishop still said no. As he wrote in what others have described as a form letter, "despite the helpful information provided, the exciting proposals presented and the heartfelt pleas of your people, I must continue to recommend the closing of [insert school name here] this June for the good of the whole."

Now it looks like their efforts have earned these 6 parishes a little "reward" in the form of increased average CMA assessments for the 2008-09 fiscal year.

The 2008-09 CMA assessments for each parish in the diocese are now posted on dor.org. The spreadsheet below lists those assessments, as well as the assessments for last year, for each of the 12 parishes still in existence that have lost their schools.

It turns out that the 6 parishes that tried to save their schools have seen their 2008-09 CMA assessments increase by an average of $2,304, or 2.8%, while the 6 parishes that did not are enjoying an average reduction of $1,025, or 2.3%.

But what about the parishes whose schools were not closed? Well it sure looks like DOR has decided they can't afford to pay much more.

Pay-Back Open Schools

The 11 parishes whose schools have remained open have seen just a mere $600, or 0.6%, increase in their average CMA assessment. It is true that DOR has cut back on its payments to parishes with schools, so perhaps this relatively small increase is justified.

Each of the other 12 parishes, however, still has an empty building that needs to be heated and maintained and that is bringing in little or no revenue. Why are some of these parishes seeing a reduction in their average assessments while the others - those who, in effect, protested the bishop's decision - seeing a significant increase?

Is DOR trying to teach us a lesson here?

[Note: This is the second version of this post. As Dr. K. notes in a comment below, I had originally overlooked St. John the Evangelist's efforts to save their school in the original version. This correction alters the averages somewhat, but the big picture remains unchanged.]

Monday, October 13, 2008

Stewardship, but to what end?

A couple of weeks ago Pope Benedict XVI addressed a group of representatives of Italian Catholic educational centers.  While his talk focused primarily on Catholic schools in Italy, he did make some observations of a wider scope.

According to a Zenit article His Holiness concluded that

The Catholic school has an important role ... as it is the instrument of the "Church's salvific mission" in which "the close union is achieved between the proclamation of the faith and the promotion of man."

This article drew a response from a deacon of the Archdiocese of Mobile who wrote,

Two of my children live where a new Catholic high school has just been built: tuition is $10,000 a year. They feel that Catholic schools are elitist! Are they wrong?

Shortly thereafter the mother of 4 graduates of Mobile Catholic elementary and high schools replied that, while Catholic education is expensive,

None of our 4 have come through history regretting the Catholic education they received. After all of the complaining they may have done while suffering through adolescence, and its demands, each one has said at one point or another, that the value of their faith-filled education has helped them to understand basic human dignity. Does that sound elitist?

These charges of elitism arise, of course, from the fact that not all families can afford the cost of a Catholic education for their children.  They would lose some of their steam if Catholic schools could be made more affordable and would disappear entirely if they were free.

Free? Before anyone decides I'm out of my mind the latest letter in this chain assures us that this is not a fantasy and shows us how it can be done.

I live in the Diocese of Wichita, Kansas, and we have an amazing success with stewardship. Our Catholic schools are full! We have over 3,000 high school kids in 3 schools and every grade school is full. The reason? Not because we all have tons of money, but because this diocese is entirely run on stewardship. We give of our time, talent, and treasure. We are asked to tithe 8% to our parish and there is no tuition charged to attend any of the Catholic schools. Each parish pays for every student that wants to go. Those whose children are grown and still tithe are helping to pay for the younger ones. It works wonderfully!

Here in DOR we talk about stewardship, but to what end? With the diocese having lost almost 25% of its church-going members within just the last 7 years, many of the more cynical, myself included, see the heightened emphasis on stewardship as a rather transparent attempt to get more treasure out of the fewer numbers of people who remain in our pews.

And as far as the time and talent aspects of stewardship are concerned, DOR lost all credibility when it recently came to light that it had brushed aside credible offers of help from qualified people who, as far back as 30 months ago, realized that the MCCS System was in serious trouble.  DOR didn't even have the courtesy to answer their letters.

True stewardship, as the Diocese of Wichita has shown, makes spreading the faith one of its primary missions. Success in that mission comes by way of a strong system of Catholic schools attended by a large majority of the Catholic students in the diocese.

When DOR wakes up to that fact it can start talking to me about stewardship.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Red Mass draws maybe 100

FatherDOR reports by email that this year's Red Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral drew approximately 100 people. This estimate matches up well with the report in the D&C that

Dozens of lawyers, judges and others attended the midday Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral on Flower City Park.

Normal attendance for the midday Mass at Sacred Heart is 30 to 50 people according to FatherDOR, so it sure seems that there were not very many members of the legal community present.

The Red Mass used to be celebrated at Our Lady of Victory Church, in the heart of the downtown area where most of the legal community works.  Between 200 and 300 people used to attend, according to a September 9, 2004 report in the D&C.

When Bishop Clark moved the Mass to the cathedral last year attendance dropped sharply.  Moving the Mass out of the downtown area is certainly one of the causes of this decline.  A second cause could be the reported boycott of the cathedral by some members of the legal community who are unhappy with its recent renovation.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Holy Cross' CMA assessment raised more than 9%

On the heels of closing its K-8 elementary school last June, Bishop Matthew Clark has rubbed a little salt into still-open wounds at Holy Cross Parish by raising its 2008-09 Catholic Ministries Appeal "goal" some $6,000, or 9.2%.

("Goal" is the DOR euphemism for the amount of money a parish is required to raise. Parishes not reaching their "goal" have the difference taken out of their Sunday collections. I therefore prefer "assessment," as it is a much more honest description of what is actually taking place.)

According to this week's bulletin the parish had $70,492 in pledges last year, but only $65,500 of that amount was actually collected by the diocese. Still, Holy Cross managed to exceed its 2007-08 assessment by about $500 due largely, I'm sure, to the fact that most of that money had been collected prior to the bishop's announcement that he was closing Holy Cross School and his subsequent refusal to allow Holy Cross to operate its school independently of the MCCS bureaucracy and the DOR treasury.

Holy Cross Pastor Fr. Tom Wheeland preached an eloquent homily this morning on the subject of stewardship, part of which focused on the need to support the diocesan appeal. It now remains to be seen just how many deaf ears his words may have fallen upon.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Lawyers to boycott Red Mass?

Today's D&C tells us that Bishop Matthew Clark will celebrate the annual Red Mass for the local legal community this Friday.  The Mass will be at Sacred Heart Cathedral and begins at 12:15 pm, with a reception to follow.

In an email reader fatherdor writes,

Many Catholic lawyers in the Rochester community will not attend the Red Mass at Scared Heart Cathedral.  The mass took place in Our Lady of Victory Church for many years and now Bishop Matthew Clark is forcing the mass to be held at the cathedral.

The majority of the lawyers and judges work in downtown Rochester, where our Lady of Victory is located.  Many Catholics in the legal community opposed the cathedral renovation and feel that it looks like a concert hall instead of a church.

It will be interesting to see just how well attended the Red Mass will be.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

I already have my opinion. Don't bother me with facts.

Rowan Williams, the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, took part in an international Mass yesterday at Lourdes, France.  The Mass was part of the 150th anniversary celebrations of the apparitions of Our Lady to St. Bernadette Soubirous.

Protestant fundamentalists lost no time in taking Dr. Williams to task.  According to one report,

The Rev. Jeremy Brooks ... said: "All true Protestants will be appalled that the archbishop of Canterbury has visited Lourdes and preached there.

"Lourdes represents everything about Roman Catholicism that the Protestant Reformation rejected, including apparitions, Mariolatry and the veneration of saints," he said in a Sept. 24 statement.

Rev. Brooks seems oblivious to the dozens, if not hundreds, of well documented cures that have taken place at Lourdes over the last century and a half.

His tone leads one to suspect that he could be presented with boxes of X-rays, lab tests and medical reports and his only reply would be, "Please! I already have my opinion.  Don't bother me with facts."

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

"A mission everyone can and should support"

Yesterday's D&C story on the official kickoff of DOR's 2008-09 Catholic Ministries Appeal has garnered a very interesting comment from redandwhite:

This is a mission everyone can and should support," Clark said in a statement. "The CMA is about taking care of one another — family, neighbors and those in need. It is about passing on the faith and spreading the good news to others so that they, too, can receive the light of Christ.................."

Hmmmmm, the same could have been said of his Catholic School system. Oh well, good luck with this years' CMA drive, hope they don't need another organ or stained glass window this year.

Monday, September 22, 2008

"We can't walk away from Catholic schools."

How do you keep Catholic schools open in the inner city? Well, if you're Archbishop Donald Wuerl, you reach out to businesses, foundations and other faith leaders and ask for help.


While he was in Pittsburgh this approach raised enough money to keep about 1,000 inner city kids in Catholic schools.  Now that he's in charge of the Archdiocese of Washington he's launched a similar program that has thus far raised $2 million and is supporting about 445 students.

What a contrast with DOR.  Here we close most of our schools in the poorer areas of the county and keep most of the schools in the wealthier areas open. 

The Archbishop says, "We can't walk away from Catholic schools."  It's too bad our brother Matthew doesn't have the same outlook.

The full story is posted here.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Going Once, Going Twice ...

According to the online notice this is the second and final day of an auction of the remaining items removed by the MCCS System from the 13 Catholic schools closed by Bishop Clark last June.

The notice lists the following items as being up for auction:
  • 6' & 8' BANQUET TABLES,
  • 30/40 OFFICE DECKS,
  • 4' SHOW CASE,
  • 10' TABLES,
  • TOYS,
Most of this stuff looks fairly portable and one imagines was just loaded onto hand trucks and wheeled out of various school buildings.

The "LAB COUNTERS W/-SINKS," however, are a different matter. Plumbing and possibly electrical lines had to be disconnected to get them out. It sure looks like the MCCS System people are getting every buck they can out of this.

One wonders if the dumpsters will soon return to haul off whatever doesn't sell.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Dr. K. Spots a Pattern

In a comment on Rich Leonardi's Narcissa takes a bow, Dr. Knowledge may have discovered the hidden agenda behind parish clusterings in DOR.  After commenting on Sr. Joan Sobala's August 17th bulletin announcement regarding last Sunday's installation Mass Dr. K. adds,

Something that worried me in the same bulletin is the reasoning she gave for why Our Lady of Lourdes was chosen as the worship site. Sr. Joan said: "Why Lourdes and not St. Anne for this event? The capacity of Lourdes is 619. The capacity of St. Anne is almost 300 smaller."

Now if we look back on the various church closings in our area over the past few years, we'll see that they all began as a clustering of churches, but eventually the new clustered parishes decided to eliminate buildings and choose the "best" church for the single worship site of the community.

St. Monica, Ss. Peter and Paul, St. Augustine, and Our Lady of Good Counsel merged and eventually closed all but St. Monica, perhaps the largest of the buildings in terms of seating (sit in the back of St. Monica and tell me that the priest and deacon do not look like small ants).

Most Precious Blood, Holy Rosary, and the Cathedral clustered. Two churches were closed, and the community worships at a single worship site, the Cathedral.

Holy Apostles, Holy Family, and St. Anthony clustered. Two closed, and now the community worships at one site, Holy Apostles.

Starting to notice a pattern here? Sr. Joan stated that OLoL has almost twice the seating of St. Anne's church. So should the time come when they decide they want one worship site, who do you think they'll settle on? The one with 600+ seats, or the one with something over 300?

Granted, this won't happen tomorrow, but looking at history, and this Bishop's quick reaction to close churches and conglomerate communities, it's quite a possibility in his last 4 years.

Especially consider that we're losing priests left and right to retirement or death as time is going on. If they have the community reside at St. Anne, they probably wouldn't be able to support a combined community of 1000-1300 people in the smaller church, since there may only be 1 priest in this community eventually, and a priest can only preside over 3 weekend Masses per week (I believe). Who knows. But these are things that definitely should be thought about.

The good Doctor just may be on to something here.  Has there ever been a case of parish clustering in DOR that has not ultimately led to the closing of all churches in the cluster, save one?  Anybody know?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Update on Former Catholic School Buildings

Channel 13 News has aired a story reporting on the status of several of the buildings formerly occupied by the 13 Catholic schools closed by Bishop Clark last June. According to Channel 13,

  • The Good Shepherd building now hosts about 90 kindergartners from the Rush-Henrietta School District. They will be there until an addition to the Leary School is completed.
  • The former St. Monica building is now the Rochester Academy Charter School, with about 165 students in grades 7 through 12.
  • The Holy Family School On Jay Street is for sale.
  • Holy Trinity School in Webster is leasing some classrooms.
  • St. Boniface hopes to open next year as a prep school.
  • Holy Cross in Charlotte is hanging on to its school, hoping someday it can open as a Catholic school again.

Sr. Joan "Installed" as Pastoral Administrator

Rich Leonardi at Ten Reasons has published an account, complete with videos and a link to photos, of the Installation Mass for Sr. Joan Sobala as Pastoral Administrator for the Our Lady of Lourdes/St. Anne cluster.


St. Joan is a vocal proponent of female ordination and the Women's Ordination Conference has identified her as one who is "key to the survival and success of the movement for women's ordination" and who has kept "the lamp burning in dark times."  She frequently wears a white, alb-like robe during Mass and has been observed wearing a crucifix with a female corpus and extending her arms toward the altar during the consecration, as if con-celebrating.

The celebrant of the Mass was none other than Bishop Matthew Clark. Assisting him were at least one priest (my former pastor, Fr. Gary Tyman) and one deacon, according to the photographs. Despite the presence of at least three ordained clergy, a portion of the homily was delivered by the cluster's Pastoral Associate, Sr. Roberta Rodenhouse.

Sr. Joan's appointment as Pastoral Administrator seems to be having an effect on Mass attendance at St. Anne. One comment to Rich's post reports that a recent Sunday Mass had about 70 people in attendance, down from the usual 200 -300 in pre-Sr. Joan times.

I wonder what the Bishop's rationalization will be when he closes St. Anne in the not too distant future.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Bishop Clark Continues To Stonewall

Friday evening Channel 10 News aired a story on the first full week for Catholic schools in Monroe County.

The mother of a former Catherine McAulley student who now attends Our Mother of Sorrows didn't sound all that happy with her family's current situation.

I don't want to say forced, but some parents really didn't have a big option and their children went back into the public school system and that's unfortunate because I think the choices were so limiting.

After mentioning that her son's new school is both further away and lacks a gymnasium, the parent added,

We got together with the moms at Holy Cross. And we hoped that if we joined together over there, we would fill the school, which we were able to do in numbers and commitments. But the Diocese still refused to keep the school open over there.

Reporter Ray Levato caught up with Bishop Clark at a sneak preview of the new organ at Sacred Heart Cathedral. Levato reports that the Bishop "would not talk about the Catholic schools situation."

The Bishop can stonewall all he wants but it doesn't look like that tactic is going to silence all those parents and other parishioners who still have dozens of unanswered questions.

And the CMA drive is starting in a couple of months.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Religious Ed programs will never be enough

(All emphasis in the following is mine.)

While exploring the web site of the Diocese of Tulsa I came across an article occasioned by Pope Benedict XVI's comments on Catholic education during his recent visit to this country. 

The authors pick up on His Holiness' ongoing critique of relativism, observing that the Church's

essential missionary thrust in the world has been neutralized by the acceptance of a seductive relativism that proclaims that since what may be true for me may not be true for you since everyone’s opinion is equally (or relatively) true.

It is within the context of this confrontation between the universal truth of the Gospel ... and the rampant relativism and subjectivity of our age ... that the Pontiff addressed our indispensable need for Catholic education.

It is the task of our Catholic educational institutions to combat what then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger termed the "dictatorship of relativism."

In our educational institutions we grow in our knowledge of Him and are strengthened so that we can give unfailing witness to the truth of that encounter in an open, public forum.

The authors then make the case that religious education programs simply cannot accomplish this goal.

It must be conceded that this is a task beyond even the finest parish religious education programs. No Sunday school program, no matter how complete the content of its textbooks, how deep the commitment of its volunteers or joyful they are in their service, is capable of building the kind of social community which is founded in this kind of culture and which is capable of revealing in itself the interior life and mission of the Church.

They cannot do this because they will always be secondary to the primary education of their students, which is secular and relativistic.

[Religious education] classes add an additional class to the secular curriculum, but this one class, this one hour [75 minutes at my parish] a week, is not capable of revealing the dangerous deficiencies of secular assumptions, because by adding one class in religious studies on Sunday or on Wednesdays [Mondays at my parish], we actually reinforce the secular presumption that religion has both its value and place, but separate and apart from the things of “the real world.” We accept implicitly the world’s judgment that the things of God are one of its many categories of inquiry and God Himself just one “thing” among all the rest to be studied.

I think it is imperative that we acknowledge and accept that our first and foremost effort in religious education must be to revitalize our Catholic schools and do whatever is necessary to make certain that every family in the Diocese has the right to this kind of religious education for their children.

As someone who is beginning his 5th year as a junior high catechist I could not agree more.  While I am still learning my craft - and always will be - it has already become blindingly obvious that the parish religious education setting, no matter how good it might be in its own right, is but a poor second to the day in and day out exposure to the Catholic faith and culture that takes place in a Catholic elementary school.

That is why Catholic schools should be among the highest priorities in every diocese.

That they are not in this diocese is one of the primary reasons we are in such sad shape.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

It's Scary, All Right

Neighborhood-wide mailings must be paying off for some of our separated brethren.

Not all that that long ago all I received were invitations to Christmas and Easter services from two or three local Protestant churches. Then, a couple of years ago, Vacation Bible School mailings began to appear in my mailbox.

Today's mail brought the above announcement of a parenting-related series of Sunday sermons from a nearby non-denominational group.

The six Catholic parishes in my immediate area have been losing almost 4% of their combined parishioners year in and year out for the last 10 years. (In 1998 we had over 8,300 folks in our collective pews; by 2007 more than 2,500 of them had disappeared.) I suspect the main culprit is far too many years of adult catechesis ranging from the merely anemic to the totally non-existent. This, coupled with the "liberal" Catholic outlook of some of our current and former pastoral staff, explains a lot.

But I also have to wonder just how much of a role mailings like this are playing in that decline.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

"Right To Choose" Advocate to Host Forum at Catholic Church

From Monroerising.com ...

Does Bishop Clark Know What’s Going On At Our Lady Mercy Church in Greece?

Posted on September 1st, 2008 by The Equalizer

We received an e-mail about a political forum that RICHard Dollinger is having Tuesday night at our Lady of Mercy Church in Greece.  The writer asked a legitimate question — Why would Bishop Clark allow the church to host an event that will include numerous people who are openly hostile to the Catholic faith?

I decided to write an open letter to the Bishop.

Dear Bishop Clark:

It has recently been brought to our attention that Richard Dollinger will be using Our Lady of Mercy Church to host a forum for his political campaign.  Under normal circumstances, I would have no objection to this, but Dollinger’s campaign is anything but normal.

His campaign is based in using his opponant’s objection to abortion on demand as a central part of his campaign.  In fact he sent out a press release that said the following:

“My opponent, Joe Robach, stands firmly against women’s right to choose, and if it were dependent upon his misguided wisdom, women in New York State would be stripped of these rights,” continued Dollinger.

One of his main backers in his political campaign is the woman suing the town of Greece for inviting local clergy to say prayers at their meetings — in fact, she had a recent letter to the editor stating that “atheists are a fast growing community and “they are here to stay.” This woman and her friends from NOW disrupted a Woman’s Health Fair because of Dollinger’s opponants stand on abortion.

Another principle of his campaign is his unabashed support for gay marriage. In fact he said this to a gay newspaper:

“I come from a big Catholic family and I think the concept of couples who are committed to each other being able to have that commitment recognized is an important one,” Dollinger said. “How can anybody be against more families, more stable relationships, more stable family households? It’s both the logical thing to do and the right thing to do.”

I’m a believer in the seperation of church and state, but allowing Dollinger to use a Catholic church for his political campaign makes a mockery of the Catholic faith.  Please reconsider the decision to allow this event to take place at Our Lady of Mercy on Tuesday night.


The Equalizer

More Doublespeak From Buffalo Rd.

One of the great benefits we were told would come from the closure of 13 Monroe County Catholic schools and the accompanying drop in tuition at the remaining 11 would be to make Catholic education a more affordable option for our families.

Clark said that ... lowering tuition to make a Catholic education more affordable was imperative. (Erica Bryant, "As Bishop Announces Closures, Catholic High Schools Plan to Expand", D&C, January 19, 2008)

Bishop Matthew Clark in January announced plans to close 13 Catholic schools, saying the cost-cutting move would allow the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester to lower typical tuition at its Monroe County schools from ... to make it affordable for more families. (Erica Bryant, "Hefty re-enrollments fill Catholic schools", D&C, March 26, 2008).

This lower [tuition] rate will make a Catholic education more affordable for more people, thereby increasing enrollment and further strengthening our remaining schools. (Bishop Clark, Letter to Catholic School Parents/Guardians, January 18, 2008).

The lower tuition rate is expected to stem the decline in enrollment and make a Catholic education more affordable to more families. (Catholic Schools Q&A, DOR web site)

The much lower tuition rate will greatly increase the ability of families to afford a Catholic education at our schools and is intended to draw new families to them. (Restructuring initiative addresses critical financial issues facing Catholic Schools; tuition rate to drop 27%, DOR web site, January 18, 2008)

Not so!

What the Bishop and the diocese somehow failed to mention was that along with the decrease in tuition would also come a decrease in available financial aid. For many families the net effect is an increase in their overall tuition bill.

Only in DOR would higher out-of-pocket expense be called "more affordable."

George Orwell is alive and well and doing PR work for DOR.

See the story in today's D&C.

Update: Channel 10 News has posted a similar story.

One mother with 2 children in the MCCS System is quoted as saying, "I had averaged over the past several years approximately $2,500 to $3,000 in Diocese financial aid per year. And this year I'm receiving $500."

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

MCCS Trash

The large white tent is gone from the bus loop in front of the old school building at Our Lady of Mercy Parish. The auction/sale of the desks, chairs and other items removed from the 13 schools closed by Bishop Clark is apparently over, although much clutter is still visible through the building's windows.

In the space formerly occupied by the tent there is now a large blue dumpster.

As of this morning the dumpster is empty. However, reader Dan reports by email that it was "filled to the top" yesterday, so at least one load of "trash" has already been hauled away.

One can only wonder what the MCCS System people are throwing out.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Hospitality and Warmth

In yesterday's Along The Way column at CatholicCourier.com Bishop Clark reports on a visit he made last Sunday with the parishioners of St. Mary of the Lake and the Epiphany and St. Rose Chapels.

These people, along with representatives of four other communities, have been heavily involved in the Pastoral Planning process, trying to determine how to configure their parishes and chapels to make the best use of the services of the three priests available to them.  By all reports, including the Bishop's, the work has been "challenging."

One issue these people have not had to contend with is the forced closing of a Catholic school in their area.  That is, I believe, the only reason the Bishop could write,

As is always the case when I visit parish communities, I noted the hospitality and warmth of the people.

If he were to visit the people of, say, Holy Trinity, Good Shepherd, Holy Cross, St. John of Rochester, etc., I believe he would have to rewrite that sentence, replacing "hospitality and warmth" with something like "confusion, anger and unanswered questions."

Therefore, "as is always the case" with Bishop Clark, I expect him to stay miles away from these parishes.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Corning Museum "Green Glass Thingie"

[This post is totally off-topic but, what the heck, it's my blog.]

Six years ago my three granddaughters and I took a trip to Corning where we toured the Corning Museum of Glass and did lots of shopping on Market St.

Just inside the main entrance to the museum is a large glass sculpture one of my granddaughters named the "green glass thingie" and the girls paused for a photo in front of it.

The trip to Corning has since become an annual family tradition and just isn't complete without the photo in front of the "thingie." Here is the 2002 photo along side yesterday's 2008 version.

In a mere 6 years three cute little girls have grown into three lovely young ladies - and I've added a couple of gray hairs.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Bishop gives the CMA a head start

Bishop Matthew Clark has unofficially kicked off the 2008-09 Catholic Ministries Appeal with today's Along The Way column at CatholicCourier.com.

Reporting on organizational meetings that took place this week, the Bishop gives an upbeat perspective on the efforts going into this year's campaign.

With the CMA traditionally supplying about half of the diocese's operating budget, its various committees may have to work overtime this year to meet their goal.

Many of us can still hear the doors of 13 former Catholic schools slamming shut for the last time and still have literally dozens of unanswered questions about the process used and, indeed, the competence of those making the decisions.

The Bishop's only hope for getting any money out of these folks would be to finally end his stonewalling and provide some real answers.

I'm not holding my breath.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Going ... Going ... Gone!

A large white tent has been set up in the bus loop in front of the school building at Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Greece and boxes of books and other items are being moved out of the building and into the tent.

A parishioner there tells me that there will soon be an auction of most, if not all, of the school furniture, books and other items that MCCS System has been storing in the OLM building for the last several weeks (see here). He has been told a couple of different dates for the auction, with the earliest being tomorrow.

This probably cannot happen soon enough to please the local fire chief. The same parishioner reports that the chief is concerned that all the clutter showing through the windows is indicative of unsafe conditions inside. He is said to be considering an official inspection - which could result in the loss of the parish's Certificate of Occupancy for the building - if everything is not gone within days.

Friday, August 8, 2008

New MCCS System Warehouse

I recently drove past Our Lady of Mercy Parish on Denise Rd. and saw what looked to be an uncharacteristic amount of clutter in almost all of the second floor windows of the old school building. I circled the block and went past slowly and realized I was looking at chaotic piles of desks, chairs and other school furniture filling four of the old classrooms. Pulling into the parking lot on the other side of the building revealed another four classrooms crammed full of cardboard boxes and more furniture.

OLM closed its school in the early '80s and had almost no school furniture remaining in the building when I was last inside it about a year ago, so all of this stuff had to come from one or more of the 13 Catholic schools the Bishop forced to close two months ago.

The view from the parking lot is bad enough, although only parishioners coming to Mass are likely to see it. But the view from Denise Rd. must really be irritating to the neighbors across the street. One would think the MCCS System functionaries at least could have hung some cheap curtains prior to piling up all their stuff, instead of creating this eyesore.

Update: I've been asked how these photos were produced. Both were generated using the free, demo version of Autostitch and both are amalgams of several overlapping photos all taken from the some location. My only departure from the default parameters was to set the Output Size width to 3,000 pixels in the Edit --> Options panel.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Sr. Joan & Jesus' Awareness of his nature and mission

CatholicCourier.com has posted an article reporting on Sister Joan Sobala's July 28 Theology on Tap presentation.  Her topic was "Jesus and the In Between Times: Finding Jesus During Times of Transition."

According to the article,

[Sister Sobala] said we can instead model our transitions on Jesus, who throughout his life grew in awareness of who he was and what he was to do.

"The life of Jesus was a series of transitions," Sister Sobala remarked.

Sometimes transitions were not of his own making, Sister Sobala noted, including the time when a Phoenician woman from Syria, who asked for a miracle for her daughter, taught him to serve Gentiles as well as Jews. In another instance of a transformation, she said Jesus learned from Mary, his mother, to be accepting and flexible after Mary called on him to perform a miracle at the wedding at Cana.

In other instances, Jesus played the main role in transforming his life and the lives of others. Sister Sobala said one example of this was when he directed his Apostles to feed the multitudes with the few loaves and fishes that they had.

She said Jesus knew by the end of his life that he was loved by God, and he was able to share that love even as he was tormented. She said young adults should take away the lesson from Scripture that they are loved by God, no matter what happens.

Paragraphs 473 and 474 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church deal with Jesus' awareness of his divine nature.  It is interesting to contrast the highlighted quotes above with this authentic Church teaching:

473 But at the same time, this truly human knowledge of God's Son expressed the divine life of his person. "The human nature of God's Son, not by itself but by its union with the Word, knew and showed forth in itself everything that pertains to God." Such is first of all the case with the intimate and immediate knowledge that the Son of God made man has of his Father. The Son in his human knowledge also showed the divine penetration he had into the secret thoughts of human hearts.

474 By its union to the divine wisdom in the person of the Word incarnate, Christ enjoyed in his human knowledge the fullness of understanding of the eternal plans he had come to reveal. What he admitted to not knowing in this area, he elsewhere declared himself not sent to reveal.

It would seem that Sister Joan has strayed more than a bit from Church teaching in this area and has passed on those errors to the young adult Catholics involved in Theology on Tap.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Installation Ahead

The Catholic Courier has posted a story on the clustering of Our Lady of Lourdes and St. Anne.

The cluster plans to mark its formation with a Mass celebrated by Bishop Matthew H. Clark at 10:30 a.m. Sept. 14 at Our Lady of Lourdes, 150 Varinna Drive. Following the Mass, all will be invited to a noon concert at St. Anne, 1600 Mt. Hope Ave., followed by a reception that will run until 2 p.m.

This is quite different in tone - and spin - from Sr. Joan Sobala's announcement in Our Lady of Lourdes' bulletin.

On Sunday September 14, Bishop Clark will come to our cluster to pray with us as we move into this still-new way of being and to install me officially as the pastoral leader of the cluster. (emphasis added)

One of my wildest hopes is that a whole bunch of parishioners show up for the event wearing white bed sheets - er, make that "baptismal garments" - so as to show solidarity with Sr. Joan.

An Epilogue from the Sad Saga

GSS at The Sad Saga has posted the following epilogue.  It speaks for itself.

This blog began with a single intent -- to provide information on the Rochester Catholic School closings to a community being kept in the dark by its own diocesan leaders. A few months later, with more than 21,000 unique visitors from around the world having read the 160 separate blog posts, it's time to reflect back, and to focus on the future.

First, the "Sad Saga" blog is not disappearing. I'll keep it active as a resource for all the other Catholics around the U.S. facing similar school closing situations, and for the members of the Diocese of Rochester, who may be encouraged to ask much harder questions of Bishop Clark and his staff, as well as scrutinize the diocesan finances. The mismanagement of the school system is but a symptom of much larger ills.

Second, many of you have asked what my family's plans entail. We made the decision this past week to remove our children from the MCCS system, and to place them into public school. While this was made in part on geography (we're soon moving to a town even more distant from a Catholic school that remains, with the benefit of an outstanding small public school district), it was also based on principle. The incompetence of the MCCS administration, its unwillingness to engage parents and school staff in the search for viable solutions, and its unending secrecy and silence on the matter is -- quite simply -- inexcusable. These are not the values that we want our children to learn. While the Catholic school to which we had obtained slots is wonderful in its own right, we could not overlook that it too was governed by the individuals directly responsible for this year's closures. The outlook for the broader system, in my view, is grim at best.

Third, some of you have asked for my views on Bishop Clark specifically. I have met the Bishop, and I truly believe he is a man of God. That said, based on the experiences of the past few months, I do not believe him to be an effective leader. Yes, a leader should make sometimes drastic, harsh decisions, even in the face of massive criticism. But at the same time, that same leader should be among his flock, working hand-in-hand with them to search for alternate solutions, explaining his decision pathways, and always, always listening. Likewise, a leader should replace or re-educate staff whose poor decisions are at the root of an issue. Bishop Clark exhibited none of these qualities; instead, he hoped prayed that the matter would simply disappear with time. So, should he step down or be removed? That's up to a higher authority, but I can only share my strong belief that in light of the schools situation, he is certainly not fit to lead Rochester's Catholics at this time.

Lastly, I want to thank all of you -- the parents, administrators, teachers, staff, family members, community members, and blog readers who kept us going through this difficult time. Because of you, I am certain that no matter the path we all choose to take, our children will be well prepared for success. Remember that throughout this ordeal, the focus has been singular -- it's been about the children.

Also, I'd like to give thanks to the members of the Rochester news media, who continued to dig for the truth even when it was evident that diocesan officials would stonewall to the best of their abilities. A special thanks goes out to Jeff Blackwell, whose 10-part multimedia series on Good Shepherd School was orchestrated with professionalism, humility, and compassion.

It has been my pleasure to help bring life to your passion on this issue, and I wish you only the best.

Pittsburgh Catholic School Tuition Free

An article in yesterday's Pittsburgh Tribune-Review shows just how much a determined pastor and committed parishioners can accomplish.  Since 1983 St. Gabriel of the Sorrowful Virgin Catholic School has been tuition-free for every one of its 390 students.

Staying free matters, according to [Pastor John] Haney, school officials and parish members, because of the pride, sense of community and passion it creates. They have done it for one another and God through tithing, said parishioner Francis Nowalk, 79...

"It's incredible what they are able to do," said Robert Paserba, superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

About 2,300 families live in St. Gabriel of the Sorrowful Virgin parish. The school's budget is about $1.3 million a year, Haney said. The cost per student is about $3,300. All of that evens out to about $565 per parish family.

Some think the parish has an endowment, but it doesn't, Haney said. The collection plate on Sunday helps pay for the school. Haney doesn't expect 10 percent of a parishioner's salary as the Bible suggests.

"People are generous," said Bill Nee, whose sixth and youngest child is starting fifth grade this summer. "There is no required payments. There are no hidden payments. It just comes from the generosity of the people of the parish."

Haney didn't know how to cover education costs about 10 years ago. He lost sleep just before the school year started because he had $80,000 in teacher salary increases.

He was ready to use an outside fundraising plan to ensure the school survived tuition-free when Nowalk approached him about tithing.

It was in the Bible, Nowalk said, 1 Corinthians 16:2: "On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come."

Haney wasn't sure it would work, but it has so far. The parishioners have always responded when money was in need, Haney said.

He said he doesn't beg for money, and it isn't a pulpit topic. Instead, Haney gives a state of the parish address each fall so the church knows the financial situation. And if families can't give money, volunteering "time and talent," is vital for the school.

"People make their own decision when tithing," Haney said. "Tithing makes the person, not the pastor, share the responsibility."

The parish even made T-shirts that called the school "the miracle on Greenridge Drive," referring to the school's address.

Haney estimates about 75 percent of the children wouldn't attend the school if it charged tuition, because he considers the parish area's public school system, Baldwin-Whitehall School District, a good district.

St. Gabriel Principal Barbara Sawyer noted that five students in the 2008 eighth-grade class of 35 were moving on to a Catholic high school. The previous graduating class sent 18 of 35 students to a parochial school, she said. She wasn't sure that the souring economy was solely the factor, but it certainly mattered.

Having a school perks up the church grounds, Haney said. He celebrates Mass twice weekly with the students, which is always a lively affair. The physical education classes outside fill his days with noise and laughter.

And student success brings the parish together, he said, citing the girls basketball team's 2007 state diocesan championship and the eighth-grade math team's No. 1 national ranking in an online education program.

"They energize you, I'll tell you that," he said. "That's why I'm still going at 73."

Friday, July 25, 2008

Father Joan and Sister Tyman

Those of you who are not regular readers of Rich Leonardi's Ten Reasons will likely have missed an eye-opening report on the transfer of pastoral leadership at Rochester's St. Anne Church. The account, reproduced below, is in the form of a comment to Rich's June 13 post on DOR's Theology On Tap program and comes from a former member of St. Anne.

Rich adds his own observations on Anonymous' comment here.

At 10:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a PAST member of Saint Anne's Church, (having just recently left) and I did so because of the blatant audacity of the woman newly in charge, Sr. Joan Sobala.

At the "third informational meeting" held before she was officially acting as the administrator, she made 2 statements, in front of a good size representation of the congregation, when asked if some of the previous traditional liturgical practices would remain the same at Saint Anne's. She replied, "I AM what I AM and it IS what it IS".

When asked about wanting to become a priest, she announced quite boldly, "It is no secret that since 1975, I have wanted to become a priest." When asked by a parishoner if she understood that this was against the acceptance of the Catholic Church, she told the parishoner that he was "out of line". This was very confusing to many of us, as we still cannot figure out exactly what or who, it IS she THINKS she IS.

The running joke now is that "Father Joan" and "Sister Tyman" are running this parish.

(Incidentally, in his welcoming address printed in the church bulletin,) Father Tyman, as he mandates being called, (and does not EVER want to be referred to as Father Gary,) stated that one could call him Gary, or Father Tyman, but never Father Gary; reason being that one would never think to call their OWN doctor by his or her first name, preceded by his or her title. I beg to differ, as some of the most famous doctors and clergy are called by "Dr." followed by their first names, such as "Dr. Phil", "Dr. Laura", and of course, Padre Pio, Mother Teresa, Saint Mary, Saint Joseph, Saint Anne and the list goes on.

The final straw was when Sister ("Wanna-be-Father") Joan mandated that a very strategic handicapped parking space located in the front of the church was altered to now read, "Reserved" instead of holding the universal handicapped symbol, as once was. There are many ample parking spaces at Saint Anne's. We are all wondering why Sr. Joan had the RIGHT to "RESERVE" a very necessary parking space that once allowed a handicapped person, to utilize the convenience of parking closer to the church; to now be able to make it HER space, because she refuses to walk a few more feet to get to the church. Is it all because she is "getting off" on the fact that she is, in fact "the boss" as she has so often referred to herself? I may be wrong, but I think there is a violation hiding in there, somewhere. Maybe the Americans with Disabilities Act people should be contacted, and maybe she should be put in her audacious place, once and for all.

Last but not least, on that fateful June 24th day, when there was the very sad but true, "out with the old, in with the new" situation going on, Father Tyman unloaded his personal affects, even before the other two priests were even out of the building. It was 2 in the afternoon, a moving truck was parked in the parking lot and there were Oriental rugs going in, antique furniture, and more things too numerous to mention, that did not resemble the trappings of a priest in residence. What happened to the vow of poverty?

Of course, Sr. Joan did NOT move in, as she is presently living in the RECTORY at Our Lady of Lourdes Church. As any one who knows that church can tell you, there is a very accommodating convent located right on the grounds of the church proper. It is now the situation that no other priest can live in that rectory because of the fact that a woman is living there. Lights and heat and cool air and water for one person living in a whole big rectory? What a waste of money for the DOR. (But of course, closing 13 schools was inevitable.)

My theory is this: there has to be SOMETHING that is being HIDDEN in the Diocese of Rochester. Someone knows SOMETHING, and has threatened to tell it all, if their needs were NOT met. What ELSE could it be, for God's sake! No man in the role of Bishop could ever justify all the lack of judgement that THIS man has shown in the past few months, without having a noose around his neck, waiting for it to be tightened, if he doesn't play the "acceptance" game.

Update: Fr. Z over at What Does The Prayer Really Say has put up a similar post that thus far (1:30 AM Saturday) has garnered some 63 comments. Some of them are quite insightful.