Friday, June 27, 2008

B16: Don't let Catholic schools fall by the wayside

The bishops of the Chinese dioceses of Hong Kong and Macao have just wound up their five-yearly ad limina visit to the Vatican. In addressing them His Holiness said,

Dear Brothers, as you know, Catholic schools offer an important contribution to the intellectual, spiritual and moral formation of the new generations. This crucial aspect of personal growth is what motivates Catholic parents, and those from other religious traditions, to seek out Catholic schools. In this regard I wish to send greetings to all the men and women who offer generous service to the Catholic schools of both Dioceses. They are called to be "witnesses of Christ, epiphany of the love of God in the world" and to posses "the courage of witnessing and the patience of dialogue" serving "human dignity, the harmony of creation, the existence of peoples and peace" (Consecrated Persons and their mission in schools, 1-2).

It is therefore of great importance to be close to students and to their families, to watch over the formation of the young in the light of Gospel teaching and to follow closely the spiritual needs of all who form part of the school community. The Catholic schools of your two dioceses have given significant impulse to the social development and cultural growth of your people. Today these educational centres face new difficulties; be assured that I am with you, and I encourage you to ensure that this important service will never fall by the wayside. (emphasis added)

I think His Holiness needs to send a copy of this to our brother Matthew.

Make the Nuns Proud

From today's column by Alicia Colon in the New York Sun ...

A few months ago I met educator Tom Carroll, president of the Foundation for Education Reform & Accountability and founder and chairman of the Brighter Choice Charter School for Boys and the Brighter Choice Charter School for Girls. In the recent state exam results, these inner-city schools were ranked no. 1 in the city of Albany for math in third and fourth grade and no. 1 in English in fourth grade. Asked the reason for their success, he said, “Much of the focus in the world of education is on what’s new and novel. In reality, though, much of what works is a throwback to the 1950s parochial schools; high expectations; lots of testing; strict discipline (which would make the nuns proud!); traditional (not fuzzy) math; phonics, and lots of hard work.”

Notice he did not say more money.

My 6-year-old grandson attends Immaculate Conception School in the Stapleton section of Staten Island. Not only can he read just about everything, he astounds me when I hear him talk about compound nouns, the metric system, and click beetles. He’s only in first grade and he’s not even the smartest kid in his class.

His teacher, Miss Helm, is a traditional educator who loves her job and does not believe in social promotion. Students don’t leave her class unless they’ve passed legitimately.

"A Diocese Willing to Participate" - Sometimes

There is a new story up on Called "Changes envelop city churches," the story covers in a general way some of the many changes the Catholic Church in the City of Rochester has been undergoing with the closure and consolidation of multiple parishes in recent years.

The story reports comments from both of DOR's Pastoral Planning Liaisons, Karen Rinefierd and Deb Housel.

As difficult as the local consolidations have been, Rinefierd said Rochester still has a more favorable pastoral-planning scenario because its system promotes input from parish communities and comparatively longer planning periods for consolidations than do those of other dioceses.

"(Bishop Matthew H. Clark) has intentionally wanted people to have clear information," Rinefierd said.

Housel, meanwhile, said input from pastoral-planning groups in all 12 counties mark Rochester as "a diocese willing to participate."

A Tale of Two Processes

Pastoral Planning in DOR has been a fairly open process, generally involving dozens of people in each planning group and large amounts of data from the diocese.  Although recent events have shown that the diocese can and will axe a pastoral plan without consultation when it feels the need, this generally has not been the case.

All of this openness and collaboration results in a fairly high degree of trust and confidence in the results of the process.  Nobody likes to see their parish closed, but when that does happen most people realize that a lot of their fellow parishioners have spent countless hours pouring over piles of data and that closure, sadly, is the only reasonable course of action.

Our Catholic schools are an entirely different matter.  Parents and other parishioners have no meaningful say in the operation of the system.  The only data made public is that which favors the diocese's position on a given matter.  Everything else is kept in house, for potential review by committees of the well-off and the well-connected meeting in secret.  Bishop Clark remains effectively in hiding and will not answer questions from his flock. Public statements from diocesan spokesmen usually incorporate a fair amount of poorly disguised spin.

As a result there is now very little (if any) trust in the diocese and its MCCS System.  Most people have no confidence that the Bishop, his School Board and/or his school administrators (a) really care about Catholic education, and (b) have a clue what they are doing.  While they all mouth the right words, their actions say exactly the opposite.  People, especially parents, want to have faith in their MCSS leaders; most, however, find little reason to do so.

It didn't have to be this way.  Bishop Clark has only himself and his advisors to blame.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Holy Cross Photos

I was at both last Sunday's Mass of Hope and Tuesday's Graduation Mass at Holy Cross.  My pictures from both events are on the Kodak Gallery web site and anyone who wishes to see them just needs to follow the links below.



Mass of Hope (83 photos).


HC - Grad

Graduation (160 photos).

New MCCS Superintendent: Catholic Schools Will Thrive and Grow

Both and are reporting that Anne Willkens Leach has been named the new superintendent of schools for the Rochester Catholic Diocese.

Willkens Leach has worn many hats since she began as a teacher at Monroe BOCES #1 in 1979.  She is currently the principal of both Nazareth Hall Middle School and Nazareth Academy.

According to the Catholic Courier story,

"I am delighted at the opportunity to serve as superintendent and to help our Catholic schools thrive," Willkens Leach said in a statement. "I have a deep faith and a strong, strong feeling that Catholic schools must and will thrive and grow."

Thrive?  Grow?  Haven't we heard this and similar songs before? 

You bet we have.  Take, for example, an April 12, 2001 D&C story reporting on the hiring of Sr. Elizabeth Meegan as the new MCCS Superintendent:

"In the last 10 years we've really stabilized the Catholic school system, and we need to take it to the next level," said Rosemary Haller, chairwoman of the Monroe County Catholic School Board ... The diocese oversees 30 schools in Monroe County.

Or a November 12, 2004 DOR Press Release dealing with the Meegan-Clark tuition restructuring plan:

We really believe this [tuition] model will help preserve the treasure of Catholic education for future generations of families in our diocese,” said Bishop Matthew Clark.

Or the same DOR Press Release, this time dealing with the closure of four schools:

Sr. Elizabeth Meegan ... also announced that three schools ... would be merged with neighboring Catholic schools as part of the long-term plan to strengthen the system ... Another school, St. Helen, ... will cease to operate.

"The decision ... is truly in the interest of maintaining a healthy system that will meet the needs of young people in the years to come."

And so I am skeptical about promises of growing and thriving schools.  Given the history of MCCS management blunders that are largely responsible for the closure 19 schools in 7 years and the departure of thousands of children from the system, I believe this skepticism is well justified.

Willkens Leach may just be able to deliver on her promises and actually truly stabilize and ultimately grow the system.  To do that, however, she will have to depart from recent MCCS practice and give parents a real voice in the operation of the system.  Parents are going to be critical to the success or failure of what's left of the MCCS System and they are going to need a genuine sense of ownership before they become her allies and not merely her customers.

Successful business leaders learned this lesson years ago, while most educational management types remain clueless on the topic.  We should learn soon how Willkens Leach will approach this critical subject.

Another School in the Catholic Tradition

A group in Montrose, Colorado will be opening the Pope John Paul II Academy in September, according to an on line report.  The academy will be a private independent school in the Roman Catholic tradition, said board member Dr. Michael Brezinsky. It will start with kindergarten through second grade with hopes of expanding one or two grades each year, eventually becoming a K-12 school.  According to the report,

The academy is not a "Catholic school," as it did not gain approval from Bishop Arthur Tafoya of the Catholic Diocese of Pueblo. Approval from the bishop is needed for the school to use the "Catholic" name.

"They asked the bishop for approval and he said he did not want any more independent schools in the diocese," said the Rev. Donald Malin of St. Mary’s in Montrose. The idea has been around for about 10 years, he said. However, details recently got under way.

"I'm very sympathetic with the desires of the hearts of those people who want to educate their children in the Catholic tradition," Malin said. "It (the academy) is not something the parish is sanctioning or supporting because they’ve chosen to become independent."

To aid in details such as curriculum and bylaws, the board is using the services of The National Association of Private Catholic and Independent Schools (NAPCIS).

The board hasn’t decided teacher credentials. A NAPCIS certification is a possibility, [board member Gery] Gordon said.

All this sounds very similar to what St. John Bosco Schools is in the process of doing in our area.  See here for the current status of the SJBS efforts. The web site also has available an information flyer, a FAQ sheet, a curriculum outline and a proposed book list, as well as form for parents and others to express their interest in the school.

Franciscan Spirituality

A few years ago a single mom with a maybe 13-year old son moved in across the street. Like many of his friends he was into skateboarding and soon had a collection of plywood ramps and other paraphernalia set up in his driveway where he and his buddies spent many summer hours honing their skills.

One day I was out mowing my front lawn and the boy was practicing alone in his driveway. Just as I had finished up and turned off the mower he executed a ramp-to-ramp jump involving a 360 degree mid-air spin. The end of his run took him out onto the apron of his driveway, maybe 40 feet from me, and I called across the street, "That looks like a lot of fun!"

"It sure is," he answered. "Wanna try it?"

The idea of several months in traction immediately flashed through my head and I declined, convinced that no adult in his right mind would ever get on one of those overgrown roller skates.

All of this came back to me when I saw this video on Fra Gabriel Mary seems to be an adult, seems to be in his right mind and actually seems to know his way around a skateboard. Taking St. Paul's example of becoming all things to all men to new heights, he just may be the pioneer of a new form of Franciscan spirituality.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Holy Cross' Final Graduation

Holy Cross School held its final graduation Mass yesterday evening. Twenty-two students picked up their diplomas and most of them will be moving on to various Catholic high schools in the fall. This was Holy Cross' 110th commencement exercise, with Fr. Tom Wheeland presiding over the last 26.

Perhaps the most moving part of the evening came when the graduates turned to face their families and friends and sang Michael W. Smith's "Friends."

And friends are friends forever
If the Lord's the Lord of them
And a friend will not say "never"
'Cause the welcome will not end
Though it's hard to let you go
In the Father's hands we know
That a lifetime's not too long to live as friends

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

We Are Not Alone

A letter to the editor in today's Scranton Times Tribune, although dealing with the Bishop of Scranton and his approach to Catholic schools, with a few minor changes in detail could just as easily have been written right here in DOR. 

Here is the letter in its entirety, with the areas of similarity highlighted.

Bishop’s true agenda

Editor: My husband and I have chosen, for the past 15 years, to send our children to Catholic school. Since the Scranton Diocese has taken over, so many changes have taken place that make no sense, unless it is simply because this bishop wants to end Catholic education in our area.

This bishop hides behind closed doors, refuses to explain a thing, and makes decisions that specifically hinder the growth of our schools.

Prior to the diocese taking over, St. Vincent’s [Elementary] School had a high enrollment and was financially quite stable. Since the diocesan involvement, that has all changed.

My husband and I support the teachers and their rights, but sadly, even if their union is recognized, a bishop who does not support Catholic schools is still leading us. Isn’t that an oxymoron?

To quote Pope Benedict XVI: “Everything possible must be done, in cooperation with the wider community, to ensure that they (Catholic schools) are accessible to people of all social and economic strata. No child should be denied his or her right to an education in faith, which in turn nurtures the soul of a nation.”

If only the pope knew who we were up against. We have waited patiently for this man and his advisers to show simple Christianity, simple respect. Wouldn’t it be the Christian way to sit together and make positive changes?

We have remained silent as we have watched friends pull their children from our school. Not one left due to the economy or “smaller family size,” as diocesan spokesman William Genello cited as the reason for the decline in enrollment. Everyone left because they see this bishop as totally unsupportive of Catholic schools.

We will fight for our beautiful school on the hill, for it’s teachers and it’s staff. They have stood beside our family for 15 years, nurturing our children, guiding them, helping us instill values that we hold so dear. Are we frightened? We certainly are. We live with no answers, no assurances.

We will continue to pray that priests, who have remained silent, speak up; that parents who feel as strongly as we do – speak up. We will continue to pray that the bishop’s advisers will speak up and do the right thing. We will continue to pray that this bishop has an awakening and realizes it’s not too late to undo the damage. We cling to the hope that Catholic education in this area can be restored to what it was – a shining example of a loving family in Jesus.

We will continue to attend Mass because our faith is steeped in something far stronger than a bishop. It is steeped in a loving God. At collection time, our envelope will be empty until we see a change coming from Bishop Martino. We urge every Catholic school family to do the same. Perhaps then we will get his attention.


Monday, June 23, 2008

Waiting for Judgement Day

Last Friday Holy Cross held its final end-of-the-school-year closing ceremony.  Channel 10 was there by invitation to cover the event.

Answer to God

In a video clip on their web site one lady expressed the feelings many of us share.  "Some day," she said, "these people, the Bishop and whoever else on the Task Force that made these decisions, will have to answer to God for why they did this."

Friday, June 20, 2008

Final Days for 13 Catholic Schools

Today's D&C is running a story about the last days at the 13 Monroe County Catholic Schools that Bishop Clark is forcing to close. Accompanying the article is a very interesting map.2008-06-20 - Catholic Schools Staying Open-Enhanced-200dpi

Take a good look at that map - it pretty much tells the whole story. When Bishop Clark allowed Sr. Elizabeth Meegan to implement her inane tuition plan a few years back, most of those living in the more affluent parts of the county could afford the resulting up to 40% increase and enrollment in their schools hardly dipped.

It was a different story, however, in the less well off parts of town. Many of those schools saw their enrollments plummet as families who just could not pay that much left for the public schools.

Now the schools that were decimated by the Clark-Meegan tuition fiasco are being closed because of their low enrollments and their associated parishes are about to experience the same slow slide into oblivion as almost every other parish has that has ever lost its school. Meanwhile, most of the schools in the high rent districts will be open for business next fall.

Will the Bishop or any members of his School Board ever apologize for the perfectly predictable results of their management blunder? Will any of the 23 "experts" on his Task Force ever express any remorse for their role in robbing the poor to give to the rich?

Don't hold your breath.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Treasure

I've now seen this on 3 different sites. The first was here, which credits it to Joe Holleran.

The Treasure

They built the church mighty tall,
Nothing but the best, wall-to-wall,
They wanted a place to treasure,
To hold dear,
Money is no problem, have no fear,
Even the organ must be first class,
A million and a half and that’s no laugh
Then it was done, how proud they must be,
To have built a church for all to see,
But here and there, across the street,
Around the town,
First by leaps, then by bounds,
The schools were gone,
One by one,
No children to come to worship the Son,
No young voices to be raised in praise,
To fill that church in coming days,
So the organ plays year after year,
But now there are fewer and fewer
ears to hear,
They built the church mighty tall,
They did not build the children,
The real treasure after all.

EG/C Pastoral Plan Dumped

As previously announced, Fr. Gary Tyman will be leaving Our Lady of Mercy Parish next weekend and the parish will not get a new resident pastor. Instead, Fr. John Gagnier, currently Pastor at Holy Name of Jesus will also become Pastoral Administrator at Our Lady of Mercy.

The Eastern Greece/Charlotte Planning Group consists of Holy Cross, Holy Name of Jesus, Our Lady of Mercy, Our Mother of Sorrows, St. Charles Borromeo and St. John the Evangelist. Fr. Tyman's departure will reduce the number of priests available to this group from eight to seven.

This reduction was foreseen by the group's current Pastoral Plan, but it was not supposed to occur until 2009 at the earliest. As far as I know no one at any of the six parishes has been told why Fr. Tyman will not be replaced. It has been suggested by various sources that unanticipated defections from the priesthood coupled with forced resignations have led to this particular staffing problem, but that is unconfirmed at this point.

The Plan Goes in the Wastebasket

In a move initiated by Fr. Alex Bradshaw of Our Mother of Sorrows the diocese has decided that Holy Name of Jesus and Our Lady of Mercy will each drop one of their weekend Masses. Fr. Bradshaw's concern was that the seven priests remaining in the group would not be able to cover the 21 currently scheduled weekend Masses. (I believe that seven times three still equals 21, but I suspect 3rd grade math might not be relevant here.) Fr. Tyman has told his parishioners that, in response to Fr. Bradshaw, he had suggested that all six parishes drop one Mass each, but that his counterproposal was rejected.

Weekday Masses at both parishes will also be cut drastically. Holy Name of Jesus will go from five to three, while Our Lady of Mercy will go from four to two.

It is important to note that the failure to replace Fr. Tyman with a resident pastor or parochial vicar flies in the face of both Bishop Clark's 2003 instructions to the EG/C Planning Group and the subsequent plan adopted by that group and approved by the Bishop a mere 30 months ago.

The Bishop's instructions read,

As the Diocese of Rochester continues to respond to a declining number of priests, we project that, during the 2004-2009 time period, eight priests will be available to serve within your six parishes, and then seven from 2009-2014. In your pastoral planning, please recommend how two and then one parochial vicar may best be assigned to help meet the sacramental and ministerial needs of your parishes. (emphasis added)

The plan as adopted and approved reads,

The Diocese has projected that 8 priests will be available to our planning group between 2004 and 2009 and 7 between 2009 and 2014. We expect that one priest will be specifically assigned to each parish, either as pastor or as sacramental minister when a pastoral administrator is leading the parish...

Six of the priests will be assigned one to each of the six parishes (emphasis added)

Two Parishes About to Close?

Through June of 2000 Holy Name of Jesus and Our Lady of Mercy each had 4 weekend Masses scheduled, one on Saturday and three on Sunday. One of the Sunday Masses at each parish was covered by a Basilian priest. When the last of the Basilians left Aquinas in 2000 that assistance ceased and each parish had to drop one of its Sunday Masses. The consequences were both direct and dramatic.

At Holy Name of Jesus weekend Mass attendance immediately fell by 15%, while attendance at Our Lady of Mercy dropped by 9%. Similar losses were seen in the offertory collections at each parish. Our Pastoral Planning liaison told us that it was common for parishes that drop Masses to see an immediate decline in Mass attendance.

Now, with Mass attendance at both Holy Name of Jesus and Our Lady of Mercy running in the low 400s, an average loss of some 12% would mean another 50 or so fewer folks at Mass each weekend at each parish. It simply cannot be much longer before such a situation proves financially untenable.

Imputing Motives

Getting back to Fr. Bradshaw and Our Mother of Sorrows, one of their former parish council members has told me that the parish is currently running about $100,000 in the red. Another parishioner has mentioned that their full-time youth minister is fearful of job cuts and is circulating his resume among potential new employers. If all this is true - and both my sources are in positions to know whereof they speak - then it signals an impending financial crisis at Our Mother of Sorrows and would provide an extra motive Fr. Bradshaw not to want to risk the further hits to his budget that dropping a Mass would certainly cause.

Now it is, of course, unfair to impute motives to another individual. Still, it is curious that the first call for another parish to take a financial hit came from the pastor of a parish that has troubles of its own, and equally curious that that same pastor was most adamant that his own parish not risk any loss.

A Lesson To Be Learned

As one of the two dozen or so people who spent many long hours developing this plan I can't find the words to adequately express my surprise at just how cavalierly the diocese has discarded our work. The fact that this plan was approved by the entire Planning Group, all six parish councils and all six pastors or pastoral administrators - as well as the Bishop - seems to mean nothing at all to the diocese now.

I suppose this should serve as a warning to anyone tapped on the shoulder by his or her pastor and asked to serve on a Pastoral Planning Committee: While you may receive copious, flowery thank-yous for all your work, do not be surprised by how lightly the diocese may ultimately treat your efforts.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

More on Holy Cross' Mass of Hope has posted the following story ...

The final day of classes at Rochester’s Holy Cross School, in Charlotte, is Friday, June 20.

The Holy Cross parish fought “long and hard” to retain its school, says parish member Karen Henrichs, but is fighting no longer.

“We still wanted the okay of the bishop and didn’t want to go beyond the bishop’s wishes,” said Henrichs, who is also the coordinator of parish ministries.

Diocese of Rochester Bishop Matthew Clark announced early this year that 13 elementary schools in the diocese would be closing this month. Holy Cross is among them.

Parents had developed a plan to save the school, as was the case with some of the other schools, but Clark decided to stick with his decision, saying it would benefit the remaining 11 elementary schools in the diocese.

Now, parish members will pay their respects to the school and add a message of hope for the future. They will hold a Mass of Hope at 2:30 p.m. this Sunday, June 22, in front of the school. Students, teachers past and present, alumni, and friends of Holy Cross School have been invited to the special outdoor service.

The Mass, said school spokeswoman Karen Cavacos, is meant to celebrate the 110 years during which the school — known as the Beacon of Hope — has brought the Light of Christ to the Charlotte community. The historic Rochester Genesee Lighthouse is right behind the church and school.

The Mass also will celebrate the youth ministries that the school building will continue to house. This year, the school had 186 students in preschool through eighth grade and will continue to have a preschool, Henrichs said.

This summer, the parish is also launching a new, 10-week Summer Adventure Program for children ages 3 to 11. The program is a day-care alternative and will have theme weeks and activities.

“There’s always been a wonderful relationship between the parish and school,” Henrichs said.
The parish has about 2,000 members and the school drew students from Rochester, Irondequoit, Greece and Hilton.

Sunday’s Mass will be followed by a school open house with refreshments. Memorabilia from past decades will be on view in the school cafeteria. In the event of rain, the Mass will be held in the church.

My compliments to both Karens on their remarkable restraint. My comments would probably not have been fit to print.

Children are more valuable than organ

A letter to the editor in yesterday's D&C ...

I'm so glad Mark Hare had a grand old time carrying pieces of Sacred Heart Cathedral's new $1.5 million organ into the church (column, June 12). Some of us don't share his enthusiasm for this instrument. We've been comforting children and trying to make sure the last two weeks in their Catholic school are memorable. We've been working on special gifts for the teachers to try and convey just how much they are valued. We've been planning for the future of our parish and its programs.

Hare muses, "sounds will comfort ... for decades to come." Who will be touched in this way? Children who will no longer be educated in the Catholic tradition? Teachers who were shown the door? Parents who worked tirelessly to support their schools and to pay tuition? No, Mr. Hare, this Catholic will just hear sadness that in this diocese one of God's greatest gifts, our children, is less important than that instrument you carried.


Enrollment decline? Ask the laity for help!

In the Diocese of Rockville Centre forward-looking Bishop William Murphy has substantially slowed the exodus of students from his Catholic schools.  He did this by simply asking a group of lay people for help with fund raising. 

And the laity are coming through.

Since 2005 the not-for-profit Tomorrow's Hope Foundation has raised $4.7 million and has handed out a total 2,900 scholarships to elementary school students, ranging from $500 to $2,000 each year.

Also, since 2005 the diocese has not had to close a single elementary school.  Although still losing a few hundred students a year, the losses are no where near the 1,325 average annual loss the diocese was seeing before the laity stepped up to the plate.

All the recent "save our school" activity in DOR has shown that something like this was certainly possible here, were it not for an out-of-touch bishop who refused to give Catholic schools the priority his flock clearly believes they deserve.  The millions of dollars pledged to the various campaigns, to say nothing of the hundreds of hours put in by dozens of very talented people, clearly showed where the laity's Stewardship priorities lie.

Now we are left to wonder just what Matthew Clark's real priorities are.

Bongo drums, guitars, dancing girls and preaching nuns

Tom O'Toole at Friends of Fighting Irish Thomas has posted a remarkable essay by DOR high school student David Fiorito. David makes several points and makes them remarkably well. Chief among them is that the Diocese of Rochester "must love the Eucharist and openly revere Christ’s presence within it," if it wants to see the return of substantial numbers of vocations.

The Eucharist, he says, is "no longer the 'bread of angels.' No, it [is] the bread of the blind and disrespectful."

David, I'm afraid, has something of a test of faith ahead of him. In his own words ...

I am lucky to live in a traditional parish, one that is loyal to the teachings of the pope and the Tradition of the Church. We have had priests (and only priests) that used incense and Gregorian chant commonly during Mass. The only nuns present were merely to make the priests’ jobs easier. However, we are to be “clustered” with another parish that is considerably more left of center. Their typical Mass consists of bongo drums, guitars, dancing girls and preaching nuns. These things, it is feared, will be transmitted to my parish, for it was announced that their “pastor,” Sr. Joan, will be our new pastor as well. When asked about her views on the liturgy, as it ought to be, she replied smiling, “Well, dear, incense and chant have no place in modern liturgy.”

This is definitely worth a read. See the entire text here.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Holy Cross Mass of Thanksgiving and Hope!

From the Holy Cross web site ...

Holy Cross School Outdoor Mass of Hope

Sunday, June 22 - 2:30 PM

Outside between the School & Holy Cross Child Center

Come One! Come All!

Beacon of Hope  We will gather to celebrate the 110 years during which this Beacon, Holy Cross School, has brought the Light of Christ to students, faculty, and the whole parish. We will pray for our present students as they take that Light with them to other schools. Our prayers also go with our dedicated faculty, administrators, and staff as they go forth having been touched by the spirit of Holy Cross and having left their mark on us all.

We will celebrate that our school building continues to house ministries of Holy Cross that keep that Light burning: Faith Enrichment, Sacramental Preparation, Tween/Teen Ministry, Scouts, and CYO Sports. With Hope we will look forward to retaining many traditions and creating new ones that keep our youth connected with our parish.

We will celebrate in Thanksgiving the privilege of hosting Summer Adventure for our 3 to 11 year-olds, and in running a Parish PreSchool and Wrap Around Program in the fall.

We will continue to celebrate the blessings and hope that comes from Catholic School Education. Every one of our parish children in Catholic, public, or home-based school is a special treasure. Our mission continues to be to find as many ways as possible to share with them the Beacon of Hope, Jesus Christ.

Join us as we gather at the altar of the Lord to celebrate the Hope of the past, which gives us Hope in the present, and leads to Hope everlasting.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Fr. Reif To Celebrate Mass For The Unborn


Fr. John Reif

From Holy Cross Church




Saturday, June 21, 2008




(2 doors down from Planned Parenthood)


12 Noon


See here for more details.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

It Isn't About the Money? - Final

With the completion of the 2007-08 Catholic Ministries Appeal we can take a last look at the differences between those parishes whose associated schools are scheduled for closure and those whose schools will be staying open.

In terms of CMA goals, the parishes where schools are staying open were tasked with raising, on average, 76% more money than those whose schools will be closed. The total dollar difference between the two groups was almost $357,000.

But in terms of actual CMA pledges the differences were even more striking. Parishes where schools are staying open pledged an average of 98% more than those whose schools will be closed. Here the total dollar difference between the two groups was almost $444,000.

The last 10 weeks of the CMA drive also provided an interesting - and not unexpected - glimpse at the difference in parishioner generosity toward the diocese between the two groups of parishes. In the final 70 days of the drive parishioners at parishes where the schools are closing pledged an additional total of $12,143 - with $10,000 of that amount coming from a single pledge at Corpus Christi - while parishioners at parishes where the schools are staying open pledged an additional $15,856. Also, pledges at 3 parishes where schools are closing actually fell by a total of $810 and another 3 parishes pledged no new money, while every parish where schools are staying open saw an increase.

While this year's CMA results may have set a record, these last bits of data would seem to be saying that DOR is going to have a much more difficult time getting money out of many parishes next fall.

6/15/2008 Update: I got a request for 4/3/2008 CMA pledge total for a particular parish. Here's a spreadsheet showing all the 4/3 and 6/11 pledge data and the differences between the two.

10/8/2008 Update and Correction: A reader has pointed out that Blessed Sacrament Parish was the actual home of Corpus Cristi School. The first spreadsheet has been corrected to reflect this reality. Also, information has been added related to whether a parish met or did not meet its CMA goal for 2007-08.

CMA Pledges Set a Record is reporting that the Catholic Ministries Appeal has set a new record.

The Diocese of Rochester announced today that more than 37,000 Roman Catholic households pledged more than $5 million to the 2007/2008 Catholic Ministries Appeal (CMA) – an all-time record since the campaign began 27 years ago.

Approximately $5.1 million had been collected at the campaign’s official close on May 31 of the $5.2 million pledged; subsequent gifts will be credited to the 2008-09 annual appeal that begins this fall.  Although the total fell just short of the campaign’s $5.3 million goal, there are many signs of continued growth:

  • The total is more than $300,000 over the amount raised last year and marks the first time in the appeal’s history that contributions have topped the $5 million mark.
  • This marks the fourth straight year that the campaign has seen a significant increase in the total amount of money raised.
  • In addition to a nearly 5 percent  increase over last year’s final total, the average gift for this year’s campaign increased to $140, as compared to $132 last year.
  • The number of parishes that reached their assigned goal climbed to 42, with another 20 parishes bringing in more than 90% of their goal.

Eugene Michael over at Rochester Catholic offers the following observations:

“The number of parishes that reached their assigned goal climbed to 42, with another 20 parishes bringing in more than 90% of their goal.” From the DOR web site in reference to the 2008 Catholic Ministries Appeal(CMA).

When the DOR states that the 2008 CMA set a new record for giving it must be remembered that much of the “giving” was due to coercion or confiscation. The DOR’s policy is to extract the funds from each parish’s general fund if they don’t meet their DOR established goal. Also, some people donate because they know that the DOR will get the money anyway through this confiscation of funds from the parish.

The fact that only 42 out of 176 parishes met their goals this year(before confiscation) says a lot about the state of the DOR. Obviously the school closings and the parish clusterings are having a significant impact on giving. If people were satisfied with the leadership here then the DOR would not have to forcibly extract funds that are surely needed by the parishes to fund their operations. Much of this so-called giving represents nothing more than a diocesan tax on the parishes. (emphasis added)

No taxation without representation, anyone?

Eugene makes a good point about parishioner dissatisfaction with diocesan leadership.  When one looks at the tenure of Matthew Clark as Bishop of Rochester one can only conclude that it has been an abysmal failure.  Any objective measure - whether it be the number of ordinations to the priesthood, the number of Catholics attending weekend Mass, the number of open parishes, the number of Catholic schools, or the number of children attending those Catholic schools - clearly shows that the Diocese of Rochester is in far worse shape today than it was when Bishop Clark was appointed 29 years ago. 

Much of this decline has been gradual and has gone largely unnoticed by most people.  It has, however, become more obvious in recent years, as the number of active priests has reached a critical low, as large numbers of parishes have been closed, and as over 20 Catholic schools have been closed and thousands of Catholic school children have left the system.  More and more people are coming to realize just how badly they have been served by their Catholic leadership and are starting to ask questions.  Once they begin to realize that DOR has no answers the demands for change will only grow louder.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Holy Cross School Closing Draws Near

Patrice Walsh, Channel 13 News, has posted a story on their site that focuses on the last days of Holy Cross School.  Featured are 14 cousins from the Tachin, Swan and Nasca families who now attend Holy Cross but who will be separated next year.




Holy Cross will hold a special "Mass of Peace" to give families a final chance to say farewell to their school. It will be on Sunday, June 22 at 2:30 pm.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

They Just Don't Get It

Purify Your Bride has just put up a thought-provoking post:

The Catholic Theological Society of America is meeting again. They seem to be trying to figure out what John Paul’s Theology of the Body means. It is interesting because at the outset they assume it cannot mean what it actually says. That is, that as men and women our bodies are created in harmony with a much deeper reality about ourselves. That things like contraception, gay marriage, and female ordination don’t just contradict who we are physically but spiritually as well.

One CTSA maven even bemoans the fact that so many of today's younger Catholics - and many bishops - are embracing JP2's theology that it seems as if they are looking to

"invite back in [their] own version of Archie Bunker" – the cantankerous authority figure so thoroughly lampooned and dethroned in American culture in the 1970s and afterwards.

Definitely worth a read.

Bridgeport Markets its Catholic Schools

From the Stamford, CT Times:

It may seem like an impossible task but during the past several months, the Diocese of Bridgeport has been putting extra effort into a marketing campaign designed to increase awareness of the Catholic schools in the diocese.

Billboards that have appeared recently on I-95 in Bridgeport and in various locations in Norwalk showing the faces of smiling children dressed in matching attire and boasting the catch phrase "Affordable Excellence" are part of that marketing campaign.

"Catholic schools have been around a long time, and their tradition is knee-deep, but we needed to get that message out there," said Cathleen Donahue, strategic communications, marketing, developing and enrollment management consultant to the diocese.

... "There isn't a lot of brand equity with Catholic schools," Donahue said. "Folks who know about (Catholic school education) love it, but then there are those who don't know what it's all about, and those are the ones we're reaching out to with this campaign."

Market your Catholic schools?  Maybe in Syracuse and now in Bridgeport, but certainly not in DOR.  We just might get too many students that way.

Are Mass Attendance, Catholic School Enrollment Linked?

The Diocese of Scranton is reporting a projected Catholic school enrollment drop of 9.4% for the 2008-09 academic year. There seem to be a variety of factors behind this decline, including a poor economy and an ongoing dispute between the teachers union and the diocese.

There may also be a third factor:

Mass attendance has also decreased over the years. About 36 percent of registered parishioners currently attend Mass on Sundays. [Diocesan spokesman William] Genello was unable to provide a number from prior years, but said there has been a definite decrease.

“When you make a commitment to send your child to Catholic school, it’s an indication of the value you put on your faith as well,” Mr. Genello said. “If the majority of people are not attending Mass, you have to also wonder whether that affects their decision regarding Catholic schools.”

Mr. Genello may be blowing some smoke here in an effort to deflect criticism away from what many see as his employer's management blunders, but it is also possible that he does have a point.

Here in DOR we have seen our Mass attendance rate fall from 32% in 2000 to just under 25% last year. In those same 7 years we also saw tuition skyrocket while Catholic school enrollment plummeted. I tend to believe that soaring tuition played a much larger role than declining Mass attendance, but I also think it's impossible the discount the latter entirely.

Update: FWIW, I can relate somewhat to Mr. Genello when he says,

"If the majority of people are not attending Mass, you have to wonder whether that affects their decision regarding Catholic schools."

This past year I taught religious ed to a combined group of nine 7th- and 8th-graders. Two of my students attended Mass regularly with their families, one showed up only when it was his/her turn to serve, and the other six came on Christmas and Easter, maybe.

Statistical Oddity?

According to, which cites the Annuario Pontificio, the Vatican's semi-official annual directory of the Catholic Church, the Diocese of Rochester had some 341,500 Catholics in 2004.

Yet, according to the Ministry Area Profile used by DOR for Pastoral Planning purposes, the diocese had a 2005 total population of 1,504,019, 37.1% of whom were "likely to prefer" Catholicism. That translates into 558,000 people who, if they were not already Catholic, at least preferred Catholicism to any other religion.

Is this just some statistical fluke or are there really some 216,500 people out there just waiting to join the Church, if only someone would invite them in?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Failing Clergy Cause Catholic Families to Fail

Fr. Ray Blake, Pastor of St. Mary Magdalen, Brighton, United Kingdom writes,

One of my vices is that I spend far too much time having coffee and talking around my kitchen table after morning Mass.

A few days ago we were speaking about Catholic education, my views are well known, I am a wholehearted supporter of primary school, my support for Catholic secondaries (12+, for Americans) is a little more muted, I want to be convinced, and honestly, thinking up an alternative within our parish structures is beyond me.

Our conversation went thus:

  • The failure of Catholic schools is evidenced by their failure to get students to understand Catholic worship, Catholic morality, Catholic family life, Catholic vocation.
  • The question then arose as to why they were failing, the conscensus was they fail because the Catholic family is failing.
  • Why is the Catholic family failing?
  • It is failing because family life is failing generally but Catholic family life is failing because, we priests and bishops fail to preach the Church's vision of the Catholic family, especially on sex and sexuality, coming from Humanae Vitae.

Fr. Burke's observations would seem to be equally true on this side of the pond.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

St. John Bosco Schools Meeting Location Announced

From the SaveSJR web site ...

If you are interested in or just curious about a new Private Independent school teaching in the Catholic tradition…
There is a meeting regarding St John Bosco Schools at Casa Larga on Wed, June 11th at 7:00 PM.
Casa Larga
2287 Turk Hill Road
Fairport, NY 14450

No obligation, just an opportunity to hear about something different that will be offered in September of 2008.

A special guest, Steve Bertucci of the Great Books Program, will be flying in to discuss the curriculum.

Refreshments will be served, so if you haven't already done so, please let us know if you will be attending.
Email/Call us if you would be interested in attending or have questions:
Andrea O’Neill
(585) 223-4210
Peter Sartori
(585) 387-9513

John Lyle

(585) 381-1879

Visit their website to learn more: Displaced Student Reregistration at 86% is reporting that the reregistration rate for Catholic school students displaced by the closure of 13 MCCS System schools has far exceeded that predicted by Bishop Clark's panel of "experts."

In January, Bishop Matthew Clark of the Diocese of Rochester announced the diocese would close 13 area Catholic schools in June, citing a sharp decline in enrollment and a significant budget shortfall. At the time of Clark’s announcement, diocese officials estimated that 48 percent of the students enrolled in the closing schools would enroll in other Catholic schools.

However, those figures appear to be drastically underestimated.

Doug Mandelaro, a spokesperson for the diocese, said 4,221 of the 4,884 displaced students — or 86 percent — have re-registered, far exceeding the retention goal. There are 376 openings available in the schools that are staying open, with 82 children on a waiting list for openings closer to their homes, Mandelaro said.

Another part of the story deals with class size at St. Joseph School in Penfield.

Right now, about 325 students are enrolled in the school. That number will jump by 122 to 447 in the fall, with 108 of those students coming from St. John’s of Rochester in Fairport.

St. Joseph’s currently has two classrooms for each grade, kindergarten through sixth, according to [Principal] Sister Christina Marie. The incoming students will be divvied up among those grades, making the average class size about 28.

“We could comfortably hold 30 per class,” she said.

As a result, no new classrooms will be added and new teaching staff will not be hired.

While Sister Christina Marie might feel comfortable with 30 children in each of her classrooms I know of no teachers - or parents - who would use the word 'comfortable' to describe their feelings about such a large class size.

Friday, June 6, 2008

New Catholic Blogger in DOR

A new (to me) Catholic blogger has appeared on the DOR scene.

From Journey To A New Pentecost ...

[A]m I missing something? The Catholic school buildings were built from the collective wallets of the laity, but the Diocese of Rochester will not allow these buildings to be leased by independent lay groups (not that the laity matter these days).

... I’d also like to challenge, David Kelly, the Diocesan spokes person who stated that Bishop Clark wants a “stabilize” Catholic school system. The Catholic school system in the Diocese of Rochester has not been stablized since the first reorganization in the eighties, hence the reason why the laity would like a chance at managing Catholic education themselves. 

... I don’t think it fair that the laity are not given a chance at running an independent Catholic School with the blessings from their Bishop. They can’t do any worse than the Diocese of Rochester.

I couldn't agree more.  Keep up the good work!

Sister Elaine Poitras Finds New Job

Bishop Michael J. Bransfield of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston has made the following announcement:

Sister Elaine Poitras, CSC, Ph.D., is appointed superintendent of Catholic Schools, effective July 1, for a period of one year.

Sister Poitras was appointed Superintendent of the Monroe County Catholic School System in 2006 and resigned "for personal reasons" in January 2008, one day after Bishop Clark's committee of "experts" turned in its report recommending the closure of 13 Monroe County Catholic schools.

Sister Poitras generally had "no comment" when asked about the school closings. However, in a January 21 report News 10NBC's Nikki Rudd quoted Sister Poitras as saying,

People consider themselves family in Catholic schools. I don't think anybody should underestimate the magnitude of this decision.

Thursday, June 5, 2008 Movement Afoot to Start Independent School has posted a story on its site reporting on the Open House at Irondequoit's St. Margaret Mary School this past Sunday.  Toward the end of the story is the following  section related to St. John Bosco Schools:

Residents concerned with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester’s decision to close 13 suburban schools this month are trying to start an independent private Catholic school.

“It’s a group of parents and business people who are concerned about the redemption of Catholic school opportunities in Rochester in view of the recent closing of schools,” said Joseph Indelicato of Rochester, who is spearheading the effort. Indelicato, CEO of Caritas Consulting of Rochester, is president of the Catholic Education Foundation of Rochester, a national organization he founded in 2001.

He said he has connections with the National Association of Private Catholic and Independent Schools, a Florida-based organization the group is working with to establish St. John Bosco Schools. Indelicato said about 40 people attended an initial organizing meeting May 20. A second meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. June 11. The location has not yet been announced. More information will be available at a new Web site: or by contacting

The new school could start with as few as five students and will be located somewhere in the Pittsford, Fairport and Victor area, Indelicato said.

Doug Mandelaro, a spokesperson for Bishop Matthew Clark, said a number of groups wanted to start independent Catholic schools at some of the closed school sites. He said Bishop Clark has indicated he will listen to proposals, but is not in favor of independent schools.

Mandelaro noted that of the 4,884 students in the system early this year when the closings were announced, 4,201 have re-registered, exceeding the retention goal of 48 percent. There are 376 seats available, with 82 on a waiting list for seats closer to their homes, he said.

While Bishop Clark may not be in favor of independent schools, many people who have followed the diocese's management of the MCCS System over the years have come to see independent schools as the only long-term hope of preserving Catholic education in Monroe County.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

SBST&M 2008 Summer ACT Program

St. Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry has announced its 2008 Academy for Contemporary Theology (ACT) course lineup.  This year's theme is Catholics and Civic Responsibilities in the Election Year.

From the program flyer:

The overall focus for this year’s Summer ACT will be to look at issues surrounding the relationship between our identity as a people of faith and our responsibility as citizens. How do we participate in the political life of our country and address public issues while remaining committed to the principles of our faith? It is hoped that the perspectives offered would generate a vital public discourse concerning faith in public life to sort out the issues and make responsible decisions for the future of our country and the world.

Individual 5-hour modules will include

  1. Biblical Perspectives: This module will examine biblical texts often used in discussions concerning a Christian’s responsibilities in public life.
  2. Historical Perspectives: This module will examine the Catholic Church teachings using some key documents.
  3. Moral Perspectives: This module will focus on some key issues from a moral perspective.
  4. Practical Perspectives: This module will look at practical strategies to help people sort through the issues and challenges.

Given that 2008 is a presidential election year, this looks to be a good mix of topics.

Monday, June 2, 2008

New City Catholic School Announced

Yesterday's D&C ran a story focusing on a new Catholic middle school to be located in the City of Rochester whose mission will be the education of underprivileged children.  Nativity Preparatory Academy, a joint effort of the Jesuits of the New York Province and the Sisters of Saint Joseph, will be co-ed but will teach girls and boys in separate classrooms.

A spokesperson said that a committee has looked at several Catholic school buildings in the city and expects to select a site soon. After-school programs will be offered in 2008-09 and fifth- and sixth-graders will be admitted in September 2009.  A seventh grade will be added in 2010 and an eighth grade in 2011.

Tuition is expected to be in the range of $300 to $400 per year and no child will be turned away because his or her family cannot pay.

A couple of weeks ago, while this story was still pretty much in the rumor stage, a parent with children at a Catholic school about to be closed sent me an email that read, in part,

The Jesuits are picking up where the diocese left off. ... The diocese would not see this venture as competition because these are the students the diocese doesn't want. Ours, who can afford full tuition, are the ones they don't want to have to compete to keep.

I choose to look at the positives:

1. They are educating a group that would be left out under the current "plan".

2. They will be helping a city parish survive.

3.  Any school that opens independently of the diocesan system and succeeds will set a precedent.

To which I can only say, Amen.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Catholic Schools Make a BIG Difference

The Catholic New Service has posted a News Brief reporting on a study conducted by Loyola Marymount University's School of Education in Los Angeles.  The study focused on a group of Catholic school students in the Los Angeles area, all of whom received tuition funding from the Catholic Education Foundation of the Los Angeles Archdiocese between 2001 and 2005.

100% of the 603 eighth grade students followed in the study continued on to ninth grade.  Furthermore, an almost unbelievable 98% on the 205 ninth graders in 2001-02 graduated in 2005. (The comparable public school 4-year graduation rate was 64%.)

The 205 students selected for the high school study were considered “at risk” because of low socioeconomic status.  Many were under the care of guardians, had incarcerated parents, lived in shelters and came from abusive family situations.

Further details can be found here, here and here.

Tip: Tmac.