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.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

St. John Bosco Schools Update

Updated information has been posted on the St. John Bosco Schools site ...

Thank you for your patience as we work to establish the best possible foundation for the long-term health of St. John Bosco Schools.  Below are a series of important updates on the school.  We intend to release another update following the final selection of our school site:

  • Location: The school is most likely to be located in the south-east quadrant of the greater Rochester area.
  • We are still vetting potential sites, but will make our site announcement during the last week in July.
  • Grade levels: We will most likely be opening a pre-K through 3rd grade, although we will extend through the 5th grade if we have a sudden bump in demand.
  • Faculty: We received over two dozen resumes and inquiries regarding faculty positions with St. John Bosco Schools.  Members of our steering committee kicked off the formal interviewing process this week.
  • Registration: We will be opening enrollment the first week of August.
  • Board Meeting: Our board will officially convene the first week of August.
  • Teacher / Parent Orientation: We have tentatively scheduled our inaugural teacher / parent orientation on August 20 & 21.  We will be joined those days by a NAPC*IS approved consultant for elementary education, as well as one or more of our ecclesiastical advisors.  More information to come.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

WSJ: Roman Catholic Schools Have Contributed a Lot

The Wall Street Journal recently ran a story on the ongoing efforts of a group of Catholic school teachers and their thus far unsuccessful efforts to secure recognition of their union by the Diocese of Scranton.

Today the WSJ printed two Letters to the Editor received in response to their story:

Roman Catholic Schools Have Contributed a Lot
July 17, 2008; Page A14

I was quite touched emotionally and personally by the article "Crisis of Faith Between Church, Union?" (Currents, July 10). The 12 years of superb Catholic education I was blessed with prepared me quite well for my professional adult life. As a result, and with deep gratitude, I still offer my financial support and personal assistance to those schools despite having graduated decades prior.

The Newark Diocese tried to shut down my high school, Hudson Catholic in Jersey City, N.J., this past year. That school has been spared closure due to the strong and fast action taken by the alumni. We worked to ensure that neither our past nor the future of other youngsters would be lost. As a result, the place is still operating and may well do so for many years to come, unless those with little foresight try again to close its doors.

Without teaching youngsters the ideas, the ideals, the goals and concepts inherent to Catholic education, the future of the Church is quite limited. Yes, the money saved will be quite a bit, but the loss in more than just mere dollars will be immense.

Joseph P. Fanning
Glen Ridge, N.J.

You correctly point out that Catholic schools have defined the lives of American Catholics and nurtured believers from cradle to grave. However, the academic benefits are just as abundant. All of our four children attended, or are attending, Catholic elementary and secondary schools. As a direct result of their education, they received impressive college scholarships, were consistent dean's list students and graduated with academic honors. We have received more in college scholarships than we have spent for Catholic school tuition in the past 20 years.

If more parents realized the value of a Catholic school education, the schools would be filled and there would be no financial deficit or problem with paying the teachers a fair salary. Our Diocese of Scranton Catholic school teachers are intelligent, caring and dedicated. We would gladly pay for an increase in tuition so that these teachers could earn the respectable salary they so rightly deserve.

John M. Nonnemacher
Sandra R. Nonnemacher

Hazleton, Pa.

There's not much more for me to add.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Update on St. John Bosco Schools has posted an update on the progress of St. John Bosco Schools

Significant highlights include

  • Interviewing potential teachers is underway.
  • The school will be located in southeastern Monroe County or northwestern Ontario County.
  • Parents of 80 to 100 children have expressed an interest in enrolling their children at the St. John Bosco Schools.
  • About 30 to 40 percent of the children are from St. John of Rochester in Perinton.
  • The Steering Committee is in the process of setting up a board and taking other actions necessary to incorporate as a not-for-profit entity.
  • A classical education patterned after the Washington-based Angelicum Academy ( will be offered. A classical education focuses on developing lifelong learning, unlike many other education models that are information-based and focus on memorization.
  • Tuition for 2008-09 will be $1,500, plus $300 to $400 for books.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

New MCCS Superintendent Wants to Restore Confidence

The Catholic Courier has published an online piece on Anne Willkens Leach, the incoming Superintendent of the Monroe County Catholic Schools System.

According to the story,

Willkens Leach will assume her new position on the heels of a downsizing that saw 13 of 24 Catholic elementary and junior high schools in Monroe County close at the end of the 2007-08 school year. A 14th diocesan school -- Holy Family in Dansville, Livingston County -- also closed.

"One of the things I want to do is keep the schools that are open, open," Willkens Leach said.

While she feels that it's too early to compile a long list of specific goals, she said she does plan to visit each diocesan school and get to know those communities.

"I want them to know I'm going to be a visible presence," she said. "One of my key gifts is that I lead by collaboration."

Willkens Leach's gregarious personality might be just what the doctor ordered. She said it's important to restore confidence in Catholic schools and the Rochester Diocese, though "I appreciate the (negative) emotions that are still there."

At least the new Superintendent is a realist who recognizes that public confidence in the MCCS System and in the diocese is at an all time low.  Those "(negative) emotions" to which she refers are actually the learned experience of years of MCCS and diocesan management blunders that have driven our school system nearly into the ground.  Restoring any semblance of confidence is going to be a long, uphill slog, especially since the events of last January have shown just how little genuine authority any MCCS Superintendent actually has.

Any significant deviation from the financial results expected by the diocese will almost certainly result in the convening of another committee of the well-off and the well-connected who will meet in secret and give Willkens Leach new marching orders, with the potential result of one more Superintendent resigning "for personal reasons."

With that potential scenario always hanging in the background it will be difficult for many of us to have any confidence in Willkens Leach or anyone else in her position.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Holy Cross School on

Photographer Jeff Gerew has entered an interesting picture of Holy Cross School in the D&C's Capture Rochester project. Shot with what appears to be a fisheye lens, the photo shows the southern (Latta Rd.) entrance to the school and bears the caption

The Holy Cross School in Charlotte. Arguably the most controversial of the thirteen Catholic Schools closed by the Roman Catholic Diocese this year. Even though the school had prepared to operate with private funding donated by area residents and businesses, the Diocese still refused to let the school remain open.

See Jeff's photo here.

Update: In a comment (below) Jeff reminds us to vote for his photo if we like it. You'll need to register first but, having just done that, I can report that it's a simple process.

Jeff has well over 100 photos entered in the project, many of them stunning. You can see his work beginning here.

St. John Bosco Schools Newsletter

St. John Bosco Schools has published the first edition of what it promises to be a weekly newsletter.  Written in the style of a FAQ, the newsletter provides an update on progress toward the opening of the school in September.

Notable items include

  • Parents of over 40 children have expressed "strong interest" in enrolling their children.
  • The school will be K-5.
  • A Pre-K is also expected.
  • Annual tuition will be $1,500, plus $300 to $400 for books.

Read the entire newsletter here or visit the web site here.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

New Blog From Rich Leonardi

Rochester native son Rich Leonardi has launched a new blog dedicated to the Year of St. Paul. 

According to Rich,

Called "Man of Three Cultures," it will share information about events surrounding the Pauline year and circulate resources to help the faithful understand Christ through His "thirteenth apostle." There will also be an observation or two.

See the first few entries here.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

10 Years Later

One of my Google Alerts just picked up a 10 year-old article from National Catholic Reporter.  Entitled Pastor of liberal parish blames transfer on Rome, the story focuses on parishioner and staff reaction at Corpus Christi Church to the announcement that then-pastor Fr. Jim Callen was to be transferred.

One paragraph that caught my eye reads,

"Jim said, 'In 10 years this will all look silly,'" [supervising sacristan Margaret] Whittman recalled. "He said, 'In 10 years we'll have married priests, we'll have women priests, we'll have interfaith communion.'" (emphasis added)

This reminded me of one of Moses' instructions to the Isrealites:

If you say to yourselves, "How can we recognize an oracle which the LORD has spoken?", know that, even though a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if his oracle is not fulfilled or verified, it is an oracle which the LORD did not speak. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously. (Deuteronomy 18:21-22)

It sure looks "Jim" has failed the prophet test.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

A Preferential Option for the Poor?

Former Rochesterian Rich Leonardi commented yesterday on the story reporting on last Sunday's final Mass at Holy Family Church.

In response, one of his readers sent Rich a copy of a flyer he found on his windshield following the Mass:


Among the issues addressed by the flyer are the closing of almost all of the Catholic schools in the City of Rochester and the fact that but 3 Catholic churches remain on the West side of the city. It then asks, "Where is the Diocesan commitment to serve the poorest of the poor?"

Recent events have pretty much revealed the diocese's answer to that question. While the diocese can arguably claim that declining church attendance caused, in part, by shifting demographics has led to the closure of so many churches, it has a much harder time explaining away all those school closings, especially in city parishes that had clearly and convincingly demonstrated that they were ready, willing and able to operate their schools on their own.

Once the CMA data revealed that it was pretty much the better-off parishes that got to keep their schools at the expense of the poorer ones, the real motives underlying the Bishop's decision-making process became clear.

In DOR it's going to be lip service for the poor, churches and schools for the rich.

I guess our Bishop isn't that much of a liberal after all.