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."