Thursday, April 23, 2009

Are DOR's vocations seeking ordination elsewhere?

A local ordination

The Catholic Courier is reporting on the upcoming ordination of Brian Carpenter who is expected to be ordained a priest at Sacred Heart Cathedral on June 6.

Deacon Carpenter is hoping for a big turnout. According to the story,

He hopes that many people he's never met will consider joining him, his family and his friends at the cathedral on June 6, stressing that the day's emphasis should be not on him but celebrating the priesthood -- especially for the sake of others in attendance who might be considering a religious vocation.

"The way that ordination looks speaks a lot about it," he stated. "I want a full cathedral -- I want people hanging from the rafters."

A big celebration certainly would not be out of place, especially since it will be the last such celebration until at least 2012. Yes, DOR will not be ordaining anyone in 2010 and the same will be true in 2011.

Could it be possible that the Holy Spirit did not send us any vocations that would come to full fruition in those years, or might something else be going on?

The national picture

Nationally, the Catholic Church expects to ordain 465 men this year. A CARA survey commissioned by the USCCB indicates that approximately 360 of them will become diocesan priests with the remainder serving in various religious orders.

The CARA report goes on to say that

About one in six diocesan ordinands (17 percent) report that they lived in the diocese or eparchy for which they will be ordained less than a year before they entered the seminary. In fact, 8 percent reported they did not live in the diocese or eparchy at all before they entered the seminary. Another 84 ordinands (27 percent) did not answer the question about how long they lived in the diocese or eparchy before entering the seminary.

In other words, each of about 61 men who responded to God's call to the priesthood decided that his home diocese was not, for some reason, a suitable place to say yes to that call.

One can only wonder what sorts of conditions or situations could lead a man to make this kind of decision.

Finally, one can also only wonder how many of these men might have originally been from the Diocese of Rochester.

Update: In the comments below CathMom reports that 3 of her SJFC classmates who were judged too conservative for the priesthood by the Diocese of Rochester have now been ordained priests in other dioceses.

Another reader reports that both Fr. William Lawrence of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter and Fr. Greg Reichlen of the Diocese of Scranton are former DOR residents. Both attended the UofR.

And Dr. K. provides us with this snippet from a late 2008 St. Stainslaus Church bulletin:

So thus far we know of 5 men who have left DOR to be ordained elsewhere.

Does anyone else out there know of any others?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

"Being Catholic is not a heavy burden"

Timothy Dolan will be installed this afternoon as the new Archbishop of New York.  As a means of introducing himself to his new flock His Excellency has an op-ed piece running in this morning's edition of the NY Daily News. 

I aim to be a happy bishop, sharing joys and laughs with you. So you will see me at the St. Patrick's parade, and at the new Yankee Stadium, and at processions and feast days and barbecues across our almost 400 parishes. Being Catholic is not a heavy burden, snuffing the joy out of life; rather our faith in Jesus and His Church gives meaning, purpose and joy to life. I love being a Catholic, I love being a priest, and I fully intend to love being archbishop of New York while loving all of you in the Church in New York.

Loving the Church here means supporting her indispensable work caring for the poor, the immigrants, the sick and elderly, the lonely, the unborn and the abandoned. It means working hard for her Catholic schools, in many ways the pride of the archdiocese. It means ensuring that our parishes are places where people encounter the Lord Jesus in the Mass, the sacraments and in an authentically Catholic community. It means inviting more young men to become priests and women to become sisters.

It means speaking from America's most famous pulpit for justice and peace, for religious liberty and the sanctity of all human life. It means teaching the Catholic faith in season and out of season, as a good shepherd must.

That last sentence tells me that the Archdiocese of New York is in very good hands.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

CMA Update

The most recent Parish-by-Parish Catholic Ministries Appeal results posted on are dated March 30. As of that point the diocese had received pledges totaling $4,795,791 against a total assessment of $5,294,734. In other words, total pledges are now at 90.6 % of total parish assessment.

New donors tapering off

The number of new donors has been running at about 7 per day over the last 3 weeks (it had been 18 per day one month ago) and new pledges have averaged $260 during the same period (thanks, in large part, to 9 pledges totaling $14,905). If the trend over the last 3 weeks continues through the end of the drive in May, the 2008-09 CMA will wind up about $386,100 (or 7.3%) short of its goal.

Total number of donors still down significantly

The total number of CMA donors is now 33,433, over 3,500 short of last year's "more than 37,000." The difference in unemployment rates can account for roughly 1,000 of the missing donors but that still leaves 2,500 or more of last year's contributors inexplicably absent from this year's campaign.

Monroe County parishes that kept their schools continue to outperform those that lost schools

The Monroe County parishes that lost their schools last June continue to lag significantly behind those that kept theirs. Overall, the "Kept Schools" group has pledges running at 99.3% of CMA assessment while the "Lost Schools" group's pledges are at 84.0%. Were the latter group pledging at the same rate as the former their overall pledges would be about $117,600 higher than they actually are.

Individual MCCS parishes

Data for 10 of the 11 Monroe County parishes that kept their schools are being reported by DOR. (Peace of Christ Parish is conducting a combined CMA and parish fund drive and is not included.) Half of these parishes have reached their CMA assessments and pledges at all but 2 are at or above the diocesan average. In addition, only 1 of these parishes is currently $10,000 or more short of its assessment: Christ the King ($11,583 short).

12 of the 13 Monroe County parishes that lost their schools are still in existence. Of this group only 1 parish has reached its CMA assessment and all but 2 are below the diocesan average. Furthermore, 7 of these parishes are $10,000 or more short of their assessments. These parishes (and their shortages) are St. Margaret Mary ($10,185), St. Andrew ($10,782), Good Shepherd ($11,303), St. Theodore ($11,530), St. John the Evangelist ($12,142), Holy Trinity ($19,393) and St. John of Rochester ($24,883).

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

"Do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry"

Today's print edition of the D&C features a locally edited column by Dick Polman of the Philadelphia Inquirer. A longer and inexplicably chopped up version  is online.

Locally titled Organized Catholic left is pushing back hard, the column opens by mentioning that 54% of American Catholics voted for Barack Obama, despite his having been "assailed" as "anti-life" by many of their leaders.

It  then goes on to mention the almost certain failure of "Church leaders and traditional Catholic groups" to derail the appointment of pro-abortion Kathleen Sebelius to the Obama administration, as well as the protests of "conservative Catholic bloggers and many prominent bishops" over Notre Dame's invitation to the President to deliver its commencement address.

Push back from "a well-organized Catholic left," including Catholics United (in the online version), is credited for the Sebelius failure and "considerable resistance from the rank and file" to the Notre Dame/Obama protests is also mentioned.

Catholics for Choice and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good also earn mentions for their opposition to the hierarchy, an opposition they claim is grounded in conscience (but which ignores the proper formation of conscience).

Near the end of the column Polman gives us this observation,

But what's most striking, in a new Gallup survey that looks at aggregated data from 2006 to 2008, is how the moral views of Catholics are pretty much the same as everybody else's — on abortion, embryonic stem-cell research, divorce, you name it. In fact, far more Catholics (67 percent) than non-Catholics (57 percent) believe that sex outside of marriage is morally acceptable.

No wonder the church hierarchy's campaign against Sebelius has collapsed like a bad souffle.

This is really nothing more than the fruits of 40 years of abysmal catechesis overseen by the American hierarchy.  In their attempts to be more "pastoral" - to be "nice" - they lost sight of their primary responsibility. For far too many of them the words of Paul to Timothy were treated as a quaint relic from an earlier time and not as the Word of the Lord:

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom:

Preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching.

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths.

As for you, always be steady, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfil your ministry. (2 Timothy 4:1-5)

When I was younger this seemed to be the approach taken by pretty much all our bishops, priests and Catholic educators.  We even had a Catholic bishop with his own prime-time TV program, a program that frequently had better ratings than the shows it was up against.

Fortunately - or rather, thanks to the Holy Spirit - this tide seems to be showing signs of turning.  Most of the recent appointees to American episcopal posts seem to be orthodox men who understand both the problem and their responsibilities. 

Things most likely will not change overnight and I don't believe we'll ever see another Bishop Sheen holding down a prime time slot, but we seem to be headed in the right direction.  It took 40 years of wandering in the wilderness for things to get this bad, so a slow trip back is to be expected.  But we do seem to be on our way.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Get in line, Rochester

Deacon Greg Kandra over at The Deacon's Bench is blogging about a recent Los Angeles Times article reporting on an upcoming flood of U.S. episcopal retirements.

It looks like those of us in DOR counting down the time remaining until July 15, 2012 may have to wait somewhat longer than 1,195 days to find out who our new bishop will be.

Want a new bishop in your diocese? Be patient ...

Nearly one-third of 265 active U.S. bishops must submit letters of resignation to the pope within five years because they will have reached the mandatory retirement age of 75. More than half the bishops will reach the milestone within 10 years ...

Most of the retiring bishops will probably remain on the job for a year or more after their 75th birthdays while successors are found. The pope ultimately decides when to accept the resignations.

One part of the Times article not quoted by the deacon offers many long-suffering DOR Catholics a ray of hope:

Church experts say Benedict's recent appointments suggest that he is concerned more with orthodoxy than ethnicity and with putting a positive public face on the church.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Grounds for removal

Rich Leonardi has alerted us to a press release issued by the Diocese of Madison explaining Bishop Morlino's dismissal of a pastoral associate from one its parishes.

The release is written in Q&A-format and, as Rich writes, "[it] reads like a pastoral letter on the role of catechesis and catechists at the parish."

One section in particular caught my eye.  It reads as follows (my emphasis):

Q:    Was Ruth fired because of her involvement with Call to Action?

A:    No. Ms. Kolpack's involvement with the group “Call to Action,” which was not clear until hours after her termination, was not a part of any discussions regarding Ms. Kolpack's departures from authentic Catholic teaching.

       Call to Action is noted, however, for their own serious departures and denials of the authentic teaching of the Catholic Church. Associating with such anti-Catholic groups as Call to Action, Catholics for a Free Choice, Women’s Ordination Conference, FutureChurch, CORPUS, DignityUSA, and many others, would certainly be grounds for removal of someone charged with passing on the Church’s teaching, which these groups openly reject.

       Likewise, it seems disingenuous that anyone associated with these groups would commit themselves to teaching what they themselves don’t believe. Again, however, this was not the case with regard to Ms. Kolpack, as the diocese was unaware of any association prior to her termination.

It seems that in the Diocese of Madison being a member of the Women's Ordination Conference will get you the boot.

In DOR, however, it will get you your own parish to run, complete with a special installation Mass presided over by the bishop himself. 

See here for details.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Special schools collection nets just $60,000

According to a news item on, as of March 31 the Diocese of Rochester had collected a total of $380,000 of the $500,000 it needs to raise in order to qualify for a $2 million grant from the Wegman Family Charitable Foundation.  The combined $2.5 million would be used to fund a tuition assistance program which would enable children from poor families to attend Catholic schools.

An earlier Channel 10 story reported that the diocese had already raised about $320,000 from private donors prior to taking its campaign to the people in the pews.  A letter from Bishop Clark was to be read from all Monroe County pulpits on the weekend of March 7-8 and collections were taken up on both that and the following weekend.

DOR's current update indicates that those collections netted approximately $60,000.

The diocese is still some $120,000 short of its target and it is unclear at this point how it intends to close that gap in the 12 weeks remaining before the June 30 deadline.

According to a post on the Catholic Courier site,

Those wishing to contribute directly may mail a check made out to "Diocese of Rochester Challenge" to: Sister Janice Morgan, Pastoral Center, 1150 Buffalo Road, Rochester, NY 14624.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Poor formation is the fruit of poor preaching

As reported here last week, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver was asked to reflect on the results of last November's election as a theme for a talk at a recent Detroit conference. He said, in part,

November showed us that 40 years of American Catholic complacency and poor formation are bearing exactly the fruit we should have expected. Or to put it more discreetly, the November elections confirmed a trend, rather than created a new moment, in American culture.

Two days ago the Gallup organization released the results of a poll that shows just how far this trend has progressed in those two score years.

According to Gallup, Catholics in general seem slightly more liberal in their acceptance or approval of various behaviors the Church either condemns or about which the Church expresses strong reservations.

Many committed Catholics disagree with the Church

Gallup identified committed Catholics as "those who attend church weekly or almost every week." It turns out, sadly, that even a large proportion of these regular church-goers reject the Church's teaching on a variety of issues. These rejection rates vary from 24% for abortion to 67% for gambling (which, of course, isn't always sinful).

Most disturbing are the facts that over half of these regular church-going Catholics see nothing wrong with heterosexual relations outside of marriage, divorce, and using human embryos for stem cell research, while 4 out of 9 approve of homosexual relations.

Gallup's analysis

According to the Gallup report,

The data show that regular churchgoing non-Catholics also have very conservative positions on moral issues. In fact, on most of the issues tested, regular churchgoers who are not Catholic are more conservative (i.e., less likely to find a given practice morally acceptable) than Catholic churchgoers.

My analysis

Most adult Catholics receive the totality of their ongoing moral formation in those 10 to 15 minutes reserved for the homily at weekend Mass. Their bishops may write pastoral letters, the USCCB may issue statements and the pope may even write an occasional encyclical, but if those things aren't mentioned on Sunday morning they might just as well have taken place on another planet.

For the last 40 years we have been the victims of far too many homilies whose moral content could be reduced to "Jesus loves you. Don't litter." Most homilists, somewhat understandably, want to be seen as "nice guys" and preaching sin as sin is not a recipe for popularity, at least not in the short run.

Our priests and deacons - with the support and encouragement of their bishops - are going to have to overcome their aversion to preaching on the "hard sayings" if they are to lead us out of this mess. And, since they are the only points of contact between the Church and most of its members, they are the only ones in a position to do the leading.

It ain't gonna happen here

This is going to be well neigh impossible here in DOR, at least for the next 3+ years. There is absolutely no support and encouragement coming out of Buffalo Rd. for homilies clearly and forcefully laying out the Church's teaching on a variety of "sensitive" issues.

In fact, just the opposite is true. As one commenter on Rich Leonardi's blog wrote,

any homily that forcefully sets forth traditional Church teachings on homosexuality (i.e., the idea of loving the sinner but acknowledging and calling the acts involved "sin" vs. total inclusion up to and including marriage), morality, modesty in behavior and Sunday dress, explaining why there will be no nuptial Masses for "mixed" (Catholic/non-Catholic or second (non-annulled) marriages, supporting the Church's stance on female ordinations [is] inherently suspect.

Any homilist who dares to bring up these issues risks an invitation to Buffalo Rd. for a counseling session on how to be a more "pastoral" clergyman.

There is hope

But we do have hope. Our wandering in this arid desert should come to a close in another 3 years or so when the bishop turns 75 and has to submit his resignation to Rome. I pray that His Holiness then sends us a bishop who preaches the entirety of the Catholic faith and encourages his priests and deacons to do the same. Then the healing can begin.