Sunday, May 24, 2009

A sense of urgency

Eugene Michael at Rochester Catholic suspects that DOR is getting ready to close more city parishes, while local evangelical churches seem to be bursting at the seams.

Lately, it almost appears as if there is a sense of urgency by diocesan officials to close as many schools and churches as possible before Bishop Clark retires. This is unfortunate , as it will certainly hamper the next bishop’s ability to restore the faith here in Rochester. A dramatic and rapid restoration of the faith under a new bishop would certainly reflect badly on the current administration. Sometimes I wonder if all these clusterings and closings aren’t meant to guarantee that this renewal won’t happen until the current administration is long gone.

Read the entire post here.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Higher education and the truth

Without uttering a single word about the fiasco at Notre Dame, Archbishop José Gomez of San Antonio put his finger squarely on the underlying source of the controversy. The occasion was his recent address to the graduating class at the University of the Incarnate Word.

[O]ur society today is a lot like Pontius Pilate—it doesn’t recognize the truth. It doesn’t believe there can even be any one truth. Our culture believes instead that there are many truths—as many different truths as there are individuals, and that it’s wrong to try to decide or judge among these competing “truths.”

This sounds like a very fair and reasonable way to live in a free society where there are many different religions, lifestyles, and points of view. But in practice: when nothing is true, everything is permitted.

When the only truth is that there is no truth, then we end up with what Pope Benedict has called the “dictatorship of relativism.” What’s right or wrong, true or false, good or evil, is decided by majority vote or imposed by powerful special interests. As a result of this dictatorship of relativism, our society not only allows evils such as abortion, it also protects them under law.

My friends, part of what God is calling you to do with your higher education is to restore the sense of truth to our society—especially the truth about the sanctity and dignity of human life.

You have to help our society see that truths and moral absolutes do exist. That the truth is always true, no matter whether any one believes it or not. That we need to conform our lives—and our laws—to these truths.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Bishop Carlson: From 2 to more than 20 seminarians in 4 years

Bishop Robert J. Carlson of the Diocese of Saginaw was recently named to head up the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

An item at fills us in on some of Bishop Carlson's accomplishments during his brief tenure in Saginaw:

During his four years as bishop in Saginaw before being tapped to lead in Missouri, Carlson focused on vocations, Catholic schools, service to the poor, stewardship and evangelization. In his time at Saginaw, the number of seminarians considering a vocation to the priesthood rose from two to more than 20.

The Diocese of Saginaw has approximately 140,000 Catholics, so 20 seminarians would be the equivalent of 14.3 for every 100,000 Catholics.

By way of contrast, DOR currently has 1.7 seminarians for every 100,000 Catholics.

Cathedral School to relocate?

Gene Michael alerts us to an intriguing sentence in this week's Cathedral Community bulletin

It seems that the community is exploring the sale of the old Holy Rosary property on Lexington Ave.  The buyer would be Providence Housing Development Corporation, a not-for-profit that develops, finances and manages housing for seniors, individuals with special needs and families.

Included in the sale would be the school building, which currently houses one of Monroe County's eleven remaining Catholic schools and the only one in the City of Rochester. The Cathedral Community, according to the bulletin,

will also be exploring the feasibility of relocating our school to the Cathedral campus.

The Cathedral campus has but one structure suitable for use as a school: the old Sacred Heart School building.  And, as Gene points out, that building is currently under long-term lease to the City School District.

So what is to become of the Cathedral School at Holy Rosary? Will the parish terminate its lease with the city and move it to Flower City Park?  Will it be relocated elsewhere - hopefully somewhere within the city limits?  Will it simply be closed?

There are a lot of questions here that need answers.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Saying Amen

This ought to be an interesting read:

According to a listing on a new book is due out this October. Published by Ave Maria Press and entitled Forward in Hope: Saying Amen to Lay Ecclesial Ministry, the paperback is being authored by our own Bishop Matthew H. Clark.

I suspect this will be our brother Matthew's attempt to rationalize the pastoral desolation he will be bequeathing to his successor in another 38 months.

I can't wait to read the chapter on Sister Joan.

Update: From the Ave Maria Press web site:

Currently in the U.S., there are over 30,000 lay ecclesial ministers serving the Catholic Church, and another 16,000 studying in ministry formation programs--nearly five times the number of men preparing for ordination to the priesthood. A long-time advocate of lay ecclesial ministry, Bishop Matthew Clark offers his vast theological knowledge and engaging stories from years of ministry to make this an informative and accessible read for anyone called to leadership in today's Catholic Church. Forward in Hope examines the ever-growing significance of lay ecclesial ministry and the way it is changing the face of the Church.

Monday, May 18, 2009

"The bishop must stand up for life all the time, everywhere without exception"

Bishop John D'Arcy of the Diocese of Fort Wayne - South Bend had not originally intended to be at Sunday's ND Response alternative graduation ceremony. After participating in the previous evening's prayer vigil and observing the pro-life Notre Dame students, however, the Bishop changed his mind.

According to a story in the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel,

“It is certainly the place for the bishop to be here,” D'Arcy said to applause. “John D'Arcy's not important, but the office of bishop is very important and (the bishop) must always be like Pope John Paul II to stand up for life all the time, everywhere without exception.” (emphasis mine)

Not so here in DOR. Bishop Matthew Clark was once again conspicuously absent from last month's annual Good Friday Stations of the Cross in Reparation for Abortion. He had other plans.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

"We always support civil rights"

WETM Channel 18 in the Southern Tier has a story on its site concerning the gay marriage bill currently before the NY Senate.

Seeking a comment from a representative of the Church, the station got the following from our local ordinary:

Bishop Matthew Clark of Rochester says the church continues its opposition to the bill but supports equal rights.

"We're very much in favor for equal rights for folks. It depends on the form, shape and format of legislation. We always support civil rights of people and their full exercise." said Bishop Clark.

I cannot think of a better response than that already posted by Kit at By The Brook:

What Would Matthew Say?

If he had a spine or was orthodox at all?

The latest proposed gay marriage bill is wending its way through the corrupt corridors of Albany, and we get this predictably weak "statement" of what the Church opposes, but not its titular head in the DOR. No educating, no expounding on the sacramental nature of marriage...just some happy social justice/civil rights crap.

How unrefreshingly typical.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Bishop: Time again to teach

In a recent interview Bishop Robert J. McManus of the Diocese of Worcester commented on the abysmal catechesis far too prevalent in far too many of our dioceses over the last 40 years.

The interviewer notes that, "Of concern to him ... is the general lack of knowledge of the faith which translates into lower Mass attendance and participation. Teaching the fundamentals of the faith is the answer to that malaise, he thinks." (emphasis mine)

The Bishop, in his own words:

[W]e have to realize that in some ways in the last 40 years, specifically in terms of our catechesis, that we have not been terribly effective in passing on the content of the faith in a way that has really captivated people’s minds and imaginations ...

Our preaching and our teaching has to become much more content-oriented. I think that, in a sense, much of our preaching has become very horizontalized. It is a type a neo-moralism: ‘be a good person; be nice to other people; God loves you; you’re wonderful; everything is beautiful.’ That’s sort of flat. I mean a lot of it is true, but if our preaching is this type of moralizing, or a sort of therapeutic approach to passing on the Gospel, a lot of substance of the Gospel and the teaching of the Church is not passed on ...

What I find is that a lot of Catholics don’t really have a keen sense of their Catholic identity. And what happens is, if that is not pronounced, if I don’t know why I am a Roman Catholic and what makes Catholicism to be itself, there’s that temptation to say ‘What difference does it make? I’m a good person…”

Now if this message could only penetrate the walls at 1150 Buffalo Road ...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

CMA Update

The most recent Parish-by-Parish Catholic Ministries Appeal results posted on are dated May 4. As of that point the diocese had received pledges totaling $4,832,060 against a total assessment of $5,294,734. In other words, total pledges are now at 91.3 % of total parish assessment.

New donors have tapered off

The number of new donors has continued to run at about 7 per day over the last 2 months and new pledges have averaged $183 during the same period. If these trends continue through the end of the drive on May 31, the 2008-09 CMA will wind up about $429,200 (or 8.1%) short of its goal.

Total number of donors still down significantly

The total number of CMA donors is now 33,691, over 3,300 short of last year's "more than 37,000." The difference in unemployment rates between the two years can account for roughly 1,000 of the missing donors but that still leaves 2,300 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 99.4% of CMA assessment while the "Lost Schools" group's pledges are at 84.5%. Were the latter group pledging at the same rate as the former their overall pledges would be about $114,500 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 ($11,333 short).

12 of the 13 Monroe County parishes that lost their schools are still in existence. Only 2 of this group have reached their CMA assessments 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 ($10,065), St. Andrew ($10,782), Good Shepherd ($10,998), St. Theodore ($11,505), St. John the Evangelist ($11,863), Holy Trinity ($18,843) and St. John of Rochester ($24,122).

Saturday, May 9, 2009

"Some bishops have lost their nerve when it comes to Catholic schools"

Archbishop Timothy Dolan gave an interview to the Wall Street Journal that appeared on their web site today. Two of the topics covered caught my attention (all emphasis mine).

On Catholic schools

The archbishop admits that at times others in the Catholic Church don't share his enthusiasm [for Catholic schools]. "Some priests and some bishops have lost their nerve when it comes to Catholic schools. [They've] almost said, 'boy they were nice and we'll do our best to keep the ones that we got but more or less they are on life support and I guess in 50 years they're going to fade away.'" The archbishop says his predecessor Cardinal Egan rejected this line of thinking and he does too. "Its time for us bishops to say: these . . . are . . . worth . . . fighting . . . for," he says, emphasizing each word slowly. "These are worth putting at the top of our agenda, and these are worth something not only internally for us as a church as we pass on the faith for our kids and grandkids, but it is also a highly regarded public service that we do for the wider community. And darn it we do it well, we have a great tradition of it and we're not going to stand by and see it collapse."

So what's the plan? The archbishop, who seems to me part theologian, part historian, and part marketing guru, is already thinking about ways to explore and expand private funding initiatives such as the successful Inner City Scholarship Fund.

He is sure that there can be "wider participation from New York's philanthropic, business and civic community." There are many "who so love the New York community" and see education as "one of the finest investments we can make in the future of our community." Often, he says, givers are not Catholic. "I met someone a week or so ago who said if you ask me my religion I'd probably say I am an atheist, but I love Catholic schools because they do such a sterling job and I am going to support them."

On the decline in Mass attendance and vocations

It's time to "recover the evangelizing muscle that characterized the early church." This means putting an end to the "wavering" that has too often characterized the Catholic Church since the Second Vatican Council and a return to a clear and confident message.

"Very often even the word Catholic even the word church has had a question mark behind it," he says. "Does [the Church] know where it's going? Does it know what its teaching? Is it going to be around? There was a big question mark. A young person will not give his or her life for a question mark. A young person will give his or her life for an exclamation point."

This "recovery" in confidence, he says, began under John Paul II and continues under Pope Benedict XVI. In his new role, Archbishop Dolan intends to keep it going. Being a Catholic is an "adventure in fidelity," he insists. The Catholic Church, he says, has "a very compelling moral message. She calls us to what is most noble in our human makeup, dares us to become saints, challenges us to heroic virtue."

Bishop Clark: No second guessing on major decisions

Channel 10's Berkeley Brean interviewed Bishop Clark yesterday on subjects related to his impending thirtieth anniversary as Bishop of Rochester. The full interview is here. What follows is my transcription of two of the questions and answers from that interview.

Q: Is there anything you would have done differently over the 30 years - differently that would have been personal to you but also that would have impacted the hundreds of thousands in the diocese?

A: I don't think, when I think of that question, you know I have made a lot of decisions over the 30 years, some of them popular and some of them unpopular.

As I look back I realize that I tried to do the best I could with all of them. And when I say tried to do the best I could, I mean I tried to garner the input, the advice to do the study to do the prayer, etc., that I felt was necessary to come to a mature decision.

I know that every decision that I've ever made is imperfect, but I can't honestly say that I would go back and change any of those major decisions now. I would say there are lots of instances in which I might have more carefully and thoughtfully garnered the input, but I've never been one … I mean I do think I bring a sort of critical point of view to my own work, before, during and after. But I think for my own mental health and peace of mind I try to avoid the kind of second guessing that leads nowhere. You know you do the best you can, make the decision, entrust it to the community and to God and you move on.

But you always look to improve and to do things better. You know you'd like to have the conversations up front before a decision to be of such quality and scope that you minimize the discontented conversations afterwards. But I don't think we'll ever come to a place where that's gonna be perfect, but you work at it.

Q: And I suppose that the issue with school closings is probably in that context?

A: Well, that would be … that was a tough decision. I mean we've had a number of tough decisions about schools over the years. If your reference is to the one a year ago January, of course, very difficult.

We tried to be very careful in that research and we tried to communicate as best we could under the circumstances but you knew going in, because whenever you make a decision that touches the lives of people's children, they're very very sensitive decisions and you know that you're going to have to deal with a very natural reaction to that. And so you don't go around looking for ways in which to upset people but sometimes you know that when you make decisions and your best judgments have to be made then you better be ready, as best you can, to deal with the fallout from that, both the positive and the negative.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The tradition lives on

Holy Cross School existed for well over 100 years and during that time many traditions came into being and were maintained.

One of these traditions was the annual May Day celebration culminating in the crowning of a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary with a wreath of flowers.

That tradition was continued last Sunday by some of the parish's 8th grade girls. They were assisted by an honor guard of 8th grade boys and flower girls from the younger grades.

The school may have been forced to close but the tradition lives on.

More photos here and still more here.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Vocations surge in Arkansas

There must be something in the water in the Diocese of Little Rock. 

Arkansas Catholic, the official newspaper of the Diocese of Little Rock, is reporting that the diocese currently has 27 men in formation and expects to add as many as 10 more next fall.  This uptick in vocations has even prompted talk of reopening the diocesan seminary.

What makes this all the more remarkable is that the diocese, which encompasses the entire state of Arkansas, only has about 112,000 Catholics.

Little Rock currently has 24.1 seminarians per 100,000 Catholics and, if all 10 potential new seminarians follow through, will have 33.0 per 100,000 this fall.

These numbers compare quite favorably with those of the Archdiocese of St. Louis and the Diocese of Wichita (21.6 and 38.3 seminarians per 100,000 Catholics, respectively - see here).

By way of contrast, DOR currently has 1.7 seminarians for every 100,000 Catholics.

MCCS Superintendent hopes to open new school

In an interview with RNews MCCS Superintendent Anne Wilkens Leach indicated that the diocese would like to "get back the hundreds of families it lost" when it closed 13 Catholic schools last year.

Her immediate goal is to get next year's registration up to 4,000 from its current level of 3,700.  She obviously hopes that the diocese's successful campaign to raise $500,000 - and thereby secure another $2 million from the Wegman Family Charitable Foundation - will help in that effort.

Looking toward the future, Leach added

“Our preschools are bursting at the seams all over in the entire diocese. So we're counting on them to be feeders for our schools," says Leach.

The diocese includes 24 schools in 11 counties east and south of Rochester. Enrollment continues through August. Leach says don't expect anymore school closings.

“Oh absolutely not! The only talk I am having is filling up these schools and maybe opening one. That is my goal."

Friday, May 1, 2009

Schools fund raising effort exceeds goal

Just one month ago the diocese was $120,000 short of the $500,000 it needed to raise in order to receive a $2 million grant from the Wegman Family Charitable Foundation. The combined $2.5 million is to be used to fund a tuition assistance program designed to help children from poor families attend Catholic schools.

Now the diocese is reporting that it has exceeded its goal by more than $20,000, which means that over $140,000 in donations have come in within the last month.

Combining the dollar amounts reported in previous stories with those just published, it appears that private donors have thus far contributed almost $369,000 to the effort, while average parishioners in the pews have donated over $151,000. One month ago those numbers were $320,000 and $60,000, respectively.

The Catholic Courier article goes on to say that

Diocesan officials first answered this challenge by holding a series of receptions for potential donors. During these receptions, held at private homes, Sister [Janice] Morgan gave presentations outlining the need for such scholarship funds for needy children, especially those from the inner city ...

These gatherings also gave diocesan officials a chance to meet with parishioners, listen to their stories and hear their thoughts about Catholic education in the Diocese of Rochester. Sister Morgan said she thinks this helped promote healing in the wake of last year's closing of 13 Catholic schools in Monroe County.

I strongly doubt that many parishioners of average means found an invite to one of these receptions in their mailboxes. Certainly no one at my parish has mentioned receiving one.

I know of several folks who would have thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to meet with diocesan officials, tell their stores and relate their thoughts about Catholic education in the diocese. However, I suspect that none of them was in a tax bracket sufficiently high to warrant such access.

But it's still a good thing, I suppose, that the diocese seeks to promote healing among some of our better-off brethren.

Now what about the rest of us?

Mafia Rosary

Found on YouTube ...

It seems as if there's a bit of a cyber debate at present, as to whether a campaign to say the rosary for Rochester's Bishop Clark is actually praying for him or for his retirement/resignation/death/spontaneous combustion. Hopefully this video will provide some answers.


Backstory here, here, here and (possibly) here.

Bishop Clark says he isn't retiring

According to post on the Channel 13 web site, Bishop Matthew Clark says he has no intention of retiring.

He laughs when we mention rumors that he is planning to retire. Those rumors began circulating last week.

"I've heard that rumor myself," the Bishop told us during an interview in his office. "I have no idea where it comes from."

The Bishop says he will have to write a letter to the Pope when he turns 75, basically giving notice that he plans to retire. But right now, he isn't going anywhere.

Other topics covered in the interview include Catholic schools, parish closings and the shortage of priests in DOR.

Read the full article here.

Tip: DMac

Another Catholic Call-In Scheduled

The following appeared on the Catholic Courier site yesterday ...

Catholics from throughout the 12-county Diocese of Rochester with questions about their faith can get answers during the "Catholic Call-In" from 2 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 12, by calling toll-free 1-866-595-8575. The call-in is a part of the diocesanwide three-year Spirit Alive! spiritual renewal.

Catholic gestures, annulment, divorce and marriage are all potential topics for questions. A call-in also was conducted last May and drew more than 80 queries on topics including church doctrine, mortal sin, heaven, hell and the Sunday obligation to attend Mass.

I can think of several other "potential topics for questions" not mentioned in the article:

  • The ongoing practice of allowing the non-ordained to preach homilies at Mass.
  • The reasoning behind the appointment of Women's Ordination Conference members to positions of parish leadership.
  • The ongoing invitations to prominent dissidents to speak in DOR.
  • The total failure of Spirit Alive! to stop or even slow down the decline in Mass attendance.
  • The decisions of many local men to take their vocations elsewhere and the effect this has had on our priest "shortage."

Anyone care to extend the list?