Monday, November 30, 2009

Advent concert coming to Auburn, Webster

This holiday season, Musica Transatlantica - one of Rochester's premier Early Music vocal ensembles - will present Ave Maria: A Concert of Advent Motets Sunday afternoon, December 13 in Auburn NY, and again on Friday evening, December 18 in Webster, NY.

Unlike typical holiday concerts that present Christmas throughout December (or even into November), Ave Maria focuses on the season of Advent, the liturgical season that anticipates this holiday. The texts chosen for this concert speak of Mary, the angel Gabriel, and the upcoming virgin birth; and have been set to beautiful music by renaissance masters.

These concerts present a unique opportunity for residents of Auburn and the Greater Rochester area to prepare for the upcoming holiday.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Buffalo diocese joins schools fundraising effort

Kelly at Catholic Ponderings has an item up detailing the Diocese of Buffalo's participation in the Catholic Alumni Partnership (CAP),

a new, privately funded effort in support of Catholic elementary schools. A pioneering undertaking, CAP aims to implement strong, sustainable annual fundraising programs for each of the Catholic elementary schools participating in CAP, with alumni support as its foundation.

The CAP website indicates that there are seven arch/dioceses currently participating in this effort, along with 303 of their Catholic schools.

The NY State participants include the Archdiocese of New York and the dioceses on Buffalo, Brooklyn and Rockville Centre.

Conspicuous by its absence is DOR.

Parish tax to fund inner city ministries?

"Urban ministry in the City of Rochester must be a priority for the entire diocese."  Thus begins an article posted last Tuesday on

It seems that Bishop Clark has appointed another of his committees, this one charged with determining "how best to use the diocese’s limited resources to meet the needs of Rochester's parishes and neighborhoods," and that group has now come back with its recommendations.

One of those recommendations was the hiring of additional staff. That has been implemented with the appointment of Sister of Mercy Janet Korn as urban-ministry coordinator and Thomas Kubus, chairman of Peace of Christ Parish’s finance committee, as diocesan finance coordinator focused on working with urban parishes.

According to the article, the group’s other recommendations are:

  • Establish a parish advisory council, to be appointed by the bishop, to offer financial support and oversight to some urban campuses, do strategic planning and seek out real-estate expertise.
  • Development of a multistage urban summit to focus on the ministerial needs of city residents and include participation of community agencies and other churches. Meeting the needs of urban parishioners "is not just a problem for the Catholic Church," Grizard said.
  • Explore other models of ministry, such as the House of Mercy that serves the homeless, and provide education and support to parishioners who want to be engaged in ministry.
  • Enhance the relationships between urban and suburban parishes. "What’s occurring in the city is not an issue to be addressed only by people working within the city," Grizard explained. "These are our issues, our challenges. We can’t continue to be church in the suburbs if we ignore the urban churches."
  • Study potential areas of further parish or ministry consolidation.
  • Generate funding through new assessments on parishes throughout the diocese's 12 counties, based on their level of income. The assessments would be levied on parishes with assets greater than $200,000 or collections totaling more than $200,000.

With respect to that last point I suspect that "assets greater than $200,000" means liquid assets; otherwise, every parish in the diocese would qualify for this new tax.

My take on this:  It's too bad that the bishop doesn't consider the proper formation of the next generation of Catholics (i.e., Catholic schools) to be important enough for a similar diocesan-wide assessment.

Friday, November 27, 2009

"10 Reasons" from Fr. Dwight

Fr. Dwight Longenecker over at Standing on my Head has taken a close look at modernist Christianity and concluded that its long term prospects are poor.

He offers 10 reasons for his opinion (see here), but I would like to focus on just two of them.

Reason #1:

Modernists deny supernaturalism and therefore they are not really religious. Now by 'religion' I mean a transaction with the supernatural. Religion (whether it is primitive people jumping around a campfire or a Solemn High Mass in a Catholic Cathedral) is about an interchange with the other world. It is about salvation of souls, redemption of sin, heaven, hell damnation, the afterlife, angels and demons and all that stuff.

Modernists don't deal in all that. For them religion is a matter of fighting for equal rights, making the world a better place, being kind to everyone and 'spirituality'. It doesn't take very long for people to realize that you don't have to go to church for all that. So people stop going, and that eventually means the death of modernist Christianity. The first generation of modernist Christians will attend church regularly. The second will attend church sometimes. The third almost never. The fourth and fifth will not see any need for worship. They will conclude that if religion is no more than good works, then the religious ritual is redundant.

Reason #6:

Modernism makes no great demands for its devotees to be religious. Ask any modernist, "Why should I come to Church?" What would he answer? "You don't have to come to church. It's there if you want it. If it does you good, and makes you feel better, we're here to serve you." Modernist Catholic priests wring their hands and wonder why no one comes to Mass anymore. It's because for forty years they've been saying, "It's not really a mortal sin to miss Mass. You should come because you love God, not because you fear him." While this sentiment may be laudable, they shouldn't therefore be surprised if no one comes to Mass.

While the remainder of Fr. Dwight's reasons are all sound, these two seem particularly relevant to the situation here in DOR.  In fact, they go a long way toward explaining how we have arrived at our present state.

About 4 years ago I made a presentation to my local PPNM Steering Committee.  At that time I had 6 years' worth of diocesan Mass attendance numbers along with 8 years' worth of our planning group's Mass attendance numbers at my disposal and I was very concerned with the sharp downward trend shown by both data sets.

I turned that data into graphs and projected them onto the wall for the 20 or so people present to see. The ensuing discussion quickly focused on reasons why people no longer attend Mass. Toward the end of the discussion I offered my opinion that most folks don't believe it's a sin to miss Mass without a good reason and that they feel that way because no one has told them any different.  Furthermore, I added, we seem to have stopped preaching about sin all together.

You would think I had 2 heads, the way those people just stared at me.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

They were polite has just published a story relating to DOR's participation in the November 19-21 National Catholic Youth Conference. This year's event was held in Kansas City, MO and drew in excess of 20,000 participants. According to the story DOR "sent 632 conventioneers -- two-thirds young people, and the rest adult chaperones and officials including Bishop Matthew H. Clark."

Four of those young people were Holy Cross parishioners and, on their way to the conference, they and their chaperones were waiting for their connecting flight at one of the Chicago airports.

The group was somewhat surprised when they were joined by Bishop Clark, who had been attending the Baltimore USCCB meeting and was also en route to the conference.

At least one of the Holy Cross kids was wearing her school shirt.

I am told that our kids were polite.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

"Any parish can do what we're doing here"

21 years ago Father Frank Phillips, C.R. took over as pastor of St. John Cantius Parish in urban Chicago. The parish, while debt-free, was down to about 200 parishioners and the 95-year old church building was showing the effects of decades of deferred maintenance. "A pandora's box full of extensive building maintenance issues," according to one observer.

Today, St. John Cantius is a vibrant community of over 3,000 parishioners, some of whom drive as much as two hours each week to attend Sunday Mass. 350 to 400 confessions are heard every Sunday and Mass is offered in both the Novus Ordo and Extraordinary forms. The parish has also been the seedbed for many vocations and has become the home of a new religious community.

What is Father Phillips secret? Quite simply, it lies in restoring the sacred, whether that be the liturgy, the music, the vesture or the art.

A 30 minute video chronicling the restoration of St. John Cantius Parish is embedded below. Also, one may order his own copy of the video in exchange for a $15.00 Paypal donation by going here. (When I made my donation I was actually sent two copies and asked to give the second one away.)

On Assignment Episode 1 - Saint John Cantius: Restoring the Sacred from StoryTel Foundation on Vimeo.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Conspicuous by our absence

I just received the following email from

One would think that DOR, with the loss of over 25% of our weekend Mass attendees in just the last 8 years, would surly be among the dioceses availing themselves of this proven outreach.

We must have other priorities.


Dear Michael,

We Need Your Prayers!

In a few short weeks, Catholics Come Home TV commercials will begin airing in the following partner dioceses and archdioceses in English, Spanish, hearing-impaired, and even Polish:

Archdiocese of Chicago
Diocese of Rockford
Diocese of Joliet
Archdiocese of Omaha
Diocese of Lincoln
Diocese of Colorado Springs
Diocese of Sacramento
Diocese of Providence

Our CCH team will be praying a novena of the Divine Mercy Chaplet for these diocesan partner campaigns from Wednesday, 11/18 - Thanksgiving day, Thursday, 11/26.

We cannot think of a better way to show our thankfulness for this mission to reach souls in need than to pray for God's Mercy upon all who will be touched through these diocesan outreach campaigns.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The bishop and the cafeteria Catholic

Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy of Rhode Island recently claimed that his dissent from the Magisterium on certain issues "does not make me any less of a Catholic."

His bishop disagrees.

From the Rhode Island Catholic ...


Dear Congressman Kennedy



Dear Congressman Kennedy:

Since our recent correspondence has been rather public, I hope you don’t mind if I share a few reflections about your practice of the faith in this public forum. I usually wouldn’t do that – that is speak about someone’s faith in a public setting – but in our well-documented exchange of letters about health care and abortion, it has emerged as an issue. I also share these words publicly with the thought that they might be instructive to other Catholics, including those in prominent positions of leadership.

For the moment I’d like to set aside the discussion of health care reform, as important and relevant as it is, and focus on one statement contained in your letter of October 29, 2009, in which you write, “The fact that I disagree with the hierarchy on some issues does not make me any less of a Catholic.” That sentence certainly caught my attention and deserves a public response, lest it go unchallenged and lead others to believe it’s true. And it raises an important question: What does it mean to be a Catholic?

“The fact that I disagree with the hierarchy on some issues does not make me any less of a Catholic.” Well, in fact, Congressman, in a way it does. Although I wouldn’t choose those particular words, when someone rejects the teachings of the Church, especially on a grave matter, a life-and-death issue like abortion, it certainly does diminish their ecclesial communion, their unity with the Church. This principle is based on the Sacred Scripture and Tradition of the Church and is made more explicit in recent documents.

For example, the “Code of Canon Law” says, “Lay persons are bound by an obligation and possess the right to acquire a knowledge of Christian doctrine adapted to their capacity and condition so that they can live in accord with that doctrine.” (Canon 229, #1)

The “Catechism of the Catholic Church” says this: “Mindful of Christ’s words to his apostles, ‘He who hears you, hears me,’ the faithful receive with docility the teaching and directives that their pastors give them in different forms.” (#87)

Or consider this statement of the Church: “It would be a mistake to confuse the proper autonomy exercised by Catholics in political life with the claim of a principle that prescinds from the moral and social teaching of the Church.” (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 2002)

There’s lots of canonical and theological verbiage there, Congressman, but what it means is that if you don’t accept the teachings of the Church your communion with the Church is flawed, or in your own words, makes you “less of a Catholic.”

But let’s get down to a more practical question; let’s approach it this way: What does it mean, really, to be a Catholic? After all, being a Catholic has to mean something, right?

Well, in simple terms – and here I refer only to those more visible, structural elements of Church membership – being a Catholic means that you’re part of a faith community that possesses a clearly defined authority and doctrine, obligations and expectations. It means that you believe and accept the teachings of the Church, especially on essential matters of faith and morals; that you belong to a local Catholic community, a parish; that you attend Mass on Sundays and receive the sacraments regularly; that you support the Church, personally, publicly, spiritually and financially.

Congressman, I’m not sure whether or not you fulfill the basic requirements of being a Catholic, so let me ask: Do you accept the teachings of the Church on essential matters of faith and morals, including our stance on abortion? Do you belong to a local Catholic community, a parish? Do you attend Mass on Sundays and receive the sacraments regularly? Do you support the Church, personally, publicly, spiritually and financially?

In your letter you say that you “embrace your faith.” Terrific. But if you don’t fulfill the basic requirements of membership, what is it exactly that makes you a Catholic? Your baptism as an infant? Your family ties? Your cultural heritage?

Your letter also says that your faith “acknowledges the existence of an imperfect humanity.” Absolutely true. But in confronting your rejection of the Church’s teaching, we’re not dealing just with “an imperfect humanity” – as we do when we wrestle with sins such as anger, pride, greed, impurity or dishonesty. We all struggle with those things, and often fail.

Your rejection of the Church’s teaching on abortion falls into a different category – it’s a deliberate and obstinate act of the will; a conscious decision that you’ve re-affirmed on many occasions. Sorry, you can’t chalk it up to an “imperfect humanity.” Your position is unacceptable to the Church and scandalous to many of our members. It absolutely diminishes your communion with the Church.

Congressman Kennedy, I write these words not to embarrass you or to judge the state of your conscience or soul. That’s ultimately between you and God. But your description of your relationship with the Church is now a matter of public record, and it needs to be challenged. I invite you, as your bishop and brother in Christ, to enter into a sincere process of discernment, conversion and repentance. It’s not too late for you to repair your relationship with the Church, redeem your public image, and emerge as an authentic “profile in courage,” especially by defending the sanctity of human life for all people, including unborn children. And if I can ever be of assistance as you travel the road of faith, I would be honored and happy to do so.

Sincerely yours,

Thomas J. Tobin

Bishop of Providence

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Three "musts" for a bishop

Britain's Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor was recently interviewed by Andrew M. Brown of the Telegraph.

The following exchange caught my eye.

[What is important in a bishop?]

There are clear things that he must have. He must be thoroughly orthodox and therefore well able to express the teaching of the church. He has to have a pastoral mind and heart, so that he gets on with people, his priests and people. He’s a shepherd. And then I think he should have good communication skills. That’s quite important these days.

I think they key things are his orthodoxy, his fidelity to the teachings of the church, his prayer life, spirituality is crucial – you can’t preach what you don’t believe.

So, according to His Eminence, a bishop must

  • Be thoroughly orthodox,
  • Have a pastoral mind and heart, and
  • Have good communication skills.

Let us pray that DOR gets such a shepherd in 2012.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Five M's

John J. DiIulio, Jr. is a Professor of Politics, Religion, and Civil Society, and Professor of Political Science, at the University of Pennsylvania.

Professor DiIulio has just published an article in the online version of America Magazine in which he presents his take on what it will take to stabilize and even grow Catholic elementary and secondary education, especially in urban areas.  Although focused largely on Philadelphia, DiLiulio's ideas also have wider application.

The decades-old “crisis” is neither demographic destiny nor divine will. Catholic schools in Philadelphia and other cities can be saved, made solvent and strengthened managerially, and some long-closed schools might even be reopened. The five M’s for reviving Catholic schools are: mission, market, money, millennial and miracle.

Mission. In his address at Catholic University on April 17, 2008, Pope Benedict XVI called Catholic schools “an apostolate of hope” that must be “accessible to people of all social and economic strata.” The pope called for a renewed “commitment to schools, especially those in poorer areas.” For the mission to be sacred, the local children whose minds are fed by Catholic schools need not be Catholic any more than the overseas children whose bodies are fed by Catholic missionaries need be Catholic.

Market. Based on estimates I derive from data on a private scholarship program for low-income children, the latent demand for Catholic schooling in Philadelphia is huge. If partial tuition relief were available, some 50,000 more local parents would send their children to Catholic schools. Estimates of untapped markets in other cities are similar, and that is without even adding the large latent demand for Catholic schooling among Latino immigrant families.

Money. Government vouchers are politically improbable, but there is private money aplenty for Catholic schools. Since 1965, many Catholic colleges and universities have soared (bigger endowments, better buildings) just blocks from where many Catholic grade schools have sunk. The Catholic higher education sector needs to “adopt” and raise funds for Catholic elementary and secondary schools. Wealthy and well-positioned Catholics need to make the schools a philanthropic priority, and the bishops need to start looking to wealthy non-Catholics like those who support independent Catholic schools.

Millennial. Look to the Catholic quarter of the college-age cohort born in 1982 or later. Through programs like the amazing Alliance for Catholic Education, which is anchored at the University of Notre Dame, they are ready by the thousands to become the greatest-ever generation of Catholic school teachers and principals. The aforementioned Time story referred to the ACE as “a sort of Catholic version of Teach for America.” Actually, ACE is much better than T.F.A. I estimate that ACE yields five to 10 times as much urban teaching for every dollar invested.

Miracle. On Jan. 5, 2010, the 150th anniversary of St. John Neumann’s death, pray for him to intercede in expanding ACE and resurrecting Catholic schools in Philadelphia and nationally: “Obtain for us that complete dedication in the service of the needy, the weak, the afflicted and the abandoned which so characterized your life.”