Friday, July 31, 2009

Holy Cross Festival Opens

As one commenter has already mentioned, the Holy Cross Festival in Charlotte is up and running.

The rides are a lot of fun, the food is great and there are even a few games of chance for those so inclined.

A few more photos from last night ...

Update: The Festival still has one more night to run.

Here's a slidshow from the first 2 nights:

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

D&C reports on possible parish closures

Monday's D&C featured a story on the potential closing of 3 parishes in Irondequoit and Greece.

Eugene Michael is asking some very tough questions related to the article.  See his post here.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Dig 149'

[Warning: Totally off-topic]

A few days ago what looks like spray painted graffiti appeared on the street near my house.

Four white L-shaped lines with arrowheads on each leg roughly define a 12' by 20' rectangle with a big X just about dead center. Above the X is the word Dig and below it is 149'. There is also a blue arrow with an S on one side and an R on the other and a second blue arrow, this one surrounded by an S and a T.

Whatever is about to happen here seems to have received not one but two approvals, judging by the red and yellow OKs near one of the corners.

I suspect there's going to be a big hole here real soon but I sure hope they don't plan on going down 149'.

Update: Two men were around this morning and added to the existing artwork. There is now a well-defined 6' by 10' box with a new X (this one having 152' under it), along with 4 more arrows and a couple of miscellaneous lines. With the new X being about 3' to the east of the old one, the numbers now appear to be measurements from a benchmark roughly in the middle of a nearby intersection.

The men were soon back with what could be described as a wheeled, gasoline-powered Skill saw on steroids which they used to cut through the pavement along the 4 sides of the rectangle.

The backhoe cannot be far behind.

Update: Well the backhoe did show up this morning, along with some sort of tracked digging machine, a dump truck and a few workmen. In pretty short order they broke open the asphalt and dug down about 11' to expose a partially collapsed section of the storm water sewer. In less than an hour they had the bad piece out and a new piece installed.

The guys broke for lunch leaving this scene.

Shortly after lunch the crew returned and finished filling in their hole and then installed a proper asphalt patch.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Adult faith and the Archbishop

Archbishop Timothy Dolan's latest online column takes up the subject of "former Catholics" :

[There's] a remark I hear a lot today.

And it goes something like this: "I was raised a Catholic"; or, "I used to be a Catholic"; or, "I come from a Catholic family, and my mom is still a good one."

His Excellency goes on to acknowledge that some of the people making these remarks are sincere individuals who for one reason or another may have drifted away from the Church but still have no animosity towards it.

More frequently, though, these words are the preface to a put down of the Church which the speaker finishes with something like

"But, I'm beyond that now. Thank God I'm now enlightened and liberated from those silly, irrational, superstitious shackles, and now I'm a 'free-thinker', a mature, adult individual." They might then smirk and remark that they are "recovering Catholics" who are trying to "get over" such a dark, oppressive part of their childhood.

The Archbishop added that Pope Benedict XVI recently closed out the Year of St. Paul by

recalling St. Paul's insistence upon an "adult faith," the Holy Father realistically cautioned against using that phrase to justify dissent or "liberation" from Church teaching. He observed:

"The phrase 'an adult faith' in recent decades has become a diffuse slogan...It's often used to mean someone who no longer listens to the Church and her pastors, but who chooses autonomously what to believe and not to believe—a 'do-it-yourself' faith. This is then presented as the 'courage' to express oneself against the magisterium of the Church."

The Holy Father shrewdly concluded that, "courage is hardly needed for that, because one can always be sure of public applause. What takes real courage is adhering to the faith of the Church, even when it contradicts the 'scheme' of the contemporary world."

Yep, it hardly takes courage to brag that you "used to be a Catholic, but have now 'grown up' and are enlightened." Big deal. Join the crowd. The audience will applaud. The critics will rave about your book. The talk shows will invite you on as a star. You can snicker about the Church and get laughs and cheers.

I wonder, though, if the really enlightened, mature, liberated, brave, prophetic folks are those who are humbly, joyfully and gratefully confident in their Catholic faith, who are well aware of the Church's struggles and imperfections, but still eager to live it sincerely, and pass it on to their kids and those they love.

Our faith in Jesus Christ and His Church is part of our very birthright, our identity, our spiritual DNA. It's not some childish baggage that is discarded when we become "mature," or "grown-up." There's nothing more "adult," "enlightened" or "freeing" than our Catholic faith, no matter what the "in-crowd" preens about.

As one woman recently remarked to me, "I guess you could call me a 'practicing Catholic,' because I've been at it a long time, but have yet to perfect it. But I'm not giving it up!"

Now, that's an "adult faith."

The full column is here.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Catholic Courier: Proposed suburban church closings "unprecedented"

An article appeared today on the Catholic Courier web site calling the proposed closings of three suburban parishes "an unprecedented step."

The Irondequoit Pastoral Planning Group has voted to recommend that both St. Thomas the Apostle and St. Salome Churches be closed, while the Eastern Greece/Charlotte Planning Group will recommend that Our Lady of Mercy Church also be closed.

From what I can glean from folks I know at OLM, there just aren't enough people still attending Mass there to pay the bills. As DOR planning liaison Karen Rinefierd is quoted in the article, OLM

has no money. It's a wonderful, warm community, but they truly have run out of money.

Over on the east side of the river the decision to recommend the closure of two parishes does not seem to be particularly unexpected.  What is causing controversy, however, is which two of the five possible candidates should get the axe.

The Catholic Courier article gives none of the reasoning behind the selection of St. Thomas the Apostle and St. Salome for closure and blogger Eugene Michael is reporting that the planning group's internal selection process seems cloaked in secrecy, despite claims that it was "open and honest."

Eugene also raises some very  interesting financial questions regarding, among other things, a $300,000 fund at St. Thomas which the deceased donor specified could be used, if necessary, to save the parish from closure.  See Eugene's post (here) for full details.

Finally, in a glaring refusal to acknowledge the presence of the 800 lb. gorilla in the room, the article attributes these potential closures, as well as all those that have already taken place, to "demographic and economic change as well as the declining number of priests" and that "reaching this juncture punches home the reality that all parishes are facing the same issues."

While changing demographics certainly have played a large role in the closure of many city parishes, there is absolutely no evidence of which I am aware that Catholics are leaving the suburbs, especially Greece and Irondequoit.

What is happening is that many Catholics have stopped attending Mass in Greece and Irondequoit (and the rest of DOR), but that is not the same as moving away. 

What DOR really needs - but refuses - to do is to reach out to all those AWOL Catholics (over 27,000 in just the last 8 years) and invite them to come home.

Putting faces on the numbers

On the way home from Mass Saturday evening I stopped by Wegmans to pick up a few things. There I bumped carts with a lady I knew from my days as a parishioner at Our Lady of Mercy Church. We had served together on the parish council and I remember her as being quite active in several of the parish's ministries.

It turns out that she now regularly attends Spiritus Christi, is quite favorably impressed with "former Father" (her words) Jim Callan and enjoys worshiping with the "vibrant, energetic community" (again, her words) there. The fact that she is now a part of a schismatic group did not seem to faze her one bit.

Earlier in the week I had run into a married couple from OLM or, rather, formerly from OLM. They now attend a local Methodist church and are very happy with the "Christian fellowship" they have found there. When I asked if they missed the Eucharist I was told that their church also has Holy Communion. (According to their web site they do offer what they call "The Lord's Supper" or "Holy Communion" - on the first Sunday of every month.)

All three of these folks admit to leaving OLM because they were turned off by the personality of the pastor then in charge and each sees nothing wrong with letting his or her feelings dictate where he or she now worships, even if that happens to be outside of the Catholic Church. (The same is also true of another former Catholic and now Lutheran couple I blogged about last year.)

If Bishop Clark wants to know where his AWOL Sunday Mass attendees have gone he doesn't need to look to the sun belt, but just down the road. Decades of abysmal catechesis have "formed" thousands of Catholics for whom one church is as good as another, just as long as it "feels" right.

Anonymous comments on

I have had a few requests to once again allow anonymous comments on this blog. My original idea, after things had turned downright nasty back towards the end of June, was to leave them off for a month and then try again.

In the meantime I've heard from one or two folks who promised to be good and a couple of others who can't seem to get a Google ID to work for them no matter what they try or which saint they pray to, so I've decided that 3 weeks is long enough.

Just remember the words of St. Paul:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. (1 Corinthians 13:1)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

"I will appoint shepherds ..."

As DOR's Mass attendance numbers continue on their downward spiral, the first reading for Sunday's Mass does give us hope for a brighter future.

Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture, says the LORD. Therefore, thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, against the shepherds who shepherd my people: You have scattered my sheep and driven them away.  You have not cared for them, but I will take care to punish your evil deeds.  I myself will gather the remnant of my flock from all the lands to which I have driven them and bring them back to their meadow; there they shall increase and multiply.  I will appoint shepherds for them who will shepherd them so that they need no longer fear and tremble; and none shall be missing, says the LORD.

Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will raise up a righteous shoot to David; as king he shall reign and govern wisely, he shall do what is just and right in the land. In his days Judah shall be saved, Israel shall dwell in security. This is the name they give him: "The LORD our justice." (Jeremiah 23:1-6)

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The fruit of liberal Catholicism

Fr. Don Calloway is the Director of Vocations for his religious community, the Marians of the Immaculate Conception. He was recently interviewed by Msgr. Jim Lisante for the radio version of Personally Speaking, a production of the USCCB's Catholic Communication Campaign.

The complete interview was broadcast in two parts (see podcasts, here and here) and is well worth a listen to just to hear Fr. Calloway's inspiring personal journey.

The subject of vocations came up in the second podcast. One question and answer at about the 4:20 mark really got my attention (my transcription and emphasis):

MSGR. LISANTE: Fr. Don, first of all, is there in fact a significant shortage of priests and religious and, if there is, do you find as an antidote to that that there is still out there a hunger to serve God?

FR. CALLOWAY: I have to say as vocation director my community is getting tons of vocations. We're going to be accepting nine more men this summer.


FR. CALLOWAY: Yeah, they're great guys and they're young guys and most of them have had their own conversion experience of one type or another.

But what I'm finding is there are certain places were there are very few vocations and there are places where there are tons of vocations. Where you have faithfulness and where you have people seeking to live the truth - as hard as it is - but when you have the people who are humble and seeking to live the truth you have tons of vocations. But the places that tend to be more liberal or more crazy in their ideas and not humble and surrendered to the truth, well, they're not getting any vocations.

Just one more piece of evidence that DOR's priest shortage is pretty much a self-inflicted wound.

Report from the EG/C Steering Committee

The following update appears in this week's Holy Cross bulletin and the Steering Committee has asked that it also run in the bulletins of the other 5 parishes of the Eastern Greece/Charlotte Planning Group. 

Pastoral Planning Update

July 2009

The Eastern Greece/Charlotte Steering Committee met on Tuesday, June 30 to determine the parish configuration content of the pastoral plan they are drafting this summer. There is no final plan at this point. There will still be numerous meetings including the pastoral councils and parish staffs, as well as town meetings for parishioners before a plan goes to Bishop Clark for his approval.

Here are the two proposals the Steering Committee agreed to include as part of a larger Pastoral Plan:

Proposal #1: Our Lady of Mercy shall be closed, subject to the following:

• The Steering Committee will put in place a transition committee to assist with the transition of Our Lady of Mercy parishioners to the church of their choice, working closely with the Our Lady of Mercy Pastoral Council and staff.

• Each Eastern Greece/Charlotte parish will hold an open house/Mass to welcome Our Lady of Mercy parishioners who may be enrolling in one of the respective parishes.

Proposal #2: Holy Name shall be left open, rather than closed per the recommendation of the finance committee, subject to:

• An outline of a strategic plan to be submitted to the full Steering Committee by the meeting on September 8, 2009.

• The final plan to be submitted by November 2, 2009.

• For the next three years, the parish shall finish each fiscal year without an increase to its diocesan debt and with a positive number for the end of each fiscal year. Should there be an increase in debt to the diocese, or a negative number at the end of any of the next three fiscal years, the parish will begin the process of closing as of July 1 following the fiscal year in which such event occurs.

Once again, there is no final plan at this point. The Steering Committee estimates that a final plan will go to Bishop Clark by the end of 2009. If the recommendation is indeed to close Our Lady of Mercy, that would not happen until sometime in 2010.

As the pastoral planning process continues, the Steering Committee will continue to engage in two-way communication. Please continue to pray for our six Eastern Greece/Charlotte parishes.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Memphis ordaining 6 priests this year

The Diocese of Memphis, with but 73,000 Catholics, will ordain a total of 6 men to the priesthood in 2009. Four of those ordinations have already taken place and the other 2 are scheduled for next month.

And the future looks bright too, as the diocese also has 25 men in seminary formation, with that number being 7 more than last year's class size.

By way of contrast DOR, with its 341,500 Catholics, ordained just 1 man this year (and will not ordain another until at least 2013) and has a total of 6 men currently studying for the priesthood.

Full story here.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A question for the bishop

If we were opening churches during the Depression, why are we closing churches and schools now?

This is the question posed by a St. Cecilia Church parishioner when interviewed by a Messenger Press reporter about possible Catholic church closings in Irondequoit.

Full story here.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Closure of Our Lady of Mercy Parish to be proposed

Last Tuesday the Steering Committee of the Eastern Greece/Charlotte Planning Group met and decided that Our Lady of Mercy Parish is no longer financially viable and that the planning group would propose that the parish be closed.

The Steering Committee will also propose that Holy Name of Jesus Parish be allowed to continue in existence for at least the next year.

These decisions are being publicly announced in all 6 parishes this weekend.  They come on the heels of a determination by a finance sub-committee that both OLM and HNOJ lack long term financial viability and that both should therefore be closed (details here and here).

Fr. John Gagnier currently serves as pastor of both parishes.  A source close to the steering committee tells me that Fr. Gagnier and a group of HNOJ parishioners have developed a financial plan that gives that parish a fair chance of surviving on its own.  (Their intent to come up with such a plan is reported here.) Apparently, no similar attempt at a plan was made by Fr. Gagnier and OLM parishioners.

In addition to their pastor, both parishes share the services of several other staff members.  Under its new plan, HNOJ will now have to shoulder the entire salaries of each of these staff people.

Last year's Average October Attendance for OLM was 276 while HNOJ's was 372.  OLM's current debt is $24,000 and HNOJ's is $54,000. 

Also, OLM presently has about $16,000 in unspent Partners in Faith funds.  It is unclear what will become of this money, as the projects for which it was raised have all been completed and the PIF spending guidelines are rather inflexible as to alternate uses for the money.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Just this perception

Channel 10's Berkeley Brean aired a story tonight on the local effects of the ongoing Apostolic Visitation of Institutes of Women Religious. 

The investigation is making some nuns here in Rochester and around the country nervous. The investigation is to see if they're "living in fidelity."

Both the local congregations of the Sisters of Mercy and the Sisters of Saint Joseph have been contacted.  The RSMs are being mum for the time being, claiming that it's too early to comment, while a spokesperson for the SSJs feels that "the initial meeting with the investigating nun went very well and that good news was going back to Rome."

Brean also sought comments from Nazareth College religion professor Tim Thibodeau who told him that "the Vatican is investigating nuns because they may have drifted away from the church."

They're thinking about this as what have we done to warrant this kind of scrutiny, this kind of community by community investigation.

I think there's just this perception out there in some parts of the hierarchy that they may not be as faithful to the teaching of the church as they should be.

Perception?  In many cases "documented fact" would be closer to the truth.

Anyway, according to the professor,

If people are going to approach them in a paternalistic condescending way they're in for a real surprise. It's a kind of catch 22 in that you don't want to alienate the female religious who are contributing so much to an increasingly female institution that's a real problem.

The good professor is absolutely correct.  The Church, especially here in DOR, is becoming an increasingly female institution.  That seems to have been Bishop Clark's plan for some time now.

Whither DOR's missing Catholics?

Rochester native son Rich Leonardi recently received a comment from an Evangelical Protestant pastor.  The full story can be found here, but I want to zoom in on just one part of that pastor's note.

I pastor a church in California that is over 60% former Catholics (100s each week). These former Catholics come to my church NOT because Catholic doctrine is necessarily wrong, BUT because they are coming from Catholic parishes who are unable or unwilling to teach Christ, and Him Cruficied.

Within just the last 8 years the Diocese of Rochester has lost over 27,000 of its weekend Mass attendees.  If we are to believe the explanations coming out of Buffalo Rd., all those missing Catholics have either succumbed to societal pressures or have moved away to the sun belt.

If we are to believe this pastor - and many of his peers who are saying the same thing - a large portion of those 27,000 folks are now former Catholics and are attending non-Catholic churches.

I tend to believe the guys that are actually counting noses, not those who are searching for excuses.

Over 1900 years ago St. Paul offered the following admonition to his fellow bishop, Timothy.

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. (2 Timothy 4:1-4)

When are our leaders going to start taking St. Paul seriously?

Managing the decline

The latest edition of the Catholic Courier contains an extensive Along the Way column.  It is the first of two parts (part two is promised for next month) and is actually the text of an address recently given by Bishop Clark to the Rochester Rotary Club.  According to the bishop, it is "a good summary" of his view of the state of the diocese.

The bishop acknowledges

That we have and will continue to face enormous challenges and change — sometimes controversial change.

He promises that we will deal with these challenges with "thoughtful, realistic and deliberate action" and

with some of the best minds in our area helping us through their good and wise counsel.

Now I'm starting to get worried.  I sure hope this is a different set of "best minds" than the one which has been helping the bishop manage our decline thus far.  If not, then 2012 cannot come soon enough.

What I really found interesting, though, was Bishop Clark's statement that

While it is no secret that Mass attendance has generally declined since the mid-1960s nationwide — not unlike attendance for other mainline Christian denominations — we saw last year in our own diocese a leveling off of that trend. I can only attribute that leveling off to our Spirit Alive-related efforts.

The bishop really needs to walk down the hall to the Pastoral Planning office and check his figures, as DOR's PPNM people have been reporting that 2008's Average October Attendance was 80,710.  That's 3.92% less than 2007's AOA of 84,000.  In other words, there has been no discernable change in our corporate slide into oblivion.

The bishop is right - in a way - about one thing.  Spirit Alive!, DOR's touchy-feely attempt at spiritual renewal sans catechesis, is almost certainly playing a role. It's just not the role he imagines.

Bishop Clark concludes by saying that in the future

We may provide ministry in ways we have not before, but provide ministry we certainly will!

It sure looks like that "ministry" will include far fewer parishes, far fewer priests, far fewer Masses and other sacraments and ongoing benign neglect in the area of catechesis.

Heaven help us!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

New Blog - From a DOR Seminarian

Greg Rupik is on his way to Rome to study for the priesthood. He has started Southern Tier Seminarian as a way to stay connected with the people back home.

From his profile ...

A native of the Chemung Valley, I am currently entering my first year of theology as a seminarian for the Diocese of Rochester. I will be residing at the Pontifical North American College in Rome, and studying at the Pontifical Gregorian University, for roughly the next 5 years. If everything goes exactly as planned, I will be ordained to the diocesan priesthood in June 2014. While nothing is impossible with God, He often has things turn out very differently than we plan them!

I'll be praying for him.

"Lousy leadership is a disaster"

Eugene Michael is calling our attention to an interview given by Fr. John Corapi to Patrick Novecosky of Legatus Magazine.

... the vast majority of Catholics aren’t even going to Church, so we shouldn’t wonder that the Church has been losing its influence on an increasingly secularized society.

You have to ask yourself why people have drifted away. I’m sure there are a lot of societal reasons. We don’t have control over those reasons, but we have control over the reasons inside the Church. You can start with the top. There is an old saying: “The fish stinks from the head down.” Lousy leadership is a disaster.

Eugene's post is here. The interview is here.