Sunday, June 13, 2010

Moving to Cleansing Fire

I have been asked - and have gratefully accepted - an invitation to join the team at Cleansing Fire 2.0.

DOR Catholic will remain up and running, but I only expect to be posting here when I have something to say that does not fit comfortably into the CF mission.

Most of the time, however, you will be able to find me at

See you there.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

YNN says goodbye to Our Lady of Mercy

My former parish, Our Lady of Mercy in Greece, will be closing in three weeks.

olm closure

Your News Now has posted a video farewell on its web site.  See here.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

146 years of priestly service

The weekend the three priests serving at Holy Cross Parish in Charlotte are celebrating a combined 146 years in the priesthood. 
Fr. Tom Wheeland is observing the 44th anniversary of his ordination, Fr. John Reif the 45th of his, and Fr. Fred Eisemann the 57th of his.

Congratulations, Reverend Fathers!

And thank you for saying yes to God.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

New images of St. Thomas the Apostle


Blogger/photographer Ryan McDonell has captured some excellent images of St. Thomas the Apostle Church.

See here and at the bottom of the page here.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Largest ordination class in decades

Last Saturday the Diocese of Little Rock ordained four men to the priesthood.  It was their largest ordination class in 44 years.


Story here.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Church the women - and the bishop - want

Six years ago Boston College's The Church in the 21st Century Initiative hosted a conference entitled Envisioning the Church Women Want.

One of the panels at the conference was called When Bishops Listened to Women: The Women's Pastoral 12 Years Later. This panel was comprised of Sr. Mary Ann Hinsdale, Dr. Susan Muto, Dr. Pheme Perkins and Bishop Matthew Clark. Video and audio of this session can be found here.

After some introductory remarks by Sr. Hinsdale, Dr. Muto spent several minutes reviewing the history of what she termed the "Women's Pastoral." This was to be a USCCB Pastoral Letter outlining the concerns of women in the Church. Although it went through several revisions, the USCCB ultimately declined to adopt it.

Dr. Muto was followed by Bishop Clark. After some initial comments the bishop launched into the heart of his talk. What follows in blue is my transcript of His Excellency's talk beginning at the 23:25 mark:


I thought I might use my time this morning in a more future oriented way and to that end, that is, envisioning the Church women want, I thought, well, if I'm going to be consistent with what I believe in and the spirit of this conference, I'd better ask some women what they want. So I took the question to our St. Bernard's School of Theology and Ministry, which is a wonderful, small, graduate level school that we have. It's a great resource for us. It's president is Sister Patricia Schoelles, a Sister of St. Joseph and there are two full time faculty members who are women and some men who are [full time] and a number of adjuncts who are women. "So," I said, "what do we want to say to the people at Boston College?"

Let me share with you their thinking, which I want to say up front is very much my own [although] I might use a different word here or there. I would like to do that with one concrete image of the Church women want offered by one of the people I polled and six basic desires they have.

This brief story is by one of the women who teaches at St. Bernard's and [it's] her experience at a Sunday liturgy at St. Gabriel's Parish in Hammondsport, which is a small community on the south end of Keuka Lake, one of our splendid Finger Lakes.

There must have been thirty people taking leadership roles at the liturgy. A male, a priest originally from Sri Lanka, and a female, a sister, [the] pastoral administrator of the parish, led the congregation with the sense that neither was simply imported or a token figure. They seemed to invite others to assume a role in the service as well. The impression was given that this is our Church and we care for it and actively participate in it.

From the cantors to the preacher - the preacher a layman in training for diaconal ordination - to those who collected the song books and cleared the pews afterward, people participated, they cared, greeted each other and assumed a variety of roles in tending to whatever physical tasks needed to be done for the celebration. The spiritual communion, then, was so obvious and easy to enter into.

This isn't a big city parish filled with sophisticated people well versed in theories about emerging roles of women, but it was hard to imagine anyone sitting back complaining that "she shouldn't be doing this or that" because of an imposed or inherited view of what people are or are not allowed or intended to do. Instead, the clear sense was that this is our Church, we have a role in it, we own it, we care, and we are community in Christ.

Leadership clearly comes from within the parish itself. I suppose for those who prefer liturgy that seems more like theater - the leaders providing a program for the congregation - this would not have been as satisfying. But for me the kiss of peace alone in that parish was close to the most important experience of church that I have had in years.

That's the kind of Church she wants and I think she expresses that want very beautifully out of her own experience.

I'd like to mention, as I said - I'll mention them very briefly - six qualities, six encouraging notes, that these women look for in the Church.

The first relates to how the Church formulates its proclamations and teachings and I would say under that category they have three strong desires: First, that their experience be heard and honored, not argued with, but absorbed and integrated into the thinking of those who hear. Secondly, that a broad spectrum of voices should be heard before coming to conclusions that relate to teaching and polity of significance. They include specifically poor women and men, abused women, abandoned mothers, divorced women, gay, lesbian, single people, now thought to be absent from this kind of discourse, leaving us deprived of their experience and their insights. Thirdly in that basic theme that they seek to develop, a Church that is diverse and affirming of all, welcoming those who have been excluded, including varying theological perspectives, people whose backgrounds offer richness that clerics alone cannot possibly hope to have, and all manner of gifts and talents and life experiences. So, how the Church formulates its proclamations and teachings.

Secondly, how the Church deals with diverse opinion among the faithful: They want a Church that deals with issues and people and divergent theological opinion in loving and just ways, rather than what may seem to be a condemnatory manner or a dictatorial kind of manner. Many long for a Church that affirms the gifts of all members as we struggle to form communities dedicated to loving one another and building the kingdom of God.

Thirdly, on theological work that needs to be done in service of the Church women want: In terms of the theological tasks they're most concerned about they ask for the development of a more adequate theological anthropology, one that will adequately account for gender distinction in integrating our understanding of "imago Dei" and "in persona Christi". With particular emphasis they stress the need for that kind of reflection and inclusion in matters of sex and sexuality which does not sufficiently include consideration of women's experience.

Next, the exercise of authority in the Church: The general call is for a decentralized authority better able to serve the Church and the Gospel we seek to follow and embody. This includes a climate of honest and open dialog, granting to local churches - dioceses - the right to exercise their own identities, to call their own leaders, and respond pastorally to concerns and realities that arise in a given place and time and which may not be common to all places. Disagreement on matters other than creedal statements should not be feared, but a community of discourse in which truth is sought and celebrated should be encouraged and nourished.

Fifth, on Church activity and action: The Church needs to consider its call to reach out to those in need and to grant increasing prominence to action on behalf of justice as a constitutive part of preaching the Gospel. We need to search for ways to work toward genuine healing and not just sustenance for those who suffer from sickness, abuse, poverty, addiction, etc., but really to find remedies and cures for that. A Church that simply "maintains" and leaders who focus on extraneous or superficial goals are in no way the Church that women want.

Next, on the Church as a source of spirituality and help in leading a Gospel-centered spiritual life: They make considerable reference - and, I think, understandably so - to the stresses of modern life: too little time, too many expectations, the need for grounding and a firm sense of self and purpose, the desire to serve others while fostering mutual love, justice and responsibilities in our relationships and in society. Women want help from the Church in formulating a sense of priorities, in focusing and developing habits that would help lead a balanced life amid competing demands and increasing insecurity from any number of sources. Women I have talked with expressed the need to approach the Church as a community whose rituals and celebrations are rich in the authentic tradition that nurtures life and genuine relationship with God. Under that rubric of spirituality in a Gospel-centered life, if we fail to image God in appropriate ways, if we cannot assume the role of pilgrim Church assisting the disciples of Christ in their call to be present to those bearing the fears and anxieties of our time, then we will have forsaken our call and our mission.

Those are the main themes that emerged in my conversations with the St. Bernard's people. They are deeply consonant with the themes I have heard for most of the 25 years that I have served as bishop.


I thought of giving this a good fisk but decided instead to leave that as an exercise for the reader.  Suffice it for me to say that this is, in rather vivid detail, the Church that the women teaching at St. Bernard's would like to have - and would like the rest of us to have as well, whether we want it or not.  And, it seems safe to assume, this is also the vision these women have been inculcating in their students, whether those students be in training for lay pastoral ministry or in diaconal formation.

Also, since Bishop Clark says that he shares this vision - with the exception of "a different word here or there" - this is his vision also.  This is a well fleshed out picture of what he has been working toward for so many years now. 

My thanks to the people at Boston College for recording this.  While I am sure it wasn't their intent, this serves as the most detailed explanation for the ongoing collapse of the Diocese of Rochester that I have yet to see.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

DOR's legacy

Peter J. Smith at has posted an article dealing with the Rainbow Sash Movement and its plans to disrupt Mass in various dioceses this Sunday.

Near the end of his piece Mr. Smith provides his readers with something of an historical perspective:

In the past, the Rainbow Sash movement has received welcome in a handful of U.S. dioceses. Archbishop Roger Mahony of Los Angeles, Archbishop Harry Flynn of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Gumbleton of Detroit, and Bishop Matthew Clark of Rochester have all at one time or another welcomed members of the RSM to receive communion.

I sure hope history remembers us for more that that.

One parish, eleven seminarians

This morning I was listening to Catholic Connection over the Internet.  One of the guests was Kurt Klement, Director of High School Ministry for St. Ann Parish in Coppell, Texas.

St. Ann is located in the rapidly growing Dallas-Fort Worth area and it is a huge parish.  With some 8,400 families and 27,000 individual parishioners, it completely eclipses most of our local parishes.  Still, there is a lot to be learned from St. Ann.

Outside of its size, St. Ann seems unremarkable in many ways.  Average weekend Mass attendance is around 28%.  54% of the families contribute through envelopes or similar means, with the average family donation running around $9.00 a week.

Two things, though, make St. Ann Parish stand out.  The first is Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration.  The parish has a separate adoration chapel where at least one person is present adoring Our Lord 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year.  The chapel was built in response to a call from Pope John Paul II and is dedicated to him "for an increase in vocations from the parish."

The second is the parish's focus on youth.  St. Ann does not have a Catholic school.  Instead, it relies on religious education programs and youth ministry to form the next generation of Catholics. And it makes that formation a priority:  Last year the parish spent 9% of its operating budget on religious education programs and another 13.6% on tween and teen ministry.

A part of the latter is its high school ministry program which is overseen by 3 full-time parish staff members assisted by a large team of trained "core" volunteers. According to the parish's annual report,

St. Ann is a parish that values youth ministry, and this is bearing remarkable fruit as this year the High School Ministry had over 600 teens in grades 9-12 from over 30 different high schools involved. St. Ann High School Ministry continues to try to provide a variety of experiences for the youth of our parish highlighted by youth involvement in the 4:30 p.m. youth Mass followed by weekly youth nights. Also, through Bible studies, retreats, service projects, pro-life outreach, and an annual mission trip we hope to continue to expose the teens to the riches of the Catholic Church and the beauty of living a life of faith.

We continue to be grateful for all that God has done here and the ways He continues to work in the lives of the teens who have been involved with our ministry. Many former participants in the high school ministry are now leaders in their college Newman Centers. This past summer we had our first youth ministry intern—a young man who has grown up in the parish, was involved in the high school ministry, and is studying in college to be a youth minister after graduation. We also continue to see many beautiful vocations to the married life as well as two additional young men from St. Ann entering seminary this year for a total of 11 young men from our parish in formation for the priesthood or religious life. We feel blessed to have had some part in helping to prepare and form these young men and women for a continuing life of faith.


Many of the parish's teens have experienced life changing encounters with Jesus, either at adoration or during retreats, according to Mr. Klement.   This is borne out by the fact that 15 young men from the parish have entered the seminary over the last few years and, while four have discerned that this was not their calling, 11 are still there.

To put this number in perspective, 11 seminarians from this parish of 27,000 Catholics would be comparable to 128 seminarians from our diocese of 314,000 Catholics.

DOR, however, currently has 6 seminarians.

All of which leads to two questions for Bishop Clark:

1. What are they doing that we aren't? 

2. Why aren't we?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Who's really in charge, the Pope or the local bishop?

A lawsuit currently underway in federal court in Kentucky provides us with two somewhat competing views of the relationship between the Pope and the other bishops in the Catholic Church.

It seems that three men who claim they were sexually abused by Louisville priests decades ago when they were minors are also asserting that the Vatican is ultimately responsible for that abuse.  Their claim is that the Louisville bishops who failed to properly control their abusive priests were so firmly under Rome's control that the Vatican must answer for the actions of both the bishops and the priests.

To bolster their position the plaintiffs have brought in a canon lawyer who says,

... it is "absolute lunacy" to say bishops are not responsible to the pope.

He does not pay their checks, but they are totally controlled by the Vatican ... He alone can create them as bishops, he appoints them, assigns them to a diocese, fires them, accepts their resignation or transfers them.

The employee-employer analogy is incomplete when it comes to the pope and his bishops; control by the pope is much more complete. A bishop can't take a sabbatical to go study science for three months without the pope's permission.

Au contraire, says a research fellow in religion and law at Ave Maria University.

In peoples' minds, they imagine the pope is the general manager of every bishop in the world. The bishop is the head of a diocese; he is its chief priest and administrator. Theologically, each diocese is the local church and he's its head. The pope appoints bishops but after that, there's minimal contact.

And so the court is faced with two competing theories of the extent of papal control over local bishops.  How is it to decide which one actually reflects the reality on the ground?

Might I suggest that the court take a close look at a diocese such as Rochester.  Here it will find a local bishop who effectively thumbs his nose at anything coming out of Rome that is contrary to his vision of what a modern, progressive Catholic diocese should look like. Whether it be liturgical dancing, non-ordained homilists, prominent dissidents speaking in our parishes or to gatherings of our ministerium, other dissidents in control of parishes, heresies being taught to aspiring deacons at St. Bernard's or the criteria for the acceptance of candidates to the priesthood, Bishop Clark has made it abundantly clear that he is in charge, not Rome.

If the court would just spend a little time reviewing our bishop's record vis-a-vis the teachings and directives of Rome, I'm certain that the verdict would be a quick, "Case Dismissed!"

Source here.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Lay ministry webinar to feature Bishop Clark

In another 10 days the National Association for Lay Ministry and Ave Maria Press will host a webinar featuring Bishop Matthew Clark.

A long-time advocate of lay ecclesial ministers, Bishop Matthew Clark will be giving a forty-five minute presentation on the ever-growing significance of this important group and the way it is changing the face of the Church. Following this will be fifteen minutes for Q&A. Register today for this free seminar!

Details here.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Bishop Clark: No attempt to shorten patient's life

In 2006 Gary Harvey of Horseheads, NY suffered a severe brain injury.  By May 2009 he was breathing on his own and just needed to receive nutrition through a feeding tube.  By that time he was also a ward of Chemung County and a patient at St. Joseph's Hospital  in Elmira.

That month the Catholic hospital's ethics committee recommended the removal of Mr. Harvey's feeding tube, an action which would have lead to his death by starvation and/or dehydration.  The county, as his legal guardian, then petitioned a NY State Supreme Court judge for permission to remove the feeding tube.  The judge, however, refused to rubber-stamp the request and asked for more information.  Chemung County ultimately withdrew the request.

Several advocacy organizations, such as the National Association to Stop Guardian Abuse (NASGA), ultimately became involved in the case.

According to a report (my emphasis), 

In a January, 2010 letter to Bishop Matthew Clark in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester, NASGA president, Elaine Renoire, cited: "The guardian attempted to terminate his life and would have been successful had Mrs. Harvey not taken it to the media. St. Joseph's Hospital's Ethics Committee chose to participate in what would have been Gary Harvey's execution rather than prevent it. NASGA is asking you to find out why."

Bishop Matthew Clark responded nearly one month later saying, "I am convinced that St. Joseph Hospital complies with the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, that the Hospital is complying with the Order of the Court, and that there has been no attempt to shorten Mr. Harvey's life."

It would seem that our bishop does not equate the recommendation to remove a feeding tube with an attempt to shorten a patient's life.

Lord, have mercy!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Faux Catholic schools

Patricia Weitzel-O'Neill is in her final weeks as superintendent of schools in the Archdiocese of Washington. When she first took over that job 8 years ago the archdiocese had 114 grade and high schools. Now the number is 89.

Last Friday, at an event entitled "A Washington Briefing for the Nation's Catholic Community," Weitzel-O'Neill offered her opinion on a variety of issues related to Catholic schools. One such issue is the appearance of schools in the "Catholic tradition."  These are generally schools started by concerned parents without the approval - or support - of their dioceses. According to a CNS story,

... what Weitzel-O'Neill termed "faux Catholic schools" are springing up, led by those who have been in the Catholic home-schooling movement. She showed the home page to a website for a Pope John Paul II Academy in a suburban section of the Archdiocese of Washington, which has no connection with the archdiocese, despite entreaties by archdiocesan officials that the school seek some sort of connection. "They're teaching the Catholic faith, but they're not approved by any bishop," she added.

Let me see if I've got this straight.  Ms. Weitzel-O'Neill has closed 22% of her schools in the 8 years she's been on the job, a record that would scream FAILURE! in just about any other area of endeavor.  And now she is concerned that some Catholic parents have started a school that she and her successors will never be able to close.  How, exactly, is that a problem?

Ms. Weitzel-O'Neill also expresses concern that the school is teaching the Catholic faith without having been approved by a Catholic bishop.  A quick check of the school's website indicates that her concern might be misplaced.

 Will the School be Served by the Archdioceses of Washington?

The school is not an Archdiocesan school. This means that we are challenged to find financial support from our community, and that we cannot, under canon law, lay claim to the title “Catholic.” Rather that title must be given to the school by the Archbishop. Since the Archdiocese has struggled for many years with failing schools, it continues to consider new schools with caution. Our view is that our students, teachers and parents must not hide their faith or treat it as a private matter, but we must let it permeate all that we do, as Pope Benedict XVI has called us to do.

Will There be Any Religious Formation in the School?

We are charged by Christ to go forth and teach all nations. Therefore, the religious formation of our children is integral to the existence of Pope John Paul II Academy. In a day of moral relativism, the teachings of the Catholic Church have given the world an example of sound judgment and spiritual clarity. Consequently, our students will be deeply immersed into the sacred scripture and the treasure of the Church’s magisterial teachings.

Will the School Have Religious Devotions?

Religious devotions have been embraced by our families and by our church as an important form of spiritual growth. The Stations of the Cross, the Holy Rosary, the Angelus, the Divine Mercy Chaplet and other practices of our Catholic families will be given places of prominence in the daily life of the school.

Given the above, I suspect that the Pope John Paul II Academy just might be more Catholic than many of the Catholic schools in the archdiocese.

Maybe that's the REAL problem.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

That hospice mentality


"I am afraid many of our bishops, priests and leaders in Catholic schools have bought into the mentality that Catholic schools are gradually dying and that the best thing we can do is prolong their life and make their demise as comfortable as possible.

"I refuse to buy into that hospice mentality.

"We must rediscover a sense of boldness. We've got to get dramatic. We've got to have some fresh thinking. "

- Archbishop Timothy Dolan (source here).

Thursday, May 6, 2010

"The genius of Catholic schools"

Recognizing that the time for "business as usual" is over for its Catholic schools, the Archdiocese of New York is about to launch Pathways to Excellence, a strategic plan "designed to assist elementary schools throughout the Archdiocese."

In an op-ed piece in the New York Post, Archbishop Timothy Dolan writes (my emphasis),

As the plan begins to take hold, it is likely that some schools may merge and some may close -- and, Please God, new schools will open, as well.

Know that the difficult and painful decisions of this sort will never be made lightly, as we are all very aware that school closings have a profound impact on the students and their families. Such decisions will only be made after long and careful consideration, with plenty of opportunity for input and discussion by all who have an interest in that school.

Part of the genius of Catholic schools is the involvement of the entire local community -- parents, parishioners, pastors, principals, teachers, benefactors and civic leaders -- in the life of a school. We recognize that all of these stakeholders must be involved in any decision to merge, close or open a school.

This is a far cry from what happened here in DOR in 2007-08.  When Bishop Clark decided that the financial situation of Monroe County's Catholic schools required serious attention, he gave little, if any, thought to what Archbishop Dolan rightly calls "the genius of Catholic schools." 

Instead, Bishop Clark assembled a group of 22 cronies, sent them off to secretly review data which remains undisclosed to this day, and told them to come up with a fix to the problem. As far as can be determined this committee never met with a single parent, parishioner, pastor, principal, teacher, benefactor or civic leader, thus showing their - and the bishop's - utter contempt for all those very genuine stakeholders in our Catholic schools.

And, just to rub a little salt into still-open wounds, Bishop Clark then let teams from five parishes build up false hope while investing hundreds of man-hours devising plans to operate their schools independently, knowing full well that he would axe any plans they presented - no matter how excellent - as potential threats to his cronies' plan.

The Archdiocese of New York will almost certainly have to close some of its Catholic schools.  No one will be happy about it and some are sure to disagree with the decision to close particular schools.  But at the end of the day there won't be anyone who can claim that they did not have input into those decisions.  There won't be anyone who can claim that their role as a stakeholder wasn't recognized and respected.

Archbishop Dolan gets it.  Bishop Clark couldn't care less.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Spiritual Alzheimer's, Ecclesial Parkinson's

Much is spoken today of diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. By analogy, their symptoms can, at times, be found even in our own Christian communities.

For example, when we live myopically in the fleeting present, oblivious of our past heritage and apostolic traditions, we could well be suffering from spiritual Alzheimer’s.

And when we behave in a disorderly manner, going whimsically our own way without any co-ordination with the head or the other members of our community, it could be ecclesial Parkinson’s.

- Ivan Cardinal Dias, speaking of DOR the Anglican Communion.

Source here.

H/T: Fr. Z.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Lunch with Bishop Clark

One of the items in WXXI's annual auction is lunch with Bishop Clark.

The opening bid is $63.00 and bidding ends at 8:56 pm, May 7.

Thus far there are 0 bids.



More info here.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

DOR Spin

Fr. Bill Spilly at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Hamlin attended the most recent diocesan Priests' Council meeting.  The subject of DOR's ongoing decline in Mass attendance was on the agenda and Fr. Spilly is now relaying the information he received to his parishioners ... 

At the last meeting of the Priests' Council with Bishop Clark, a report was given about the decrease in Mass Attendance in the Diocese of Rochester over the last 10 years. Most of that decline began in 2002 and continues to the present day. Among the many reasons, including laziness and lessening priority of Sunday Mass as very important, are the following:

* Demographic shifts: people relocating out of the diocese due to jobs, retirement, and illness

* Church renovations: people disliking the renovation plan, process or fundraising

* Parish planning: people dropping out of church because of the elimination of a Mass, the changing of a Mass time, the clustering of parishes, the closing of parishes and schools, the appointment of a new pastor, the appointment of a parish leader not a priest, the appointment of an extern (a priest from another country) who is difficult to understand

* Church practices: people drop out of church because Mass is too long or not reverent enough; homilies are too bland, too long or too political; the Church's annulment requirements; the parish or the priest/administrator is not traditional enough or liberal enough; the Church is unwelcoming to the divorces and remarried or to homosexuals

* Alternative Catholic churches: Within Monroe County, people attend Mass at St. Ann's Home (700), Cherry Ridge (100), Jefferson Road Carmelites (203), SSJ Motherhouse (100), RSM Motherhouse (45) and various campuses. Elsewhere in the diocese, people attend Mass at the Canandaigua VA (250), Abbey of the Genesee (125), Mt. Saviour Monastery in Elmira (200), etc.

* Sex abuse: The fact that the precipitous decline begins in 2002 is indicative of the effect this has had on Mass attendance.

In the Diocese of Rochester in the year 2000, there was an average of 106,483 people going to church during a given month. By 2009, there was an average of 75,376 people going to church during a given month. That is a decline of 30% in just the past 10 years.

Dr. K. at Cleansing Fire has already ably commented on several of these points (see here) and I would now like to pick up where he left off.

First, to the best of my knowledge it's only been within the last two years that the diocese has made a concerted effort to count every last nose in our collective pews on each weekend in October.  Along with parish churches, places like prisons, nursing homes, campus chapels, monasteries, senior living centers, migrant ministries and motherhouses are now being asked to report their October weekend Mass attendance.  While the effort to be as accurate as possible is commendable, one has to wonder if this might also be an attempt to put as much lipstick as possible on that pig which is our corporate decline in Mass attendance.

Second, at the beginning of his remarks Fr. Spilly writes that most of our decline in Mass attendance "began in 2002" and later states, "The fact that the precipitous decline begins in 2002 is indicative of the effect [the clerical sex abuse scandal] has had on Mass attendance."

This is DOR spin, pure and simple.

It is nothing other than a lame attempt, apparently on the part of those who fed Fr. Spilly this data, to put the blame for our Mass attendance collapse in a place where it demonstrably does not belong.

Yes, DOR's 2000, 2001 and 2002 Mass attendance numbers were, respectively, roughly 108,000, 110,000 and 103,000 and so, at first glance, it would appear that our slide began in 2002.

But what DOR would like us to forget is that these are average OCTOBER numbers and that a certain event happened on September 11, 2001 that drove nationwide church attendance substantially higher for the next several weeks, including all the weeks in OCTOBER of that year.

In fact, the Barna Group, a highly respected religious research organization, reports that nationwide Catholic weekend Mass attendance was up by 10% during this period, while other sources mention numbers in the 5 to 7% range.

Were not for the attendance spike caused by September 11, DOR's 2001 Average October Attendance number would most likely have been somewhere in the 100,000 to 105,000 range, thus making it obvious that DOR's Mass attendance tailspin started well before the sex abuse scandal hit the newspapers and that our rate of decline has not increased one iota due to this scandal.

That said, I must note that when I first began reporting on our Mass attendance decline I mentioned that the DOR was putting the entire blame for it on factors totally outside of its control (see here). 

Now they are at last admitting - grudgingly, I suspect - that at least some of the causes (church renovations, school and parish closures, Mass eliminations, etc.) are all actions they took themselves. The real question is whether DOR will now be more conscious of the potential effects of its contemplated actions on Mass attendance than it has been in the past.

I suspect that Bishop Clark's impending decision on St. Thomas the Apostle Church will be our first indication.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Fr. McBrien whines

LarryD's piece on the lamentations of Fr. Richard McBrien is well worth a read.

See here - and don't forget to play the music.

The Secret of Christ

Last Sunday the Holy Cross Church Choir presented The Secret of Christ.  The concert featured Fauré's Requiem, along with works by Handel, Howells, Shephard and Hertel.  The venue was Holy Cross Church in Charlotte.

The choir, under the direction of Katherine Evans, was accompanied by parish organist Sarah Allen and several students from the Eastman School of Music.

Very inept camera work was provided by yours truly (I need a better tripod!) using a Canon DM-100 stereo microphone attached to Canon Vixia HF 100 digital camcorder.

My favorite pieces follow, with the entire concert being available here.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Filth, pride and self-complacency

Five years ago Pope John Paul II was too ill to lead the Good Friday Stations of the Cross and then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was asked to take his place.

By that time Cardinal Ratzinger's office had been responsible for overseeing all cases of clerical sexual abuse against children for some four years and His Eminence must surely have had a good sense of the magnitude of the crisis, certainly in North America, if not in much of the wider world.

jesus falls third time

What follows is His Eminence's meditation on the Ninth Station.  While there are some signs of improvement, much of what was true in 2005 remains sadly true today.

What can the third fall of Jesus under the Cross say to us? [In the Third and Seventh Stations w]e have considered the fall of man in general, and the falling of many Christians away from Christ and into a godless secularism. Should we not also think of how much Christ suffers in his own Church?

How often is the holy sacrament of his Presence abused, how often must he enter empty and evil hearts!

How often do we celebrate only ourselves, without even realizing that he is there!

How often is his Word twisted and misused!

What little faith is present behind so many theories, so many empty words!

How much filth there is in the Church, and even among those who, in the priesthood, ought to belong entirely to him!

How much pride, how much self-complacency!

What little respect we pay to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, where he waits for us, ready to raise us up whenever we fall!

All this is present in his Passion. His betrayal by his disciples, their unworthy reception of his Body and Blood, is certainly the greatest suffering endured by the Redeemer; it pierces his heart.

We can only call to him from the depths of our hearts: Kyrie eleison ­ Lord, save us (cf. Mt 8: 25).

Friday, April 23, 2010

Joan Workmaster

A week ago Dr. K over at Cleansing Fire reported on an upcoming 9-hour course at St. Bernard's that is being billed as an exploration of the "history and development of the Roman missal, as well [as] an examination of the projected changes." The instructor is identified as Joan Workmaster.

I was interested in learning a little more about the instructor but it turns out there is very little of substance on the Internet concerning Ms. Workmaster.  The only significant information I could find comes from pages 136-7 of Chava Redonnet's 2002 account of the Corpus Christi/Spiritus Christi fiasco, "Standing in the Light: A Parishioner's Story." That information is, however, quite revealing.

Ms. Redonnet's text is in black; my comments are in red ...

"[In late 1998 a]bout three hundred people came to the first of the educational series of meetings sponsored by the Spring Committee. Peg Rubley had gathered a panel that could give a variety of perspectives on the issue of Women in the Church: Joan Workmaster, Director of the Office of Liturgy for the diocese, and possessor of a Masters in Liturgical Theology; Mary Ramerman, who held a Masters in Theology; Chris Schenk, csj (sic), a nun with Masters degrees in Midwifery and Theology; and Dan Daley, co-founder of Call to Action.

"Joan Workmaster spoke first. She reminded us that while progress has not been fast, it had been only twenty-six years since roles in the Church opened up to women at all. In August, 1972, Pope Paul VI issued 'Ministerium Quaedam,' which abolished some roles, such as lectoring, from being the province of the ordained, and gave them to lay people as ministers. 'The Church has been on an uneasy way of inclusion ever since.' There had been a tremendous rise in the number of lay people, men and women, in ministry. 'In the midst of revolutionary change, it can be easy not to see the forest for the trees.' [Revolutions are messy things that tend to tear up and discard as worthless everything that has gone on before them. It is unsettling that Ms. Workmaster, then DOR's Director of the Office of Liturgy, viewed the changes since Vatican II in this light.]

"Joan said that she was committed to men, women an children in some form of liturgical ministry. She said, 'The Church is not standing still,' and that this has been possible because we took seriously the call to understand baptism as the priesthood of all believers. The Church is coming to understand the role of the assembly in the Eucharistic prayer. [I wish that Ms. Workmaster had elaborated a bit more on this point.] The role of the priest is to be the presider, the leader of prayer. The words said, the gestures made, and the things worn become the essence of sacramental theology. Context puts meaning around these items. 'If you pour water on a child's head, what does it mean?' she asked. 'It could mean a number of things: abuse, play, cooling off - or baptism. It depends on the context.'

The wearing of an alb is not an issue, Joan told us. The alb is for all of the baptized, and everyone could wear one. That's why children wear white at first Communion, and why brides and grooms are encouraged to wear white. [No, Ms. Workmaster, the alb is not for 'all the baptized.' According to GIRM, the alb is one of the 'sacred vestments' whose use is reserved to the ordained as well as 'acolytes, altar servers, lectors, and other lay ministers.' Furthermore, in Article 6 of Ecclesiae de mysterio we are told that 'Every effort must be made to avoid even the appearance of confusion which can spring from anomalous liturgical practices. As the sacred ministers are obliged to wear all of the prescribed liturgical vestments so too the non-ordained faithful may not assume that which is not proper to them.']

"She agreed that the issue of ordination is a justice issue - but not only for women. The ranks of the ordained are narrowed to include only male celibates, and many people are affected. In addressing this justice issue [If this is a justice issue, then who is fit to serve as judge?  I suspect Ms. Workmaster's answer would not be 'the Magisterium'] , we can't act autonomously, but need to act collectively. What would Jesus do? - he would collect people for discussion, teaching and understanding. [When did Jesus ever collect people - other than the apostles, his first bishops - for 'discussion, teaching and understanding?' And even with them the very idea of 'discussion' is almost comical.  These guys were usually so clueless regarding what Jesus was trying to teach that they made fools of themselves just about every time they opened their mouths. Rather, Ms. Workmaster, I suspect what Jesus would have done would have been to fashion a whip from some cords and use it to drive the dissenters out of his Father's house.]

"Joan summed up by saying that in twenty-five years, tremendous strides had been made in making ministries inclusive, but that the role of the presider was still limited to the ordained. No one can assume the right to preside, and individual communities can't confer it. 'Work for solutions, but act together. We gain nothing by working alone.'" [Here Ms. Workmaster is either rejecting the papal teaching found in Mulieris Dignitatem and Inter Insigniores, or she is suggesting that the "role of the presider" might somehow, someday be opened up to the non-ordained.]

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Q: Why doesn't the pope just replace Bishop Clark?

A: Bishop Jacques Gaillot of the Diocese of Partenia

Bishop Jacques Gaillot seems to subscribe to the philosophy that, when the Church hands you lemons, it's time to learn to make lemonade. 

One source relates the bishop's story as follows ...

Bishop Jacques Gaillot, a progressive and activist bishop in an increasingly conservative Catholic hierarchy, was stripped of his bishopric (at Evreux, in France) in 1995. Summoned to Rome, he was reassigned to a patch of central Algerian desert, once a thriving community in the first millennium but now a sandy wasteland. In response, Bishop Gaillot created the first virtual diocese and has pursued his clerical duties from this base ever since. The website/diocese has become the diocese without borders, the diocese which excludes no one, worldwide, in seven languages.


Other sources tell us the Bishop Gaillot, once he found himself unencumbered by the myriad duties typical of a local ordinary, found that he had a lot of free time on his hands.  This led to his authoring of several books setting forth his heterodox views on various Church teachings and also made him available to be a guest speaker at just about any event anywhere in the world where an audience was interesting in hearing from a dissident Catholic prelate.

And so, given Bishop Gaillot's still ongoing response to being removed from the Diocese of Evreux, it is understandable that Rome might be a bit gun shy at trying similar discipline with other wayward prelates.  It probably seems best, absent any overt apostasy, to just leave them where they are, thus confining the damage to a single diocese, rather than risk creating a whole pack of titular bishops with plenty of time on their hands to spread their poison all over the world.

I know that many of us have been writing letters begging Rome to do something about the situation in DOR. Given the above, I'd be somewhat surprised if we saw any serious response.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The class of 2010

The USCCB's snapshot of the ordination class of 2010 is now out.  The Catholic World News summary reads as follows ...

A survey of US seminarians who will be ordained this year has found that 31% were born outside the United States, with most coming from Mexico, Colombia, the Philippines, Poland and Vietnam.

Among the other findings of the survey:

  • the average (mean) age of ordinands is 37; the median age of diocesan ordinands is 33
  • 10% are converts
  • 37% have a relative who is a priest or religious
  • 55% have more than two siblings
  • 49% attended a Catholic elementary school, and 39% attended a Catholic college
  • 60% completed college before entering the seminary; 92% held full-time jobs
  • 16% had a parent with career military service
  • 78% were encouraged by a priest to enter the seminary; few were influenced by vocational advertising
  • 50% were discouraged by parents or other family members from considering the seminary; 15% were discouraged by priests, while 4% were discouraged by religious
  • 19% attended a World Youth Day, and 8% attended a Franciscan University of Steubenville High School Youth Conference
  • 67% regularly prayed the Rosary before entering seminary; 65% regularly took part in Eucharistic adoration
  • the seminarians typically began to consider a priestly vocation when they were 18
  • Two of these figures just jump out at me: Over half (55%) of these men come from families with 4 or more children and almost half (49%) attended a Catholic elementary school.  Large Catholic families and Catholic schools continue to be seedbeds of vocations (see here and here for similar results from another survey). It's too bad we don't have very many of either in DOR.

    Also of interest is that the full report tells us that "about one in ten diocesan ordinands (10 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."  Last year, this number was 17% and in 2008 it was 16%.  It is unclear whether this year's lower percentage actually means that fewer men are now feeling the need to seek ordination in dioceses other than their home dioceses, as fully 30% of the 2010 diocesan ordinands-to-be failed to answer this question.

    Some readers might recall that the comments on my post concerning the class of 2009 indicated that several orthodox men raised in DOR have felt the need to seek ordination elsewhere (see here). I am looking forward to 2012 and beyond when, hopefully, that need will no longer exist.

    Thursday, April 15, 2010

    "It's not that bad ..."

    I came across this while searching for something else and it just got me laughing.  From a 2003 edition of FaithFacts ...

    Heaven Can Wait

    Fr. Charles Curran, Fr. Hans Kung and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger all die on the same day and go to meet St. Peter to learn their eternal fate.

    St. Peter approaches the trio, explaining that each will be dealt with separately, in accordance with the Church’s teaching on the “particular judgment” (cf. Catechism, nos. 1021-22).

    St. Peter begins with Fr. Curran, shouting, “Charles! In my office!”

    Fr. Kung and Cardinal Ratzinger wait anxiously as one, two, three hours pass. Finally, Fr. Curran staggers out of St. Peter’s office, drained and exhausted.

    “What happened?” the others ask.

    “Well, it’s not that bad,” Fr. Curran responds, "considering I basically denied the Church’s moral law while serving on earth. Fifty years in purgatory, but I’m gonna make it, thank God.”

    Then, Fr. Kung goes into St. Peter’s office. Fr. Curran and Cardinal Ratzinger anxiously wait as one, two, three, four, five hours six hours pass! Finally, Fr. Kung crawls out of St. Peter’s office, barely able to move.

    “What happened? What happened?” the others ask.

    “Well, it’s not that bad,” Kung responds, “considering I basically called into question the Church’s entire deposit of faith while serving on earth. A hundred years in Purgatory, but I’m gonna make it, thank God.”

    Finally, Cardinal Ratzinger, the Church’s legendary “watchdog of orthodoxy” goes into St. Peter’s office. Frs. Curran and Kung wait anxiously as one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine hours pass. Finally, the door to St. Peter’s office opens and out steps, not Cardinal Ratzinger, but St. Peter.

    “What happened?! What happened?!” the befuddled priests inquire.

    “Well,” the humbled keeper of heaven’s gate begins, “it’s not that bad . . .”

    Tuesday, April 13, 2010

    Read the bill? Don't be silly!

    How do clowns like this keep getting re-elected? Are the American people really that stupid?


    Friday, April 9, 2010

    More $$$ available for Catholic schools

    Last Monday, the day before the start of the National Catholic Educational Association convention and expo in Minneapolis, a group of eight panelists shared their dioceses' or organizations' approaches to helping Catholic schools not only survive, but grow.

    Frank Butler, president of Washington-based Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities, attested to philanthropy's important but changing role in funding Catholic education.

    Fundraising looks different today than it did 10 or 20 years ago, Butler said. "It's really an interactive sport. The fact is, you've got to get engagement," he said. Traditionally, Catholic education fundraising has been "insular," and not open to ideas from donors, he said.

    "That is a formula for disaster in today's fundraising environment," he said. Instead, Catholic schools should take advantage of Catholic networks and actively engage their donors in their mission, Butler said.

    Despite the difficult economy, the climate for raising funds "could not be better," Butler said.

    "Catholic schools are the hottest issue in Catholic philanthropy right now. ... We've never seen the level of donor interest as high as it is today," he said. [my emphasis]

    I wonder if the people over at the Monroe County Catholic School System know this.

    Full story here.

    Sunday, March 28, 2010

    A shout-out to the nuns

    From a March 24 Huffington Post article by Cecile Richards, President, Planned Parenthood Federation of America ...

    And in the final days before the [health care] bill was passed, it was the Roman Catholic nuns who most importantly broke with the bishops and the Vatican to announce their support for health care reform. This brave and important move, demonstrating that they cared as much about the health care of families in America as they did about church hierarchy, was a critical demonstration of support. Bart Stupak may not ask the nuns for advice, as he recently announced to the press, but maybe next time he should.

    The leaders of the abortion industry certainly know who their real friends are.

    Friday, March 26, 2010

    Poll results

    The results from my first poll are in ...




    Thanks to all who participated.

    ND theology department "growing stronger"

    Most Reverend John D'Arcy, Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Fort Wayne - South Bend, recently gave an interview to Thomas Bounds, a student at the University of Notre Dame.

    Reflecting on the University, Bishop D’Arcy comments, “The most significant improvement over the past 25 years has been in the Theology department.

    “At the last ad limina visit I made with Pope John Paul II in 2004, I had the opportunity to meet with Cardinal Ratzinger [now Pope Benedict XVI]. He said, ‘You have done a wonderful thing for the Church,’ referring to the Theology department. I said, ‘It wasn’t me. It was the Blessed Mother.’ ‘Well,’ he said, ‘you’re the instrument.’ I replied, ‘No, not really, it was John Cavadini.’

    “He’s such an outstanding scholar, and he has recruited outstanding scholars who are also Catholic. You now have a department that is in close communion with the local bishop and is growing stronger theologically. No one’s freedom was threatened, and yet it has grown closer to the Church and the theology has improved.”

    Yes, Fr. Richard McBrien is still the Crowley-O'Brien Professor of Theology at Notre Dame but, like so many other infamous dissidents, he is also getting pretty long in the tooth.  Fr. McBrien will turn 74 this summer and, judging from Bishop D'Arcy's comments, it appears that his influence within ND's theology department has been on the decline for some time.

    Full interview here.

    Friday, March 19, 2010

    Marginalized Catholics give more

    DOR's annual Stewardship Day is scheduled for Saturday, April 24 at Fairport's  Church of the Assumption. According to a note on the Catholic Courier's web site, this year's keynote speaker "will be Charles Zech, Ph.D., director of the Center for the Study of Church Management at Villanova University and the author of more than 75 books."

    One of Dr. Zech's many books is "Why Catholics Don't Give ... And What Can Be Done About It."   A quick glance at this book on Google Books shows Dr. Zech to be a very interesting choice. 

    For instance, on pages 54-56 the author reviews the research on the relationship between belief and giving level (reformatted for clarity; my emphasis):

    [N]ot many researchers have considered the effect of specific religious beliefs on giving, perhaps because they've concluded that churches are unwilling to modify their teachings merely to attract larger contributions. Those few studies that have looked at the effect of beliefs have always concluded that parishioners with more orthodox beliefs and more conservative attitudes on moral issues contribute more.

    For example, John Hilke (1980) compared the effect of religious orthodoxy on contributions across a number of Protestant denominations. He found it to have a strong effect on religious giving.

    Andrew Greely, in another study that he coauthored with William McCready and Kathleen McCourt (1976), found a moderate relationship between contributions and both people's agreement with Church teachings and their reluctance to criticize priests.

    Dean Hoge and Fenggang Yang (1994) found that Catholics who do the following tended to he more generous givers: those who prayed more often, believed in life after death, considered the Bible to be an important guide in making life decisions, regard Church teaching as being an important guide in making life decisions, believe their faith to be free of doubts, and consider premarital sex to be always wrong.

    Another study, by D'Antonio et al. (1989), reported that Catholics who agreed with the Church's position on artificial contraception, abortion, and punishment of dissenting theologians, contributed more. But those who approved of some of the Church's more liberal positions, such as the Bishops' letters on the nuclear arms race and the economy, and the notion of the preferential option for the poor, also gave more.

    D'Antonio et al., also looked at the effect of attitudes about Church authority on contributions. They found that parishioners who agree that Church leaders should have the final say on what is morally right or wrong regarding both abortion and birth control contributed more than did others. Those who thought these should be joint decisions between the leadership and members gave the next most. The lowest givers were those who felt that abortion and birth control should be individual decisions.

    We can conclude from all of this that it is the willingness to accept the Church's official position, and the acknowledgement of its teaching authority, as much as the Church's stance on any one specific issue, that motivates people to contribute more.

    So it would appear that it is the conservative or orthodox Catholic, the very Catholic that many in DOR spend so much time and effort marginalizing, who tends to be the biggest donor to the Church.

    Maybe that was part of the reasoning behind the near desecration of St. Stan's during the production of last fall's CMA promo video.  Perhaps someone thought that a veneer of orthodoxy would lead the orthodox to give even more.

    Be that as it may, one wonders if Dr. Zech has any ideas on how to get more more money out of DOR's many progressive Catholics.

    Tuesday, March 16, 2010

    "The illusion of moral cover"

    Archbishop Chaput's latest column on the health care debate deals with the "Catholic" enablers of this seriously flawed legislation. 

    A couple of quotes ...

    Groups, trade associations and publications describing themselves as “Catholic” or “prolife” that endorse the Senate version ...  provide the illusion of moral cover for an unethical piece of legislation.

    The long, unpleasant and too often dishonest national health-care debate is now in its last days.  Its most painful feature has been those “Catholic” groups that by their eagerness for some kind of deal undercut the witness of the Catholic community and help advance a bad bill into a bad law. Their flawed judgment could now have damaging consequences for all of us.

    Read the entire column here.

    St. Rita to become parish school in 2011?

    The principal believes it's a done deal, while the pastor says no final decision is close to being made.

    The following appeared on the Channel 13 web site late yesterday morning:

    Webster, N.Y.- The Saint Rita School in Webster will be run by the parish beginning in the fall of 2011.

    Monday, school leaders announced they are planning to significantly expand fundraising efforts to prepare for the time when the school is no longer run by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester.

    In a press release, Principal Sister Katherine Ann Rappl said, “Only 52 percent of our students come from families that belong to the Saint Rita Parish. So as we transition to parish responsibility, the support of the surrounding community will be more important than ever.”

    The school is holding a new spring gala in May as a way to raise money.

    It will be held Friday, May 7 at Glendoveers on Old Browncroft Road.

    However, the D&C this morning reports:

    Fate of St. Rita’s school up in air

    Father Charles Latus of St. Rita’s Church in Webster said Monday that although the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester is exploring the possibility of having some schools become parish-run, no decisions have been made regarding St. Rita’s school.

    “We have had talks with the diocese, but no final decision has been made or is close to being made,” said Latus.

    Friday, March 12, 2010

    There's hope for DOR schools - after 2012

    The Philanthropy Roundtable has just released Saving America's Urban Catholic Schools: A Guide for Donors.  As the title indicates, the book is targeted at potential donors and it makes the case for supporting Catholic schools in general and urban Catholic schools in particular.

    Part of making that case involves detailing the success stories already out there and one of these stories involves the Diocese of Memphis.

    In one five-year period, from 1999 to 2004, "donors helped the Diocese of Memphis reopen a total of nine previously shuttered inner-city Catholic schools. Supporters of the effort regularly refer to it as the 'Memphis Miracle.'"

    There is absolutely no financial reason why this success story could not be repeated here. There is no shortage of well-heeled philanthropists in this area and the recently reported 46% graduation rate from our city's public high schools only serves to underline the need for quality alternatives to the Rochester city school system.

    There is, however, one critical stumbling block that needs to be overcome and it will be, God willing, come 2012 (see the last sentence, below).

    A free PDF version of the book is available here.  The section on the Diocese of Memphis follows ...

    Resurrecting Closed Schools: Miracle in Memphis

    When all these elements come together—re-setting high academic standards, improving business practices, and increasing transparency and accountability—the end-result of a turnaround effort can be impressive. Perhaps the largest and most consequential turnaround effort to date has taken place in Memphis, Tennessee. Between 1999 and 2004, donors—both Catholic and non-Catholic—helped the Diocese of Memphis reopen a total of nine previously shuttered inner-city Catholic schools. Supporters of the effort regularly refer to it as the “Memphis Miracle.”

    The effort started in July 1999. Bishop J. Terry Steib asked Mary C. McDonald, superintendent of schools, to develop and implement an ambitious strategic plan. The goal: to reopen nine shuttered Catholic schools in inner-city Memphis, some of which had been closed for over 50 years. As McDonald worked on the plan, she devised a new governance and infrastructure model, one that called for the closed parish schools located in the inner city to be reopened as diocesan schools. Under the new arrangement, the superintendent would serve as the chief executive officer of each school, with the principal acting as the chief operating officer. Pastors would continue to provide spiritual leadership, overseeing the Catholic identity and ongoing spiritual formation of teachers.

    Once the plan was sufficiently developed,McDonald approached members of the business and philanthropic communities to interest potential investors. The effort was kicked off with an initial $10 million anonymous donation. All that was known was that the benefactor was not Catholic. An additional $5 million was raised from other interested donors. After receiving the initial funding of $15 million for renovation and scholarships, the program started with one school in August 1999.

    Over the next four years, with additional funding in place, the Jubilee Catholic Schools— named for the Year of Jubilee proclaimed by Pope John Paul II in 2000—grew from that one to nine schools. All of the schools serve a student population whose families are at or below poverty level.

    In 2003, the Jubilee initiative launched the Catholic Memphis Urban Schools Trust (CMUST) to assume responsibility of the financial oversight and budgets, as well as assist in ongoing development efforts. CMUST, according to McDonald, provides tuition assistance to families on a sliding scale, and helps the nine schools cover any operational deficits. It has its own, separate 501(c)(3) status, which was necessary to assure all investors that their contributions to the Jubilee schools were completely segregated from diocesan funds. Building an intermediary organization allows an expert, independent board to oversee fiscal management, reducing overhead and protecting funds from lawsuits that may be filed against the church.

    In Memphis, oversight for the ongoing operations component remains in the superintendent’s office. Oversight for the financial component, meanwhile, resides with CMUST. To further ensure accountability, the program sought and received district accreditation in 2006 through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. This holds the academic program to a higher standard of third-party accountability, and ensures the continuous improvement of a quality academic program. Memphis was only the second diocese in the country to receive this accreditation.

    The results have been, as some donors put it, miraculous. Enrollment continues to climb (please see Figure 6), and test scores are steadily improving.

    Figure 6

    The Hyde Family Foundations have long been key contributors to the effort, and their commitment to the Jubilee Catholic Schools included a $5 million challenge grant in 2007. Barbara Hyde, president of the foundations, says she has seen “great commitment and talent among the leaders of the Jubilee schools.” Hyde and her husband, AutoZone founder J. R. (“Pitt”) Hyde, are not Catholic, but their charitable work takes a multi-sector and ecumenical approach to K–12 reform that focuses on school supply, demand, and governance. As part of its effort to increase supply—the number of opportunities for children to get a high-quality education—the Hyde Family Foundations have pushed for more accommodating charter school laws in Tennessee, supported public school reforms, and funded the Jubilee Schools effort.

    Support for the Jubilee Schools also came from local business leaders, many of whom recognized that the city needs a highly educated workforce with solid moral character. Nathan Pera III, chairman and CEO of Memphis-based Environmental Testing and Consulting of the Americas, says the Jubilee schools are effective because “they combine the hunger of children to learn and the hunger of donors to help; because they attract significant support from non-Catholic business leaders and philanthropists; and because of God’s good will.” “If you want to re-open Catholic schools,” Pera continues, “you have to talk with practitioners in the trenches. You have to recruit a passionate, savvy, and mission-focused leader. You have to build a multicultural and religiously pluralistic coalition. You have to demand fiscal accountability. And, most of all, you have to make sure that the local bishop is completely—100 percent—supportive.”

    Thursday, March 11, 2010

    Applause during Mass?

    I recently received a note from a DOR reader who is concerned about applause during the liturgy.  He/she mentioned that a family member had counted seven rounds of applause during a recent Mass at their parish.

    My correspondent is aware of the rubrics but, leaving that aside for the moment, he/she went on to note that applauding for everything and everybody is not much different than ending every sentence with an exclamation point.  We end up giving the same acknowledgement to everything from, say, a birthday to a CYO basketball victory to an excellent performance by the choir to a couple celebrating 50 years of marriage. In treating everything the same we lose sight of inherent differences, of relative importance.

    In my experience applause is most likely to occur near the end of Mass, during the time reserved for announcements.  While still something of an interruption, applause here seems less disruptive than it would at any earlier point.

    In doing some research for this post I learned that Rich Leonardi had dealt with a related topic a little over a year ago. Rich's concern was applause in response to homilies and the comments of Father Edward McNamara in that regard seem well thought out and balanced.  (See here.)
    Father McNamara reminded us that, while still Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, our Holy Father once wrote,
    Whenever applause breaks out in the liturgy because of some human achievement, it is a sure sign that the essence of liturgy has totally disappeared and been replaced by a kind of religious entertainment. (The Spirit of the Liturgy, p. 198)
    To put this in context, then-Cardinal Ratzinger was commenting on applause in response to so-called liturgical dancing during Mass, not in response to homilies or announcements near the end of Mass.  Still, his point is well-taken: When applause is a response to some human achievement, it is problematic during Mass.

    My correspondent was wondering how common applause during Mass is in DOR. To answer that question I have decided to conduct my first poll - see bottom of left column.  Please feel free to participate.

    Sunday, March 7, 2010

    Mother of Sorrows to lose 7th, 8th grades

    Cleansing Fire is reporting that DOR will close the 7th and 8th grades at Our Mother of Sorrows School at the end of the current school year. 

    An announcement to that effect was reportedly made at yesterday's 5:00 pm Mass at MOS.

    We covered the fact that these grades were in danger last October (see here).  It now appears that our fears have been realized.

    DOR's weekend Mass attendance continues to nosedive. Every year fewer DOR Catholics celebrate the Sacrament of Matrimony within the Church and every year fewer DOR Catholics bring their infants for Baptism. 

    So what is DOR's solution to this decline?

    Why, close more Catholic schools, of course.

    These people are insane!

    Wednesday, February 24, 2010

    Practical Catholicism

    Thus the word of the LORD came to me:

    You, son of man, I have appointed watchman for the house of Israel; when you hear me say anything, you shall warn them for me. If I tell the wicked man that he shall surely die, and you do not speak out to dissuade the wicked man from his way, he (the wicked man) shall die for his guilt, but I will hold you responsible for his death. But if you warn the wicked man, trying to turn him from his way, and he refuses to turn from his way, he shall die for his guilt, but you shall save yourself (Ezekiel 33:1, 7-9)

    With that by way of introduction, this is for anyone who may have missed it on Cleansing Fire ...

    "Why Lutherans Can't Evangelize"

    I just came across a somewhat long but well written piece posted by a rather non-traditional Lutheran pastor.  Entitled Why Lutherans Can't Evangelize, the essay presents an interesting theological slant on the problems facing his church.

    For instance, Pastor David Housholder contends that Lutherans "more or less have no functioning eschatology (end times teaching)," which makes it "hard to invite people on a journey when we don’t have a compelling destination."

    He goes on to add that Lutherans "have no theology of mission. Within the framework of our theology, we have no idea how to get someone saved."

    This situation arose, according to the pastor, because

    the formative-era Lutherans were concerned with two things:

    1) Catechizing already-baptized nominal Christians within their jurisdiction ([Luther's] Small Catechism)

    2) Defending the faith against non-Lutheran neighbors (the [Augsburg] Confessions)

    Mission was just not on their radar screen. It didn’t get into our family DNA.

    But what first caught my eye was Pastor Housholder's brief recapitulation of the history of the Lutheran Church in America.  The parallels with Catholicism as it is practiced in some parts of our country (and we all know where) are striking ...

    Lutherans in America have had three major eras:

    1) The era of immigration.

    2) The era of procreation.

    3) The era of decline.

    The era of immigration was a period which lasted up to 1920. Millions of nominal Lutherans were coming in sailing and steamships to North America. If we set up ethnic specific ministries which functioned as community centers, and catechized and confirmed the young, then primary relationships would be built around church activity and continuous exposure to Word and Sacrament would get the job done.

    It worked. Until the steamships stopped coming.

    Then we turned to plan B: Procreation. The average Lutheran woman had 4-5 kids. We built education wings onto our churches (a whole new thing). From VBS to Lutheran Colleges and Seminaries (via Luther and Walther League) we did a full court press on the kids, knowing that keeping over half of them would lead to a growing church. I am a product of that full court press.

    It worked. Until the pill came and the average Lutheran woman now has 1.7 kids. Keep half of 1.7 and you get exactly what we now have.

    The pill was introduced in 1963. The Lutheran Church has been in freefall since 1964 (despite the rapid growth of the US population during that same time).

    Contraction, aging, and entropy have been the norm for our congregations since then. The exception has been Upper Midwest suburban areas where a fresh critical-mass population of young Lutherans moves into new tract housing and has kids (a curious mixture of “retro” immigration and procreation).

    Pastor Housholder's entire essay is well worth reading.

    Friday, February 12, 2010

    The fruits of orthodoxy

    In anticipation of a January 19th speech by Bob Voboril, the Superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Diocese of Wichita, the Serra Club of Wichita published the following backgrounder in its monthly newsletter.

    To this denizen of the wasteland known as the Diocese of Rochester these statistics are simply astounding.

    Some Interesting Statistics

    In the past 25 years the Catholic population in the US is up by 30%, partially due to the Mexican population. Priests are down by 20% in the same time period. Number of seminarians is about the same as 25 years ago but not keeping up with the population.

    We now have 17 sisters teaching in our diocese vs 90 twenty-five years ago. We currently have 45 seminarians studying for our diocese. The Wichita Diocese has one seminarian for each 3,000 Catholics, compared to the national average of one seminarian per 20,000 Catholics. [DOR has 1 seminarian for each 56,000 Catholics. -ed.]  Thirty of our 45 seminarians are graduates of our Catholic high schools. Bishop Carroll has had more than 50 religious vocations in 40 years. Kapaun Mount Carmel has produced more than 120 religious vocations in 120 years. We have two of the best Catholic high schools in the world.

    From 1985 to 2010, national Catholic school enrollment in the U.S. is down by a third. In our diocese it is up by the same percentage. [Enrollment in Monroe County Catholic schools is down about 80% over the same period. -ed.]

    Reasons for Our Diocesan Increase

    There is a book entitled "Who Will Save American Urban Catholic Schools?" One chapter and parts of others are devoted to the Diocese of Wichita Catholic Schools. In the forward it states that Wichita is one of the best examples of how Catholic education should be carried out. Catholic education is the responsibility of all Catholics, not just the parents of those currently enrolled. Our diocesan philosophy of stewardship has enabled our diocesan Catholic schools to continue accomplish their mission.

    The Wichita Diocese never forgets—in fact gives first priority to—the religious mission of our Catholic schools. It is their religious mission which motivates the support of parishioners. Their first priority is forming disciples of Jesus Christ. Strong parishes are the center of the entire community. Wichita is the home of one of the strongest Catholic schools systems in the nation. We teach kids that everything we have is a gift from God and we need to give back the best that we can. Seventy percent of our parishes incomes are spent on our schools.

    All our teachers function as Catholic ministers and must go through Catholic courses. All our students must pass religious tests as well as their academic subjects. Of our 38 schools, there are 24 which are new or remodeled, which reflects the importance given to education in our parishes.

    The challenge is to find ways to serve our poorest students and poorest parishes. The Bishop has established the Drexel Fund and endowment to aid in this effort. This fund now stands at $2 million and the goal is to raise it to $12 million.

    We appreciate the leadership that Mr. Voboril has brought to our diocese and we pray that his and all teachers’ efforts, will continue to be blessed and supported through our stewardship way of life.

    Other interesting statistics

    According to the 2009 Official Catholic Directory the Diocese of Wichita has 115,967 Catholics spread over 91 parishes and, while there are 11 nuns and 38 lay people involved in ministry, each of those parishes administered by a priest. At least one parish (St. Francis of Assisi) reports 85% weekend Mass attendance.

    Thursday, February 4, 2010

    "... we're not growing Catholics in Rochester anymore"

    HTparent is a frequent commenter on Catholic school-related issues, both here and on other local boards. 

    He/she posted the following in response to's story on the merging of Nazareth Academy with Aquinas.

    As sad as this is, Nazareth Academy could not survive with such low enrollment ... Aquinas was having it's own problems with enrollment. This is a proactive decision on the part of the administrations of both schools.

    More of these announcements will come in the future. Our own Bishop does not believe in Catholic Education, so why would people continue to pay money for it?

    The high schools will not be able to survive without a solid feeder system, which the diocese has systematically dismantled over the past decade. None of the people with wallets big enough for Bishop Clark to be bothered listening to have ever stood up to him on this issue.

    You reap what you sow, and we're not growing Catholics in Rochester anymore.

    Thank Bishop Clark.

    I couldn't have said it any better.

    Wednesday, February 3, 2010

    Starting your own Catholic schools

    From the Wall Street Journal ...

    Down but Not Out in Catholic Suburbia

    Inner-city parochial schools are not the only ones struggling.

    By WILLIAM MCGURN - Wall St. Journal - February 1, 2010.

    Tim Busch has an answer to the epidemic of closing Catholic schools. And it has nothing to do with vouchers.

    It couldn't come at a more critical moment. Over the next few days, nearly 2.2 million students and their families will celebrate Catholic Schools Week. Though the Catholic school system remains America's largest alternative to public education, the number of both schools and students is roughly half what they were at their peak in the mid-1960s. According to the National Catholic Education Association, the trend continued last year, with 162 Catholic schools consolidating or closing against only 31 new openings.

    Amid the gloom Mr. Busch offers a prescription for revival: End the financial dependence on parish or diocese. Build attractive facilities. And compete for students.

    St. Monica's school joins about 1,267 Catholic schools that have closed since 2000 as enrollment nationwide has dropped by 382,125 students, or 14 percent, according to the National Catholic Education Association.

    If that sounds like a business formula, it is. Mr. Busch is a good friend I came to know through Legatus, an association of Catholic CEOs. Spend any time around him, and you'll find he believes that America needs Catholic schools more than ever, and that they can compete with the best. To prove it, he's helped start up two privately run Catholic schools—St. Anne elementary school and JSerra high school, both in southern California.

    Now, there are plenty of upscale Catholic schools with waiting lists—especially those run by religious orders. But here's a fact that gets little mention: a Catholic education is in danger of becoming a luxury for the middle class. It's hard to be optimistic about the future of Catholic schools in our inner cities if Catholics cannot make a go of these schools in the suburbs, where most Catholics live.

    Do the math. In my area of New Jersey, for example, a Catholic high school whose tuition clocks in at $15,000 a year is deemed a bargain. For a family with three or four kids, the total tuition can top $3,000 a month. Young middle-class families struggling with a new mortgage and high property taxes can find themselves squeezed: not wealthy enough to pay, not poor enough for aid.

    In Mr. Busch's case, he says he got the idea for starting up St. Anne after he and his wife went looking for a Catholic school for their first child—and were depressed by the dilapidated facilities they found at many schools. Ultimately he and his partners settled on a model where parents take responsibility for operating the school, with the diocese ensuring the teachings are authentically Catholic. It's a division of responsibility much in line with Vatican II, freeing up pastors to be pastors while tapping into the financial, legal, and business abilities of lay people.

    In some ways, it's liberating for both. Schools replace lay boards that merely advised a pastor or bishop with lay boards that raise money, build facilities, and actually run the place. The appeal to a bishop is this: We'll help you provide an authentic Catholic education to more children—and it won't cost you a dime.

    For those who complain that such schools serve only the rich, Mr. Busch says that financially stable schools have more wherewithal to offer those in need (even without endowments—the next step—St. Anne and JSerra have more than 10% of their students on financial assistance). He further points out that need is by no means limited to money. "Some children have wealth," he says. "But having wealth does not insulate you from problems like divorce, substance abuse, loneliness, a culture saturated in sex, and so on. These kids need the Catholic message as much as everyone."

    Bishop Arthur Serratelli of Paterson, N.J., agrees. "Catholic education is such a value both for Catholics and for society that we want it to be accessible and affordable for all who see its intrinsic value . . . . We are fortunate that many lay people are committed to this cause—and are helping us 'think outside the box' so that Catholic schools will thrive in this new decade and beyond."

    Mr. Busch's privately run Catholic schools, of course, are not the only new model showing promise. The 24 Jesuit-based Cristo Rey high schools across the country do a terrific job through an innovative work-study program. The bishop and his flock in Wichita, Kan., embraced a stewardship model that calls upon all parishioners to give 8% of their gross income, which allows the diocese to make all its Catholic schools tuition free. And Catholic universities such as Notre Dame and Boston College are reaching out to help run Catholic elementary and high schools.

    "We can't wait for vouchers, and we can't look to the old model of relying on our pastors and bishops to come up with the money and answers," says Mr. Busch. "If we want Catholic schools for our children and our society, we have to adopt new models that let us compete."

    Nazareth Academy and Aquinas to merge

    Talk about a bolt from the blue!  I don't know of anyone who had a clue this was in the works.
    From ...
    Rochester, N.Y. - Nazareth Academy and Aquinas Institute have announced they will merge. They're calling it a partnership.
    The new partners announced Wednesday that they will call their school system Aquinas Institute and Nazareth Schools.
    Beginning in September, Pre K-6th Grade will be held at Nazareth, and grades 7-12 will be located at Aquinas. Some parents are unhappy that their children will have to move yet again.

    Watch for more on this story and get reaction from local parents on 13WHAM News at 5 and 6 p.m. and at
    From the Nazareth Scools website ...

    Opening a new chapter for Catholic Education in Rochester: 

    The Nazareth Schools and Aquinas Institute are partnering to create a co-educational Catholic school system that seamlessly serves grades Pre-K through 12.  The new school system will be called Aquinas Institute and Nazareth Schools.  Beginning in September 2010, Pre-K through grade 6 will be located at the Nazareth Academy campus on Lake Avenue.  Grades 7 through 12 will be welcomed at the Aquinas Institute campus on Dewey Avenue. 
    The Nazareth Schools will continue providing its well-respected elementary school program, including a highly recognized Pre-K and wrap-around school care.  The Nazareth Academy program at Aquinas will continue a strong commitment to women’s leadership and development.  This commitment will be overseen by a position created and staffed by the Sisters of Saint Joseph.   
    Both schools bring several shared values to the new school system including a religious grounding in the Roman Catholic faith tradition as taught and supported by the Congregation of Saint Basil and the Sisters of Saint Joseph.  As private Catholic schools, The Aquinas Institute and The Nazareth Schools, this partnership is an historic juncture. 

    H/T: a loyal reader

    UPDATE: Not too surprisingly, finances seemed to have played a major role.

    From a Naz student's post on the Save NAZ ACADEMY from extinction! page on Facebook ...

    "Apparently, Nazareth is in millions of dollars of debt and they have been trying to keep it going, but the diocese hasn't really backed anything. "The diocese is literally running out of the inner city" That's why my religion teacher told me. She is a SSJ nun and she was crying.