Sunday, January 31, 2010

Whither the altar rail? posted a story today on the recommendation to close both St. Salome and St. Thomas the Apostle churches in Irondequoit.

I didn't spot any new factual information but the article did end with an intriguing sentence.

Unique traits of all five parishes would be incorporated into the new parish, planners pledged.



I wonder which of the surviving churches will now get an altar rail.

Friday, January 29, 2010

DOR's Available Priest Projections

In September of 2003 Bill Pickett, then DOR's Director of Pastoral Planning, gave a presentation to a group consisting of the members of the Eastern Greece/Charlotte PPNM Steering Committee, along with the parish councils and pastoral staffs of the six parishes involved. The occasion was the kick-off of Phase 2 of the PPNM process for the EG/C Planning Group.

Part of Dr. Pickett's presentation was a 5-page handout containing what appeared to be screencaps from a 28 slide Power Point presentation.  Some of these slides presented DOR's then-current projections out to as far as 2025 for such items as the number of priests and the number and type of parishes.

Packrat that I am, my copy of that handout is still in my files.  As so, without further ado, here is the data Dr. Pickett presented 6+ years ago.

Priest Projections

Of particular interest is the following chart from Page 2:

Pay particular attention to the projected number of priests in 2015. I make it out to be about 90 and I have to wonder, despite DOR's protestations to the contrary, whether this is the real driving force behind at least some of the more recent parish closures, as well as some of those now in the works.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

This "vast wasteland"

Fr. Z. has noted that some people suspect that preference for the TLM over against the Novus Ordo might be largely a function of age.  He therefore asked

would some of you younger folks take some time to write your thoughts about the new Mass/old Mass question?

I also invite seasoned Catholics to do the same.

Let’s see some responses.

Some of his responses were published yesterday. The second one came from a lady with experience with the liturgy as celebrated in DOR.  It reads, in part,

I am 39 years old ... I went to Catholic school and the parish associated with my school was very orthodox and traditional (in the 1970s-80s everyone still received communion knelling at the Communion rail (mostly on the tongue but you had the choice)), parts of the Mass were retained in Latin, chant, etc. ... 

I really had no idea how unusual the parish was or graced I was that I attended it until I left home for college in 1988 and saw the vast wasteland that’s left in upstate NY (Bishop Matthew Clark’s diocese).

I went to the “Catholic” Mass offered by the Catholic campus ministry. I truly did not recognize it as a Catholic Mass. I called my husband (who was then my boyfriend) and told him that I must have gone to a protestant service by mistake. Besides the hideous music, the liturgical dance, the clown vestments and everything about the “worship space”, they had written their own Eucharistic Prayers that had phrases like “save us from the bondage of capitalism.” My time in upstate NY was like being lost in the wilderness (I did not own a car so was forced to endure what I had access to). I stuck it out and went to Mass every week with gritted teeth.

It's still a wasteland, only just not quite as vast as it was 20-some years ago, as more and more Catholics simply quit attending Mass.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

St. Joseph School to revert to being parish run is reporting that St. Joseph School in Penfield will revert to parish school status at the end of the current school year.  Discussions are also underway, according to the diocese, that may lead to a similar change at St. Louis in Pittsford and St. Rita in Webster. Similar talks are also going on with St. Lawrence in Greece, according to a report last week by Channel 10 News.

Tuition to rise at St. Joseph School

St. Joseph Parish will raise tuition by about 10% to $3,300 for the 2010-11 school year. Tuition has been set by the diocese at $2,950 for the last two years.  The diocese has yet to say anything about its tuition plans for next year.

MCCS 2009-10 enrollment down

DOR spokesman Doug Mandelaro is quoted as saying that there had been "an 8-percent enrollment drop at the remaining schools this past year."  The 2008-09 MCCS enrollment has been reported at 3,700 students. With St. Joseph's enrolment at just over 400, an 8% drop at the remaining schools translates into a loss of of about 265 students, or a 2009-10 enrollment level of about 3,435 students. 
Two years ago the diocese indicated that it needed over 4,000 students to break even, given its tuition rate of $2,950.  It would therefore appear that the MCCS budget is now under considerable strain.

The demographic shift - again

Mandelaro attributed the drop in enrollment to both the economic downturn and "changes in demographics."  It must be noted that for the last two years the diocese has been citing a demographic shift as a cause of various ills ranging from declining Mass attendance to declining MCCS enrollment, but that it has yet to publish the data upon which it bases that claim.

No closed school will be allowed to reopen

Mandelaro confirmed an earlier report that the diocese will not allow any of the 13 schools closed by Bishop Clark in 2008 to reopen as parish schools.
"None of the closed schools are being reopened," he said, noting that one reason Bishop Clark approved the task force's recommendation on school closings was concern that if some or all of the schools slated for closure had been allowed to remain open, they might have drawn students away from the county's other 11 schools, thereby destabilizing the entire school system.
That concern persists.

A parish school: A "wonderful opportunity ... for the growth of our parish"

The story quotes St. Joseph pastor Fr. Jim Schwartz on the relationship between a parish and its school ...
"From a parish perspective, faith formation is a major parish priority as it is expressed in Catholic school," Father Schwartz said. "We see this as a rich and wonderful opportunity to provide faith formation for the growth of our parish."
Father Schwartz said he is optimistic that local control over the school will encourage parishioners to feel more connected to it, allowing the school to continue providing a high-quality education ...
"The viability and the future of the school has just taken a giant step forward," Father Schwartz remarked.
All of which leads one to wonder just what Fr. Schwartz' assessment of "the viability and the future of the school" would have been, had it remained under MCCS control.

Why does it always seem to be about the money?

While DOR does not release the weekend collection figures of its parishes, it does publish their CMA assessments.  And, since a parish's CMA assessment is based largely on the size of its average weekly collection, these assessments can give us a good picture of our parishes' relative incomes.
With this in mind it is interesting to note that the four parishes that have or may regain control over their schools are among the nine in all of DOR with the highest CMA assessments. Indeed, only one other parish (Peace of Christ) in this top nine has a Catholic school on its property.
So it looks like just about the only parishes to be considered for, in Fr. Schwartz' words,  "wonderful opportunit[ies] ... for the growth of our parish" are those who are already doing pretty well for themselves.
I guess the rest of us will just have to fend for ourselves.

UPDATE: is reporting that the reversion of St. Lawrence School in Greece to parish control is now a done deal.  The change-over will take effect at the end of the current school year.

UPDATE: also has a report on this story. At least one St. Joseph parent is quite happy with the new arrangement ...

Since Bishop Mathew Clark closed 13 Catholic schools in 2008, there has been some lingering resentment and skepticism. Parents worried which schools might be next? But parents who spoke today say they like this move.

"It is a good thing. It's actually a very positive thing. It's a relief," said parent Christine Sebastian. Instead of sending her son's tuition money to the Diocese, it will now go directly to the St. Joseph's parish school. "I mean, for years we've worried every timed the tuition list comes out, which schools are going to close. And honestly, the anxiety, the fear is now gone. We can raise money for areas that we wanted to spend money in. And now we can do that."

Monday, January 18, 2010

A blast from the past

The Big Bopper, Poodle skirts, a Hula Hoop contest, the Stroll and lots of food - all part of last Friday night's Sock Hop at Holy Cross ...

The full slideshow ...

Saturday, January 16, 2010

DOR clarifies its plan

While the diocese is discussing (some say compelling) the reversion of 4 of its 11 Monroe County Catholic schools to parish school status, it has made it clear that it will not allow any of the 13 schools closed by Bishop Clark in June 2008 to reopen.

YNN Rochester is reporting that

The diocese clarified its plan with a follow-up statement:

"Monroe County Catholic School officials have no plans to reopen any of the 13 schools that were closed as part of the restructuring in 2008. The current study exploring reversion of our existing schools to a parish-run model currently involves several, but not all, existing sites."

Friday, January 15, 2010

Father John Riccardo

About a week ago I "discovered" Father John Riccardo of the Archdiocese of Detroit.

Resembling in some ways Father John Corapi and in others Archbishop Fulton Sheen, Father Riccardo is a highly orthodox, thoroughly lucid and remarkably humble expositor of the faith.

See for yourself ...

Dozens of Father Riccardo's homilies and longer talks can be found here.

I found myself particularly impressed with his series of talks entitled Catholicism for Cradle Catholics, especially number 7 on the Eucharist.

Also, his Faith Under Attack is a must listen for anyone with children - or grandchildren - about to head off to college.

UPDATE: Most of the talks on Father Riccardo's site are in audio format but there are a few videos. One of these, Confession: A Fireside Chat with the Lord, is well worth the 30 minutes it takes to watch it.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Rosary and Benediction for vocations

The Knights of Columbus Council 11411 are sponsoring a Rosary and Benediction for vocations.  The service will be held at 7:00 PM, Tuesday, February 2 at St. Margaret Mary Church in Irondequoit.

H/T: Gen at Cleansing Fire

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

4 MCCS schools to be semi-independent

Nikki Rudd at News 10NBC is reporting that St. Lawrence School in Greece and three east side schools may soon become parish schools once again.

Well, sort of.

While it will retain control over curriculum and staff hiring and firing matters, the diocese will turn over the financial end of the operation to the schools and their parishes.

The most obvious effect of this arrangement will be a substantial savings to the MCCS' strained budget, as it will no longer be paying these parishes hundreds of thousands of dollars to rent their buildings.  How the parishes would deal with this loss of income is unclear at present.

The effects on other financial issues, such as the financial aid currently provided by the diocese, are also unclear.

While the identities of the three east side schools were not mentioned by Rudd, Dr. K. over at Cleansing Fire reports they are St. Rita (Webster), St. Louis (Pittsford) and St. Joseph (Penfield).

The change-over apparently will not be immediate.  At the end of her on-air piece Rudd says, "The superintendent tells me it will be a seamless transition and she says it might not happen for another year or two."

Part of the original Task Force recommendation

Since DOR's education task force made its report to the bishop two years ago the details of its recommendations have been a closely guarded secret.  Now one of those secrets has been made public.

Rudd reports,

It was also a recommendation by the task force to have parishes run their own schools instead of the Diocese. This is how Catholic schools were run for more than 100 years.

This confirms something many of us have suspected for some time. While the bishop would have us believe that he had no choice but to close 13 Catholic schools two years ago, we now know that his own task force thought there were other viable options - options which included allowing parishes to run their own schools.

MCCS: A record of failure

It appears that the bishop thought his own MCCS people were still the best choice for running our Catholic schools, in spite of their abysmal track record.

For instance, DOR assumed control of all Monroe County Catholic schools at the beginning of the 1988-89 school year.  At that time it had a system of 39 schools and was serving some 16,000 students.  Today, a mere 21 years later, the MCCS System has shrunk to 11 schools educating maybe 3,500 children (2009-10 registration data has yet to be released).

Furthermore, in the 10 years ending with the 2007-08 academic year DOR lost 39.4% of its Catholic school  students, the second worst showing among the 37 dioceses with comparable (+/- 25%) 1997-98 enrollments. (Data here.)

If this isn't a record of failure I don't know what one looks like.