Tuesday, January 6, 2009

In a quiet rebellion, parishioners keep the faith

That tagline is from a NY Times story this morning.

It seems that the powers that be in the Catholic church have unfairly singled out a financially solvent parish and determined that it be shut down and sold. Not so, say the faithful parishioners. While they have been stripped of their priests to lead worship, they remain resolute in their faith to keep their parish open in spite of overwhelming odds.

Following is an excerpt from the story: "Many of the St. Frances holdouts describe being transformed from passive Catholics to passionate, deeply involved members of a spiritual community that they say could be a model for the future of the troubled Catholic Church.
“You would think because there are fewer and fewer priests that the various archdioceses would welcome a new configuration,” Mrs. O’Brien said. “Let the lay people do everything but the sacramental.”
Since St. Frances has no priest, parishioners lead services that include everything but consecration of the host. On the Sunday before Christmas, about 50 parishioners attended a service conducted entirely by women, including two who distributed communion. The hosts had been consecrated elsewhere by a priest described by Mr. Rogers’s wife, Maryellen, as “sympathetic.”
Parishioners also hold suppers in the vestibule and meet Tuesdays to say the rosary. They raise money as a nonprofit group, donate to charities and open the church to outsiders seeking comfort or repose.
“Lots of troubled people have come through, and all they need, really simply, is someone to connect to,” said Karen Virginia Shockley, 43, who participates in the vigil with her two teenage sons. “Usually there’s an older person here who will sit down and just listen to you.”

The Catholic church has been through a great deal recently, scandals, lawsuits to the tune of $85 million in that archdiocese alone. It is clearly time for them to rethink Catholicism - it is not working on so many levels.

I am a big fan of a lay/eucharistic ministry - it is likely a holdover from being a Mormon for over 20 years. No-one is paid in the LDS Church - not the bishop, not the president, not teachers, music directors - everyone volunteers their time and serves anywhere from 1-5 years. I have personally served in the longest standing womens' organization - the Relief Society of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints - I have been a Sunday School teacher, I have worked as an administrator of childrens' services and camp counselor to girls and much more over the two decades during which I was a participating member.

This article brings to light the dire straits in which the Catholic church finds itself - a need for priests that is so great, they are being imported en masse (no pun intended) from South America and Africa in order to meet the needs of their followers.

I worry that the Catholic church will not be able to sustain itself and then I am reminded of the huge outpouring of love and support that came from the youth and younger priests and nuns as I watched the Pope here in NY last year. I am also reminded of a conversation I had with a Catholic professor recently - he believes that a new wave of optimism is sweeping the country among Catholic youth - given that he teaches in a Jesuit college, he is closer to the situation than I.

On occasion, I celebrate Catholic mass - I know, I know - what religion am I anyway? Spiritual, not religious, dear readers.

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