Sunday, January 17, 2010

All Hands on Deck!

Cathy here! This post was originally on my blog and is reprinted here!

A rambling post that is NOT about priests on cruise lines! We can't afford to put priests on cruise ships! At least, not in this Archdiocese. We need every man!

We need our priests. We need more priests! Pray for vocations!

I'm a member of my parish council and there is a tension coming into our meetings in the last few months. We are well aware that our parish is probably going to be closed, merged or clustered. Our priest is facing the possibility that he may be covering 2-3 parishes in the next year.

A council member suggested that, perhaps, our church will become a mosque. To which, I snapped, but I meant it "I'd rather see the church burned to the ground"

Probably not the most charitable or constructive response but I am what I am-and not with Moses on the Mount!

Worry is in the air.

We are not the first congregation or communion to face demographic shifts that occasion the closing of houses of worship. In the early 1990s, I lived on the Near North side of Minneapolis; an area that 40-50 years before was mostly Jewish. The Jews migrated to the western suburbs and they sold their synogogues. Thus, you had the odd visual in that area of a Christian church with Jewish symbols still visible in the building architecture. I have to imagine that's a tough image for a Jew to see.

A few weeks ago, in the nearby Frogtown area of St. Paul, a church, that was originally built to house a German Methodist congregation about 100 years ago, was raised. The Baptist congregation that currently owns it can't maintain it and the structure was deemed unsafe. How sad were the Methodists who had to sell the building as their numbers moved and declined and how sad are the Baptists who had to watch it come down?

We are not the first to face these problems. We will not be the last.

The good news is the Catholic churches in the suburbs are busting at the seams. The bad news is, having visited some of these parishes, some of them are not all that solidly Catholic. I had one Catholic lady tell me the selling point of her Catholic church in the NW exurbs is: "You can't tell it apart from the Lutheran church!" Huh?

If that's the reason our parishes in the suburbs and exurbs are booming we are in big trouble. Maybe not now, but we will be eventually as vocations dwindle and those parishes decline as their parishioner never hear about the evils of contraception.

Demographics are killing the inner city parishes as well. However, I wonder how much the lack of hearing about the evils of contraception and the lack of pride in their Catholic faith led to the death? I look around my neighborhood and there are still enough Catholics around but their kids don't practice and many families go to a different parish that is more palatable with their version of Catholicism. Church shopping kills us too. I can get how some can't tolerate liturgy in some places. But, that fleeing to the parish you personally like and leaving your neighborhood one in the dust doesn't help them stay open.

I'm rambling.

Rumors abound that some priests have asked to serve. Some want to stave off retirement, some want to come out of retirement,some want to be recalled. Rumors (and they are rumors!) are starting to ramp up (they've been around for a while) that some priests are being told "Their services are not needed".

I HOPE these are rumors and falsehoods. Because it seems to me that, unless a priest has unresolved or proven abuse allegations, or can't seem to teach about Catholicism without sneering, or can't seem to stop disrepecting the Archbishop, they should be taken up on their offer. Just because a priest is difficult, or cranky, or prickly should not disqualify. Honestly, there are plenty of active priests still around who have unresolved abuse allegations, can't teach Catholicism without sneering, and can't seem to stop disrespecting the Archbishop. So, what are the qualifications again?

But, I'm getting off track again.

No matter what happens we need everybody. Lay people are going to need to step up. Our priests need our help. Soon, more than ever. Don't just sit around and bee-yatch! Do something constructive-something that doesn't involve packing up and leaving for another church, sitting on your hands and sighing, or spending all your spare time blogging. Amen.
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