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.


Laura The Crazy Mama said...

Oh, come on! Stop pussy-footing around and tell us how you REALLY feel!

Our extra-suburb parish is thriving, good, and (with the exception of the 6pm Sunday Mass music) I'd say about 95% perfect liturgy. We have more priests than we know what to do with (it seems). Maybe it seems bleak in the city parishes?

Austringer said...

Holy Hannah, Laura -- What parish do you belong to?

Terry Nelson said...

Laura is correct - there are solid, vibrant suburban parishes.

Austringer said...

But where???

I know of some churches are orthodox in their teaching (I think of Epiphany; St. Charles Borromeo; etc. -- but these churches' liturgies are far from 95% perfect. Awful music; little reverence, and a congregation that is dressed to go grocery shopping.

Unknown said...


I've been envious of your parish for a long time!

Is it so great because all the Moms have a raft of kids?

Austringer said...

Ok, fill me in -- what parish do you belong to, Laura?

Laura The Crazy Mama said...

Sorry if I painted a too-rosy pic of my parish. I'm a little biased because my ancestors were some of the founders. I have had moments (over the years) of "GET ME OUT OF HERE!" but in recent years, we've had some very young, very WONDERFUL priest that make all the backMass bickering and "I'm way more Catholic than you" implications of other parishioners, bearable. They are Companions of Christ and my parish is St. Michael's Parish in St. Michael (North Westish suburb, right off of 94).

I have a boatload/pew full of kids, but so do many others in our parish. I don't know why...something in the (holy) water?

Oh, and we usually wear our coats all through Mass, there are a lot of...interesting forms of dress (from flip flops and farmer bibs to formal wear), I've only seen maybe 4 people wearing a veil, a lot of people play "simon says" with the priest and copy his hand gestures (weird, never understood that one), and (like i said before) the 6pm Mass is usually HORRID with lame-o, contemporary Christian music (read: stuff sung in prot. churches about 6+ years ago and DRUMS, Yay)BUT: our priests NEVER stray from 'the book' on the liturgy (especially in re: The Eucharist), we always use the kneelers, and everyone (including the 10+ EMHCs at every Mass...yeah, I'm still dealing with that) have an ENORMOUS reverence for the Holy Eucharist and always bow or genuflect before and after leaving the altar. THe EMHCs have even stopped "blessing" every child and adult with crossed arms that comes up for Communion! (I think H1N1 stopped that practice, hope it never starts was just, odd.), and I do see more and more people receiving on the tongue.

So, there you have it, in a nut-shell. My not-so-perfect-but-getting-better-all-the-time parish!

Oh, here's the website (not great, hopefully it will improve soon with more pictures) and you can see my sister's wedding post for more pics of the inside of the church. It's really getting to be quite beautiful.

Unknown said...

I judge parishes more by their liturgies and their adult education programs and fundraisers. St. Michael's is top notch for all three.

They only have Confession twice a week, which is weak.

It's difficult for a Catholic parish to change the culture of our society to get people to dress up for Mass like our parents and grandparents used to do.

I generally sit up near the front, "right behind the Pharisees" so that I minimize the distractions of clothing and behavior of others in the congregation. Of course, they have to look at me.

Cathy_of_Alex said...

St. Michael is a lovely parish. They actually did a good job building the new church. They outgrew the original church-which they still use for events.

Unknown said...

I forgot to mention Perpetual Adoration as a sign of a good parish. St. Michael's has that 5.5 days a week.

Anonymous said...

I am sincerely afraid of the changes that could come to the parishes of NE Mpls. They are so many beautiful churches with so much history. I generally go to Holy Cross because they have an almost perfect liturgy. There are of course the people who dress like they forget they were going to church but who am I to judge? I grew up in a parish that I always thought was so wonderful but now I realize that their litury lacks almost any reverence. Sign of a bad parish... Tamborines. The thing that bothers me most is when the musicians are on display. And guitars. Eeew. I have flirted with becoming Orthodox because they know true beauty and reverence. But at the same time their parishes are often not very friendly. And what can I say I am Papist. So I just keep trucking along as a Catholic praying for a change back to Catholic orthodoxy.

Unknown said...


The only thing that really counts at the Mass is the priest, who is the celebrant, in "persona Christi" and the proper performance of the liturgy.

Stained glass, organs, bow ties, chapel veils, folded hands, genuflections, bows, incense, bells, candles, kneelers, icons and statues, among other things, are peripheral ornaments designed to alter our moods.

We attend Mass to worship, praise, thank and petition God. Out eyes should be only on the celebration of the Mass, the tabernacle and the words of the Mass. Even as important as the priest is as being "in persona Christi" the only things that matter with respect to him is what counts is what he says and does as it conforms with the General Instructions of the Roman Missal.

What the congregation does should be of no interest.

What the priest wears, extemporizes or flaunts with gestures should be ignored.

It's just you and Jesus at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Anonymous said...


Being I have been a Catholic my whole life and understanding what the Liturgy is about, I can't help but feel like your response was very condescending. I understand what I am supposed to be doing when I go to Mass and what is about. Additionally, others had remarked on dress at their masses and I was only doing the same and saying that I KNOW that it is not place to judge and that I don't. I am just happy that there are people who want to go to Mass. I fail to see the point in commenting to only be treated with an attitude of condensation when others who had made similar comments to mine were not met with the same attitude. What is the point of talking about all of this if all that matters is what the priest does? I highly disagree with that.


Laura The Crazy Mama said...

I wouldn't put it so harshly to my Ray, whom I dearly admire. I do understand what he means and know that he's humble enough to admit that he is just as distracted as the rest of us sinners by the folks in the pews and the "extras". I think (correct me if I'm wrong, Ray) that what he meant by his comment was to remind all of us (including himself) to try to ignore the bluh stuff and stick to what's important. Even a bossy brat like me can appreciate a reminder now and then. Thanks, Ray and BOO to people who are mean (behind their Anonymous veil). If you're going to sass someone nice and sweet like Ray, at least give your name.

Unknown said...

Thanks, Craze! You wanna be my security force?

I should probably remind everyone of something that I just noticed. Cathy wrote this post and put it here at my request.

But Craze explained me better than I can. I am terribly distracted by that activities in the pews. That's why I sit up front (behind the Pharisees, as I noted, though).

Particularly distracting are young couples who can't keep their hands off of each other, as if they were in a movie theater.

I apologize if I offended "anonymous." But then when someone comments anonymously, I have every right to speak generally.

If you don't want to be treated "generally", why not chose a pseudonym like "Terry Nelson" does?
Or "Cathy of Alex?"

Anonymous said...

I was not being mean or sassy. I felt Ray's comments were codescending because they were. I think all of you need to get off your high horses. It's very Christian to gang up on a person and act like you know better. Actually it's pathetic. I shouldn't have to say who I am for you to not be mean and sassy.