Thursday, June 28, 2012


...or surrender. Which is it? It starts in our parish. "There is a point beyond which they must not advance."

See the post below. Listen to the message.

It is not up to our bishops.

It is up to us.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Church Militant and the HHS Mandate

Listen hard. Twice. Now go forth and participate in the Festival for Freedom. Yes, I know this is technically about our nation, but it applies to spiritual matters as well. You cannot appease evil.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Catholic Education

A provocative piece on the current state of Catholic education:

We are starting over

From the article:

"We have tied our religious education to the public school system of kindergarten and eight grades. The sacraments of First Communion and Confirmation have become graduation rituals, rites of passage, instead of the beginnings of a life of faith and commitment. We have turned sacrament into sacrilege. When you “get your sacraments” you’re “outta” there. (“Out of there” for those who don’t speak Chicagoan.) The Sacraments are an ending instead of a beginning. I can’t do this anymore. I believe it is morally wrong. The last time I brought this problem up, angry parents called the bishop. I remember one agitated parent who railed at me for questioning his Catholicism. He said that he was perfectly good Catholic. He went to Mass every single Easter and every single Christmas without fail.

When I realized that Eastern Rite Catholics from the Middle East don’t have Communion and Confirmation classes, a light went on in my head. They receive first Communion and Confirmation when they are Baptized, even if they are infants. They have religious education for the rest of their lives and, consequently, they have a spiritual life. They are prepared for the Sacrament of Penance, but not for Communion and Confirmation. The result is that they have a vibrant spiritual like that they have maintained in the face of 1,300 years of unremitting persecution. In this country, we can’t manage a religious life because we are up against team sports."

Faith and Hope in 1972

I was too young to have any memory of Tropical Storm Agnes roaring into the Corning-Painted Post community in June 1972. But I grew up hearing all the stories from my relatives, residents of the devastated Northside. To this day, I cannot comprehend the shock the community must have felt when the Chemung River exploded over its banks. Eighteen people died, primarily because it all happened so fast. And then there were months of recovery - people lived in trailers or with relatives while they salvaged their homes amidst the endless mud. I’ve always been impressed with how they held on to their faith and community spirit in likely the worst time of their lives.

As I attended St. Vincent de Paul’s parish school, I also learned the story of the parish during the Flood of ‘72. On Thursday night, June 22, St. Vincent de Paul’s eighth graders were celebrating their graduation with their families in the school hall. But by 11:00 p.m., Fr. Elmer J. Schmidt, associate pastor, was telephoning parishioners who lived near the dikes, telling them they were welcome to spend the night in the school. About 105 people did.

Imagine the fear people felt when the Corning Glass Works whistle blew at 5:00 a.m. on June 23. Picture parishioners fleeing to the second floor of the school and gathering in the dim corridor for general absolution. Yet in that unreal situation, they were among friends. They could draw strength from each other and from their priests – Fr. Schmidt and Fr. Joseph Hogan, pastor. They were a parish. In the months ahead, they would need each other more than ever.

There is one parting image that Fr. Hogan shared with us students many times. It was his favorite part of the flood story. On Saturday, June 24, it was time to face the damaged church. So he braced himself for the devastation inside and opened the church’s front door. Standing before him in greeting was the statue of St. Vincent de Paul. The water had carried it from its spot in the front, left side of the church (where it still is today), all the way to the back. In that moment, he felt a little less overwhelmed, a little more hopeful. He knew the parish was going to be all right. -- Susan M

Update: You might also want to read another parishioner's experience of the flood here.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Plan B

Kudos to those who are working to launch St. Ann’s Academy in Hornell, New York. The Diocese of Rochester decided that the original St. Ann’s Catholic School would close this month due to a lack of money and low enrollment. With fundraising, the school had just barely survived the previous year. It seemed that after 149 years, Catholic education in Hornell was about to fade away.

Then a small group decided to change tactics. Instead of battling with the DOR to stay open, they would open their own private Catholic school that is not officially associated with the diocese or the Church. It will include pre-K through grade three and hopefully expand in the future.

Starting a school is a huge undertaking. This group may not succeed, but they will have tried. They are now in charge of their own fate.

When someone tells you that there are no options, that you can’t afford it, that it’s impossible, think of St. Ann’s Academy. -- Susan M

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Just Sayin'

"A bishop, on his own initiative, can relegate a church to profane but not sordid use (that means close it for use as a church) only if it cannot be used in any way for Divine Worship. He must issue a decree to that effect, and the decree must set forth in clear terms the proof that the edifice is so damaged...His decree to close the church cannot order its sale. It remains the patrimony of the parish to which it belongs and the pastor, who is the rightful administer of the property, must make that determination...a parochial administrator does not have this power. Only the pastor...." (a canon lawyer, according to Canon 1222: 1. If a church cannot be used in any way for divine worship and there is no possibility of repairing it, the diocesan bishop can relegate it to profane but not sordid use.)

Who is our pastor?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Saving Your Parish

In the previous post “Going, going…,” about the closing of two churches in Christ the Redeemer Parish, I referred to a parish death spiral. This is when a parish gets caught in the cycle of declining attendance/collections, and to remedy the problems, merges with other parishes and/or closes churches. This leads to still lower attendance and collections, but the “solution” is applied again and again.

What can you do when your parish is so far in the red? Sadly, if your parish is in the situation of Christ the Redeemer Parish, it’s already too late. Your parish is dead, but no one has called time yet.
The key is to avoid this situation in the first place by acting immediately when the original issues appear:

1.       People aren’t attending Mass. Mass attendance is a better indicator than registered households because many people stay on the rolls long after they’ve left. The people in the pews are the people giving money. Christ the Redeemer Parish has lost two-thirds of their weekend attendees since 2000.

When you fall so far, so fast, there are two likely causes: a) Personnel issue/controversy; b) Parish has eliminated Masses/closed churches. If b), you’re already in the death spiral. If a), get to work solving the problem.

2.       The parish is struggling to meet expenses. This often goes hand-in-hand with issue one, but not always. Maybe expenses have increased while collections are flat. Maybe the parish has been living off bequests.

The first step is to cut expenses to the bone and then cut some more. This means eliminating staff positions because it’s likely the only big expense you can control. The second step is to start a serious fund-raising campaign, making sure that parishioners understand that their parish and church are at stake

Unfortunately, parishes usually ignore an issue, act too late, or don’t act aggressively enough. These are difficult, unpleasant problems, and the tendency is to apply half-measures and hope it’s sufficient. It never is. Some parishes limp on for years, but they’re already in the death spiral. For more information on the church closing cycle, see “Close. Cluster. Close. Repeat.” As is typical in the Diocese of Rochester, Christ the Redeemer Parish followed the closing/clustering cycle

Note that this post assumes that when a church closes, it is due to genuine financial problems. That’s not always the case, as people at the former St. Thomas the Apostle Parish learned.-- Susan M.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Going, going...

Condolences to our brothers and sisters at Christ the Redeemer Parish in Elmira, NY. The parish is selling not one, but two of its three churches – Our Lady of Lourdes in West Elmira and St. Charles Borromeo in Elmira Heights – as well as other church properties. This leaves only St. Casimir’s Church. (For sale price information, see here.

This bulletin insert from February explains the situation succinctly. Parish membership and Mass attendance is down, expenses for 12 properties are up. By selling churches and related properties, the parish hopes to stabilize its finances. However, the experience of other parishes makes this unlikely.

Why? Because while selling or leasing properties other than churches (convents, rectories, and schools) can be helpful, selling churches intensifies the parish’s death spiral. A certain percentage of parishioners will leave the parish when their church closes. Some remaining parishioners will decrease their contributions. The emotional ties and commitment to the parish weaken, not only harming finances, but parish ministries and community spirit as well.

Based on experience, the next move would be to merge with Blessed Sacrament Parish, comprised of St. Patrick’s Church and Sts. Peter & Paul Church, and/or St. Mary’s Parish, all in the city of Elmira. Then additional churches would be closed, again in the name of decreased attendance and funds.

Sound familiar? 

-- Susan M.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

For Greater Glory

It hasn't gotten to the Corning area yet, but For Greater Glory is in release, and here's a review of the film: Recommendation for the Movie "For Greater Glory". Interesting how it is being reviewed by the worldlings, according to this positive review.

This historically-based story is especially suggestive of events unfolding now in our own country with Obamacare and the HHS Mandate.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Found: At the Traditional Latin Mass

If Mass is a sacred event when bread and wine become the actual Body and Blood of Christ, then why isn’t Mass celebrated in a sacred way?

I’ve attended Mass in a variety of dioceses and parishes, and too often, it is a less than serious experience. People scramble over the altar, sometimes not even bowing their head before the tabernacle. At many churches, the tabernacle isn’t on the altar, but is pushed off to the side like an afterthought.

Music is continuous, making it hard to pray or even think. Sermons avoid the hard teachings of our faith – no wonder so few of us understand them. The consecration itself may melt into the Eucharistic prayer, instead of being emphasized.

Sometimes I feel like I’m at a show, as though the purpose is to entertain the crowd. The philosophy is if we can make the Mass “modern” and “relevant,” more people will attend.
Instead, we’ve lost many Catholics. Maybe people aren’t looking for more of the “real world.” Maybe they’re searching for something more. I know I was. And I found it.

When I attended our parish’s first Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) last summer, I didn’t know what to expect. My information was limited to a) the Mass is said in Latin; and b) the priest faces away from the people.

What I learned was that these two factors are beside the point.

The TLM is a truly sacred experience because the focus is placed on God, not on the priest and not on the people. It is called Mass in the Extraordinary Form because it is out of the ordinary. You are lifted out of the mundane into the mystery of the Mass.

But you don’t have to take my word for it. Consider attending this Sunday, June 3 at 1:30 pm at St. Vincent de Paul Church. This Mass meets your Sunday obligation. -- Susan M.