From the Director’s Desk…
Dear FutureChurch friends:
A review of media stories about dioceses struggling to staff parishes with diminishing priests provides much food for thought. On the one hand, there is the legitimate need to make the best possible use of scarce resources both sacerdotal and financial. On the other hand, there is the legitimate need to preserve the integrity of faith communities who have sustained one another for generations in the exciting adventure of building the reign of God.
These two “goods” should never have to be in opposition to each other.
The heartbreaking story of Our Lady Queen of Angels parish in East Harlem (see page 4) could be a prototype of what is to come. Carmen Villegas, a former parish council member, exercised important Church leadership in her efforts to keep her community together. Carmen is a contemporary Mujeres Testigos! (Woman Witness!) Clerical leaders need to learn to trust and respect the
discernment of lay leaders like her.
While Queen of Angels is described as having “dwindled to 400 at Sunday services,” we should to remember two things. One, this is a large congregation by Protestant standards. Two, 400 hundred committed Catholics in a low-income neighborhood may have more Gospel impact than 4,000 in a more affluent suburb.
If a viable and apostolically fruitful parish community presents a reasonable plan for managing finances including scheduling retired priests to meet sacramental needs, as was the case at OLQA, Church leaders should permit them to remain open, perhaps with parish life coordinators.
In the meantime, they should also welcome all the vocations God sends … especially the one out of five respondents (including a few good men) in our Advancing Women in Church Leadership Survey who experience a call to the priesthood (see page 5).
Peace and blessings,
Sr. Chris Schenk CSJ, Executive Director