Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of December 21, 1998
WCR Letters to the Editor
We need more commitment to the priesthood
To the Editor:
This letter is not to be critical of John Acheson and his committee which recommended the restructuring of parishes in the Edmonton Archdiocese. Under the circumstances they had little choice but to recommend the closure of half the churches in the archdiocese.
Sadly, as one looks at the present state of the priesthood, in less than 10 years, another committee will need to be commissioned to close half of the ones that avoided the axe this time.
The problem with the report, in my view, is that it avoids addressing the true cause of our dilemma and as a result the proposed solutions will only delay a further deterioration of Catholic parishes and their services to the Catholic community.
The real issue that needed to be addressed, and was not, is the leadership needed to promote religious vocations, especially to the priesthood. This must be initiated at the archbishop's level spread down to the parish levels and mandated for the trustees and administrators in our Catholic schools and Catholic mothers and fathers must be encouraged to seriously promote religious vocations, especially to the priesthood, with their children.
More than 16 years ago, I was privileged to have been offered a leadership role in Catholic education in Alberta. Very early in my tenure it became evident that a small but extremely influential element of the Catholic school trustee leadership was very anti-clergy and very pro-lay-leadership in our Catholic schools. This attitude prevailed during my 10 years of service.
Those who challenged this philosophy were categorized as "pre-Vatican Catholics," out of touch with the needs of the "modern Church" and their proposals for promoting Catholic religious vocations in our schools were largely ignored. It did not take a brain surgeon to understand what was happening to the numbers in the priesthood and what needed to be done to address the pending crisis.
In secular society, if a profession or the powers that be saw a shortage looming among doctors, nurses, engineers, etc; a massive public relations effort would be initiated to address future needs.
As a Catholic community, we have known that this reality was facing us but have done little or nothing. Our archdiocese and our Catholic school trustees have had an ideal pool potential in Alberta's Catholic schools for the promotion of religious vocations but have put little or no effort toward this obvious need.
To a large degree quite the opposite has happened. There have been significant efforts taken to promote lay leadership in our schools, parishes and post-secondary Catholic educational institutions.
I would be remiss if I did not mention the exceptional effort that one of the Catholic mothers in our parish has put into such an initiative.
Following retirement I agreed to serve for a term and a bit on the board of governors of Newman Theological College and St. Joseph's Seminary. It became blatantly evident that the same attitude prevailed on this board. The promotion of lay ministries took top priority while the promotion of St. Joseph's Seminary was rarely, if ever, on a meeting agenda.
It was not surprising but disappointing to read in the Nov. 30 WCR the article, "Newman to prepare lay ministers."
It strikes me that the more appropriate announcement would have been that the Newman College Foundation was putting the nearly $1 million into promotion of the priesthood.
With this kind of leadership we would have a hope of reopening parish churches that have to be closed. It seems a strange, backward approach to promoting a hopeful future for the Catholic faith community.
Our Catholic parishes are collapsing around us because of a lack of enthusiastic leadership and commitment to the priesthood.
It is my belief that there are plenty of potential religious vocation candidates out there among our Catholic youth and adult populations and through commitment, well thought-out initiatives and prayer they can be recruited to lead the Catholic people and spread Catholic Church teachings into the new millennium.
It seems to me that this is where we need to put our efforts if we truly wish to address the crisis that we face now and into the future.
Pope, Ratzinger are holding the fort
To the Editor:
The article in the Nov. 30 WCR entitled, "Ratzinger in high gear" by John Thavis, was very interesting. The article seemed to portray Ratzinger as a hindrance to liberalism that some people in the Church, including you based on some of your articles, want to see take place.
As such, anyone who dares to stand up for the faith as the pope and Ratzinger are doing, is portrayed as a public enemy to "progress."
While no one is against a true and honest progress in society or the Church, measures and changes that will lead to undermining the faith, must not be undertaken in the Church to please the few who for selfish reasons want to see changes to suit them.
For the Roman Catholic Church to maintain what has been handed down to her from the beginning of Christianity by the witnesses of Jesus and, not water down the faith, we need people like Pope John Paul and Ratzinger to hold the fort.
Every day, I thank God that we have such a strong leader at the head of our Roman Church, who although ailing, still has the mental and spiritual qualities to carry out his duties obediently to God our Father.
If we were to have more people like the pope and Ratzinger in the Roman Church, I believe, our Church would be more dynamic and spiritually stronger with a better understanding of what the Church is all about.
Quite recently, the archbishop's letter to the parishes stated that we have to close some of the parishes and merge them because of a shortage of priests. That news did not come as a surprise.
That points to the severity of the situation the Church faces in this part of the world pertaining to the ordained ministry.
We have read what the president of Newman Theological College said. He boldly and happily announced that they have received a grant to help prepare lay ministers to serve as pastoral associates and parish administrators to complement the role of the clergy.
It is a reflection of what that school is all about - secularizing the faith. As a graduate of that college, I know that traditional and conservative Roman Catholics will disapprove of what goes on there. To complete your studies at Newman as a traditional, or conservative Roman Catholic, you must have a strong faith and determination to stay.
I applaud Pope John Paul and Ratzinger for their steadfastness despite opposition from a certain sector of the "faithful" - that is if we can call them faithful to the Church and their God.
One very important point we must keep in mind is that, when we face our God on that faithful day after our death, the question God will ask us, I hope, will not be what was your position in my Church when you were on earth. Rather, I hope the question will be, what was your relationship with me on earth irrespective of your position?
That, precisely, is what people like the pope, Ratzinger and other like-minded faithful are trying to uphold.
Priests need 'suitable helpmates'
To the Editor:
Because of the restructuring of parishes due to the declining number of priests, Church-going people will have to travel extra miles to hear God's word.
With certainty there will be a decline in attendance - giving up Sunday worship or else attending alternative denominations. It all depends on where people are at in their spirituality.
As the transition takes place, the congregation is invited to follow their priests. How is the priest supposed to be available to minister to the needs of those with illnesses, emotional stresses, weddings, deaths, social events, etc., to all these extra people?
He will not easily find time for his own personal devotion and infilling of the Holy Spirit which is a must in continuing a hectic schedule for the spiritual needs of his flock.
The result will be burnout. Then, what will happen?
When I was a little girl growing up in the 1940s east of Leduc, we used to have Mass once a month in our little schoolhouse. My sister and I attended with our grandparents.
The Mass was in Latin. All I remember from the service was a strange language and a lot of standing and kneeling on the hard floor.
Church was very confusing. My heart yearned for something tangible, but I could not grasp what it was. There was a need to attend church, but there was no understanding so I drifted away.
The Church had a problem that needed to be addressed and it was. When the change came from Latin to English Masses I cannot say, but what a glorious surprise when on my next visit to a Catholic service many years later, the Mass was in English.
There was a connection of spirits to our heavenly Father. We have to maintain that connection.
As for the decline in the number of priests, the Church must allow priests to marry.
God gave us the Bible as a guide to our everyday lives. When Jesus left his disciples to sit at the right hand of the Father, he said to them, "Go throughout the world and preach the Gospel to all mankind" (Mark 16:15).
At least one of Jesus' disciples were married.
And in Genesis 2:18, 24, God stated, it is not good for man to live alone; I will make a suitable companion to help him. That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united with his wife and they will become one.
Tell me then - where in the Bible does it say a man must live alone and without a helpmate in order to preach the Gospel?
It is time we threw out the tradition and lived according to God's plan, not man's plan. God's word means the same today as it did thousands of years ago.
God did not intend for us, man or woman, to live alone, except by our own choosing. God knew in the beginning that man needed a suitable helpmate and that the two of them would become one.
I'm not leaving, but I'm angry
To the Editor:
Regarding parishioners being resigned to the restructuring plan (WCR, Nov. 30), I would like to say that many people in my parish wrote to John Acheson before the final plan was published.
No one I know received a response to the proposals they put forward. Now that we have been ignored, we are resigned or we leave.
I'm not leaving. I'm angry but I will work it through and continue to build Christian community the best I can.
I do hope though that in the future there will be a more effective process used to facilitate genuine participation of all involved.
Mary Ellen Williams