Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester

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Focus fail?

October 20th, 2011, Promulgated by Mike

The University of Dayton will host a conference next month exploring the role of the laity in the Church. Empowered by Baptism: The Mission of the Laity Today will focus on how the laity “continues to energize the Catholic faith.”

“For the church to be strong today, we need lay people to step up and be involved,” said the Rev. James Fitz, S.M., vice president for mission and rector of the University. “The church can take its mission out into the world only if lay people feel that vocation and take that mission into neighborhoods, workplaces and all parts of society.”

Bishop Matthew Clark, Bishop of Rochester, N.Y., and author of Forward in Hope: Saying AMEN to Lay Ecclesial Ministry, will deliver a keynote address at 10 a.m. on “The Challenge of the Contemporary Lay Vocation.”

Clark, who has served as Rochester’s bishop for 32 years, has actively supported and promoted increasing the number of lay ministers as well as expanding the roles of lay people in the church.

One wonders whether Fr. Fitz and the conference organizers are aware that weekend Mass attendance in the Diocese of Rochester has dropped by more than 1/3 in just the last 10 years, despite modest growth in our overall population (story here). At first blush this would seem to be the polar opposite of the energized Catholic faith of which the UoD article speaks.

Could it be that Bishop Clark’s incessant focus on lay ministry has come at the expense of what should have been his primary concern, the spiritual well-being of his flock?

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BTW, Rich Leonardi wrote about Bishop Clark’s appearance at this conference here. The comments are worth perusing (and not just because a couple of them are mine).

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3 Responses to “Focus fail?”

  1. avatar Ben Anderson says:

    I agree that lay people need to do more, but what we need to do more of is apologetics and evangelization – not trying to take over the spiritual duties of the priest or creating one-off mission-statements per parish. Obviously lay people should also be helping out priests as much as they can as well with day-to-day tasks so that priests can be free to focus on tasks specific to their role. This question will grow more important as the # of priests dwindles around here and we need to become more creative, but what’s presented in “Forward in Hope” is not this at all. It is an attempt to usurp the role of priest and create a parallel lay hierarchy (DrK’s words).

  2. avatar Nerina says:

    In addition to your suggestion, Ben, I think lay people should be living their lives so as to reflect their Christian beliefs. If we want to really live out our baptismal call to be “priest, prophet and king,” it all starts by living each day as Christ’s disciple. Pray. Go to Mass. Seek out the Sacraments. Teach your children the Faith. Live your life in accordance with your Faith. Give time, talent and treasure. Embrace the teaching on contraception and human sexuality. Eat dinner together. Give thanks together. Help those in need. Get married and stay married (if that is your calling). Have children. Read Scripture. There are so many ways to evangelize and be involved!

  3. avatar christian says:

    One additional way to embrace the baptismal call to be “priest, prophet, and king” under “Give time, talent, and treasure” as Nerina has stated, is for families to be involved with the shut-ins and infirmed in their parish (or beyond). I am not talking about Eucharistic call, although that is certainly a wonderful thing. I am talking about being present as family to the family of God. ONE FAMILY TO ADOPT ONE SHUT-IN.PLEASE READ ON.

    I was involved with one parish’s plan to visit all the shut-ins in the parish on Pentecost. We were planning to take them Holy Communion as well as leave them a dove ornament, a symbol of Pentecost which they could hang to also remind them that had not been forgotten by the parish. We planned this activity well in advance. The visits were to take place after mass on Pentecost. We had asked for volunteer Eucharistic ministers and others who would be willing to come along. We had all the shut-in names and location. There was a huge list of shut-ins, most of them had been pillars of that church parish who had given of their time, talent, and treasure in their better days. Due to the impressive list of volunteers and the huge number of shut-ins, we divided the visits up per quadrants of location on the map and assigned at least one team to each quadrant, and each team had a list of names with locations assigned to them. The plan was approved by the Pastoral Administrator of the church parish. The shut-ins had been notified that they were going to receive a visit that Sunday.
    Those who had signed up were checked in with periodically and they confirmed their commitment, even up to the date of Pentecost. (Announcements from the pulpit and the bulletin were also made). When it came time to assemble after mass to begin our mission to shut-ins, I saw most of those who had signed up and made a commitment leaving out the doors of the church. When I called out to them, or stopped them, I received excuses, all indicating “something better had come up.” (I could have understood if a dire emergency came up). These people left nonchalantly to embark on their alternative plans. I could not get over the lack of commitment and concern.

    We were then stuck with a core number of us to cover a huge amount of shut-ins located in all four quadrants. Although we made a lot of visits over many hours, we had just covered approximately 1/4 of all the number of shut-ins, perhaps a little more. But most of the shut-ins never received a visit which they had anticipated, which really made me hurt inside. The majority of the people we did visit were hungry for human contact and visitation and we had a difficult time leaving as they wanted to continue conversing with us. We stayed a bit longer but then stated we needed to leave to continue our visits. They asked us to please come back and thanked us profusely for stopping to visit them. One woman had tears in her eyes as I left.
    When the core group of us met up at Friendly’s for supper later in the day, we all shared our experience of the loneliness of the people we had visited, how starved they were for human contact and companionship, and how terrible we felt that we were not able to stay for a longer visit. We also acknowledged that we hadn’t even gotten to most of the shut-ins. I must confess I stewed about the signed volunteers taking off without any notification, after continuing to affirm their commitment. I made comments to how they could enjoy their health and independence but couldn’t spend a few hours out of one day of the year to spend with others who didn’t have theirs. (There also would have to be an apology for all those who waited for someone to come, but no one showed up).

    THAT’S WHEN THIS IDEA HIT ME. WHAT THE SHUT-INS REALLY SEEMED TO NEED IS ONGOING HUMAN CONTACT. INSTEAD OF MAKING A CONCERTED GROUP EFFORT ONCE A YEAR, IT WOULD BE GREAT IF ONE FAMILY OR ONE PERSON WOULD ADOPT ONE SHUT-IN. A Family could send a family picture to their shut-in illustrating who everyone is. The children can make cards for the shut-in at holiday times and send them. You don’t know what a treasure it is for a shut-in to receive a homemade card from a child. (I know, I had children in joint parishes make Christmas cards for all the shut-ins and they were mailed out. The children were happy to help and made their cards with love. You should have seen the response from those cards!)

    A Family could make a periodic visit to a shut-in. You don’t know what a present your presence is. You may think your kids are too young, or too misbehaved, etc., but you don’t know how it brightens an older person’s day to see little ones. I took my children to visit patients in the nursing home and the hospital. They brought joy to those they visited and they in return loved visiting those people and had a sense of dignity to the gifts and ministry they possessed at a young age. The same thing occurred with a group of children that I took caroling to the hospital (my children included) near Christmastime.

    Now days with Hippa Laws and Privacy Laws, you could simply have a staff member or person who visits a shut-in with Holy Communion ask if they would like a visit/contact with a family or parishioner (adopt a family or parishioner). Many shut-ins are prayer warriors and welcome the chance to pray for others. I think adoption of a shut-in would be an enriching experience for everyone. Parents who visit a shut-in with their children also give their children a good example.

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