Thursday, April 3, 2008


Fr. B and I are on the same schedule as far as being assigned. This past Tuesday he opined, “You know, we are beginning the “last” of everything at our parishes. This will be our last summer; we have one last Christmas, Easter, and one last Holy Week at our current assignments. This time next year things are going to be interesting.”

And not just interesting because we may be moving. We stand in a period of time in the Church when change is coming to a head. It is as if we are crossing from one boat to another. For fifty years we have been straddling two boats and are preparing to finely stand on the boat to which we have been crossing. Although the Church in some fashion or another is always in a state of change, there is something significant coming to maturity now that will make the next ten years or so very interesting.
Ah! And there is the ancient Chinese curse. "May you live in interesting times."
Most interesting is that those beginning to influence the Church now (clergy, lay, parents, religious, single) are the children of children who were largely un-catechized. (Painting with a broad paint brush) these are the generations that were brought up with "Jesus loves you" and banner making classes. But something interesting is happening. Like parents who grew up poor and lavish their children with things to make up for what they didn't have, those who are still embracing their faith are making sure that their kids are exposed to a much more substantial faith. It is as if they are saying, “Let’s get back to basics and do it right.” It will be interesting to see what we do in the next ten years if we do not lose nerve.

The worst of the Church scandal seems to be behind us. The Plain Dealer reports yesterday that there is a general feeling across the nation that the Church has gotten its act together and collections are on the increase. I for one hope that there is an outraged group out there that keeps us on the up and up. As we see little snippets about the atrocities that are occurring in other schools and organizations, and even other denominations that are not held as accountable as the Catholic Church it is possible that we will once again be that beacon of light and safety for future generations.

Also in that P.D. report was the sad news that most of our Catholic schools are running in the red and parish accounts are being drained trying to keep up with increasing cost of educating our children. This is a critical moment. Will Catholic schools be reinvented? Or will it be that this generation will reinterpret our mission in this field and come up with something better/different?

Then there is the future of religious. The “backbones of the diocese” are still active, at least here in Cleveland, but the gray hair factor is extremely high. It was discussed not to long ago in a circle of priests that in the next ten to fifteen years they will hit a wall, that is that there will simply be almost no active nuns (comparatively) of these groups to handle any significant portion of jobs in the diocese. Conversely there are other orders that appear to be taking on life and growing at alarming rates although not at a rate that will replace the old big orders completely. And it is sad that here in Cleveland so many of our young ladies who have an eye on religious life leave the state to find that for which they are looking. That future will be interesting on many levels.

Then there is the changing demography of Catholics. We are no longer a faith primarily found in the city. A large portion of us have made a definite move to the suburbs. That will mean the closing of many parishes. In the diocese of Cleveland that number is over 40. But it will also mean the expansion or building of more parishes out of city centers as well as a redistribution of priests. (This will also have an effect on how our influence effects the state in which we live.) This is just one more situation that is coming to a head.

The number of seminarians is on the rise. It is not at levels that would make us comfortable. Will lay people become more involved in the running of the parish? Will the upward swing in vocations continue? Ten years from now will be very telling.

The mindset of “Church” following Vatican II is also completing a final stage. Those just beginning to come into influence now have no longer been changed by VII, but have been formed by it. It is not something new to figure out but a part of the greater teaching of the Church of the ages, a part of history. Though in some cases it may be true, too often this generation is mislabeled as “throwbacks,” trying to bring back a Church of the past. I do not believe that to be the case. They may appear as throwbacks because they are able to embrace more of their heritage of which Vatican II is an essential part, but not an over-bright star in the sights of a telescope that blocks out other (valid) stars.

Oh, there’s more to consider but this is already long winded enough. The future is still blurry and interesting, but it is not bleak. There is great hope, great opportunity, great faith, there are outstanding men and women ready to charge ahead, and of course the promise of Christ in the form of the action of the Holy Spirit. Yes, these are interesting times. And I for one can’t wait to see how this picture will develop.


Anonymous said...

I think you're right, and it is going to be interesting to see what happens in the next 10 years. Everywhere.

Anonymous said...

I think what will help is that the generation of priests who were influenced by JPII rather than the "spirit of VII" are now coming into the kind of age and experience needed for episcopal appointments. It will be interesting to see what kind of a ripple effect it will have as more of these clerics are made bishops and thus are in a position to influence the direction of their little corner of the Church.

Mrs. Curran said...

I agree that JPII has had an incredible influence on the generations that are now coming to age. I am excited to see his legacy grow

uncle jim said...

i lived into and through V-II.
i long, still, that the spirit of it be embraced as i believe J-XXIII envisioned it. our generation mucked it up. the older priests who fought the changes, and the younger priests who took the ball and ran the wrong direction.

i pray for more course corrections - we are starting to see them in this last generation.

i think i'll still be around in 10 years ... hoping for the next 25 or so. it could be wonderful.

Anonymous said...

I live in the Greater Cleveland Area and it's exciting and scary at the same time--the changes that are in store for us.

The parish clustering will be interesting to say the least. I think it's a good thing, but that doesn't mean it will be easy.

While I'm a parent of a 14 yr old girl, I'm one of those who was poorly cathecized and I definitely feel like making sure my daughter learns more than I did and I embrace Traditions I'm still learning more each day.


Brother Declan said...

I was going to say that this diocese needs a Saint John Vianney for a bishop, but then I asked myself, "DefundAbortionGuy what are you doing to convert people to Catholicism?"

If you are a Catholic in Cleveland EVANGELIZE!

Do not wait for orders from headquarters, because you already have them. Spread the good news. Of course, we should be creating Catholics not closing Catholic churches and schools. but it is up to each and everyone of us to do evangelize.

Someday our diocese will devote its entire energy to saving souls and not simply being a wing of the welfare state. But it starts today with you and me.

Brother Declan said...

One final note:

"Going therefore, teach ye all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world. (Matt 28:19-20)"

Perhaps Pope Benedict should be visiting Cleveland and saving our Catholic churches and schools, instead of visiting a synagouge in NY for purposes of political correctness. just a thought.

Anonymous said...

DAG - I think every Catholic should visit a synagogue at least once. We shouldn't forget where we came from.

The Church is not an arm of the welfare state, it is doing what it did from the very beginning in the Roman Empire when it evangelized among the poor so successfully by helping them in the here and now - food, shelter, burial. The social responsibility of the faith is one of its strengths.

Fr V -- I think all times are interesting times to someone. :-)


Adoro said...

"It was the best of was the worst of times;it ws the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness; it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity; it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness; it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair; we had everything before us, we had nothing before us; we were all going directly to Heaven, we were all going the other way."

~ Opening sentence of A Tale of Two Cities

It would seem that nothing has changed since then. And, if we are all martyred, we can quote the closing line from that book, too.