Monday, February 18, 2008

Time Of Change

The February 10, 2008 bulletin at my parish included this letter from our pastor. He informs us that our current associate pastor will not be replaced when he retires shortly. (He became an associate here after retiring from service as a pastor elsewhere.) Our pastor will instead be reorganizing the pastoral staff and lining up a small group of regular assisting priests.

As a result he tells us to expect,
first choice times for funerals or other appointments might not be available; the response time for pas-toral visits will be longer; it will be necessary to call for an appointment to see me (expecting a priest to be available when just dropping in at the office will no longer be real-istic); there will usually be one wedding with Mass on a weekend so early notice will be necessary; Anointing of the Sick should be requested as early as possible, so it can be done in a timely manner; a priest's presence at the many parish events might not always be possible; some of our Christian Formation and Day School students may not see and visit with a priest as often as in the past;

He calls this a challenge. "By rising to the new challenge, I mean that our staff and myself will be asking YOU to help with some new opportunities." Odd he didn't present these as tentative plans and ask US our opinion before making his decisions.

Ours is a very large parish, so why no second priest? Our pastor cites many reasons, but this one stood out.
A parish and priest must have a certain “compatibility” and share a common vision. This did not seem to be the case for those few priests who might have been available.

Would any of these "few priests" have taken on Father Jurkus as an associate, despite issues of "vision" or "compatibility", if the positions were reversed? If one would have, he should be our associate pastor. (If two would have, they should be our pastor and associate.)

Another reason he gave was financial. Something had to be cut, so he cut the associate pastor position. It's like a municipal financial crunch when the cuts in police, fire and sanitation staffing are announced by the mayor's spokesman whose position is safe.
Factually, our giving has not increased sufficiently. (I am edified that our neighboring parishes have reported significant increases in their giving. I am happy for them. I wonder why we are lagging behind.)

How about a persistent lack of leadership, direction, and real vision in the parish? For example, why does he wonder rather than find out?

Last year I emailed the president of our parish council suggesting that, in light of parish trends, it would be prudent to "put contingency planning for closing the parish on the Council agenda". I haven't seen any reason since to withdraw the suggestion.


Update: I should say there might be one reason for hope, the return of the fish fry, even if the beer is in cans.

Update 2: More on the fish fry

8 comments:

  1. Aquinas10:41 PM

    A parish and priest must have a certain “compatibility” and share a common vision. This did not seem to be the case for those few priests who might have been available.

    How telling. I'm surprised he had the 'nads to put this in print. The reality is that most of those priests being assigned as associates these days are pretty recently ordained. That would make them of, shall we say, a different ideological stripe (read "more orthodox") from Fr. Jurkus.

    Instead of offering his parish the possibilities, both spiritual and temporal, that might accrue from the infusion of such fresh blood, he's willing to sacrifice the future of the parish on the altar of his failed agenda. He's right; everyone else is wrong—all indications to the contrary notwithstanding.

    So much for diversity. Seems he'd rather fail alone than succeed by having been proved wrong.

    Sad.

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  2. Anonymous11:22 PM

    Aquinas hit it right on. Read that statement carefully; he TURNED DOWN an associate. He says it very clearly there. Why the babbling for two pages about other reasons for not having a new associate. This has happened in another parish in the archdiocese, to the disgust of the archbishop, where a pastor didn't like the newly ordained possibilities and sacrificed the parish instead. Fr. Jurkus even admits this in sharing the comments from the archbishop. Very sad.

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  3. Anonymous3:09 PM

    Glad to be in the Lacrosse Diocese where the strong orthodox leadership of fmr. Bishop Raymond Burke (and continued by his succesor Bishop J. Listecki) has been working wonders and the tide on the "vocational crisis" has turned.

    Parishes which were getting by on just one preist for years are now reciving assocaite pastors, meaning that finnaly there are enough priests to go around!

    At my parish which is a fraction of the size of St. Al's we now have two priests and both of them are young (esp. by Archdiocese of Milw. standards!)

    Are there any seminarians for the archdiocese of Milw. who grew up going to St. Al's?

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  4. That nominal 8,937 members is suspect, perhaps by several thousand. Sunday Mass attendance was 2,249 total at last count.

    I can't say I've heard much about St. Al's producing vocations, despite (?) its size. I believe I've seen a seminarian at Sunday Mass, but I'm not sure if he's originally from the parish.

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  5. Historically, there have always been tensions/friction between pastors and new curates. But in the past it was seldom about matters of doctrine or orthodoxy - more procedural and ways of doing things.

    The elderly pastor was 'set in his ways' so don't rock the boat with new initiatives (like 'house calls' for example...). The pastor was more experienced, so the curate was expected to learn from him until such times as he was experienced and old enough to have his own parish.

    Times have changed and, given the amount of heterodoxy in clergy of a certain age, the new breed tends to be more orthodox which is seen as threatening to the incumbent pastors.

    Not an easy time to be a young priest today, especially when they don't have the support and encouragement of the 'senior clergy'...

    They need our support and prayers.

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  6. I wonder if it would help if our younger priests made it a habit to read "Dilbert" and view "The Office". I found the former a great help in getting through parish council meetings, etc..

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  7. Why do you think the parish should consider closing down? For financial reasons, "orthodoxy," both...?

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  8. The the extent parish trends are subject to objective measure, the trends have long been generally downward. Since the only response is more of the same, it's reasonable to expect the trends will continue. If they do, it's just a matter of time until the parish folds. So we should be prepared, just in case.

    You might like the parish; it fancies itself as "cutting edge". The blade, though, looks to be forged from an amalgam of complacency and periodic financial crisis.

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