Monthly Archives: June 2011

Archbishop O’Brien is award-winning columnist

Archbishop Edwin F. O'Brien

Add award-winning columnist to Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien’s list of accomplishments.

During the 2011 Catholic Press Awards, held June 24 in Pittsburgh, the archbishop was awarded first place for the best regular column by a bishop or archbishop.

Archbishop O’Brien’s column, “Thoughts on Our Church,” is a regular feature in The Catholic Review. Same-sex marriage, Catholic education, vocations, pro-life concerns and immigration issues are among the many topics he has addressed in his popular column.

“Drawing upon personal experiences to illustrate his points, Archbishop O’Brien helps us see him as human,” the judges said. “That makes the lessons his columns convey even more powerful.”

Congratulations, Archbishop O’Brien!

‘And with your spirit’

Father Richard Hilgartner talks about the new Roman Missal during a June 23 workshop at the Catholic Media Convention in Pittsburgh. (CR/George P. Matysek Jr.)

PITTSBURGH – You might call it liturgical autopilot.

As soon as Catholics hear a priest say, “The Lord be with you,” they instinctively respond, “And also with you.”

That’s all about to change Nov. 27 when the English-speaking world begins using the new Roman Missal – the book of liturgical prayers that has been more literally and poetically translated from the Latin.

With the new translation, English-speaking Catholics will now respond to the priest or deacon with, “And with your spirit.”

Father Richard Hilgartner, a Baltimore priest who serves as director of the U.S. Bishops’ Secretariat for Divine Worship, acknowledged that the change will probably be one of the more challenging ones for Catholics to accept. “And also with you” has been used for more than four decades. It’s the only response many Catholics have ever known.

During a June 23 workshop on the new Roman Missal, given at the Catholic Media Convention in Pittsburgh, Father Hilgartner delved into some of the reasons why “And with your spirit” has been adopted.

The phrase has ancient roots in Scripture. It was used in the Book of Ruth and the Book of Chronicles. The angel Gabriel greeted the Blessed Virgin Mary with those words, the priest noted, and St. Paul often signed off his letters that way.

Father Hilgartner pointed out that there’s also an important functional component to the words.

The Latin is, “Dominus vobiscum et cum spiritu tuo.” It contains no verb. It’s as much a statement of fact as it is a greeting, Father Hilgartner said.

“‘The Lord be with you,’ is saying that the Lord is present in this gathering,” the priest explained. “The people’s response back to the priest – ‘and with your spirit’ – is an acknowledgment that the priest’s spirit has been configured and conformed to Christ by virtue of ordination to act as Christ presiding over the assembly.”

When the priest says, ‘The Lord be with you,’ the people’s response is not some kind of “right back at you Father!” as much as it is focused on allowing Christ to work through that priest, Father Hilgartner said.

“It’s a reminder to the priest that what he does, he does because the Church has called him and ordained him to act in the person of Christ,” he said. “The priest acknowledges the presence of Christ in the assembly and the assembly acknowledges the presence of Christ working in and through the priest.”

The liturgical act can take place, Father Hilgartner explained, “because the Church is rightly gathered and rightly ordered.”

“It’s a statement of ecclesiology,” he said.

Father Hilgartner noted that English-speaking countries are in the minority by not having a literal translation of the Latin for the dialogue, which is used at the beginning of Mass, at the proclamation of the Gospel by a priest or deacon, at the beginning of the eucharistic prayer and at the final blessing at Mass. The Italian translation is “E con il tuo spirito,” French: “Et avec votre esprit,” Spanish: “Y con tu espíritu,” and German: “Und mit deinem Geiste.”

It will take some time before people adjust to the change. But, if parishes do a good job explaining the reasons behind that and other changes, it will be a great moment of catechesis when we can all learn more about what we really believe as Catholics.

In the coming weeks, The Catholic Review will feature an in-depth look at Father Hilgartner’s ministry at the bishops’ conference.

The changing face of the media

Several members of The Catholic Review are attending the annual Catholic Media Convention in Pittsburgh. Pictured are Nina Schuler Heckman (sales manager), George P. Matysek Jr. (senior writer) and Christopher Gunty (editor/associate publisher). (CR photo)

PITTSBURGH – A big chunk of the talk at the Catholic Media Convention here in the Steel City seems to be swirling around the state of print publications and the growing influence of new media.

During a general session yesterday, Amy Mitchell, deputy director for the Pew Research Institute’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, pointed out some eye-opening trends uncovered in a 2010 Pew study:

* For the first time, online news consumption surpassed print consumption. 46 percent of people surveyed said they read their news online regularly, while 40 percent said they read it in print. Local TV news was the most popular platform, with 50 percent of people surveyed citing it as their source for news.

* Digital platforms are becoming the preferred choice for reading news. The web continues to gain ground, while other sectors are losing. In 2009-10, the web saw a 17.1 percent growth in audience, while traditional platforms lost audience share (cable TV, -13.7; magazines, -8.9; audio, -6; newspapers, -5; network TV, -3.4 and local TV, -1.5).

* Facebook is becoming a major force in directing users to news stories. It is now among the top-10 sites that send people to news sources.

* 47 percent of Americans are getting their local news on a mobile device.

* $1.6 billion was lost in print news budgets from 2006-2010.

Like all print products, Catholic publications are feeling the crunch. Advertising revenue and circulation have fallen – putting tremendous pressure on newspapers as they attempt to continue serving their readers in ink while also offering a vigorous – and critically necessary – digital presence.

Some newspapers – including The Catholic Review – have initiated strategic planning programs to come up with the best ways of remaining viable in an ever-changing age.

It’s clear that Catholic journalism is essential these days.

“There’s been a loss of institutional memory and beat reporting,” said Mitchell, noting that with downsizing, many secular newspapers no longer cover religion as closely as they did in the past. “It’s harder for these topics to get attention.”

More than ever, Catholic journalists can fill the void.

Media musings

A bridge stands near PNC Park in Pittsburgh. (CR/George P. Matysek Jr.)

I’m in Pittsburgh this week for the annual Catholic Media Convention.  Stay tuned for some musings!

Planning puts Mountain Maryland on solid footing

In this week’s Catholic Review, you will read about a new parish forming in Western Maryland.

Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien has approved a proposal to unite the five Cumberland-area parishes into a single faith community with one pastoral staff to be known as “Our Lady of the Mountains.” The affected parishes are Ss. Peter and Paul, St. Mary and St. Patrick in Cumberland; St. Ambrose in Cresaptown and St. Patrick in Mount Savage. The new faith community will be led by Capuchin Franciscan priests.

Monsignor James Hannon, the longtime pastor of six parishes in Garrett and Allegany Counties – and the temporary pastor of St. Mary and St. Patrick in Cumberland and St. Patrick in Mount Savage – will be leaving Mountain Maryland to become the associate director of the clergy personnel office at the Catholic Center in Baltimore.

I recently asked Monsignor Hannon about the ongoing planning in Western Maryland and what he will miss about the region. His parishes include St. Michael, Frostburg; St. Ann, Grantsville; St. Joseph, Midland; St. Mary, Lonaconing; St. Peter, Westernport and St. Gabriel, Barton.

Monsignor Hannon gave such thoughtful responses that I thought I’d share them with you here.

Q.  With your upcoming appointment to the Catholic Center, you will be leaving Mountain Maryland after shepherding the area’s parishes through a time of transition.  As you look back, what was the biggest challenge in taking a more regional approach?  What made it work?

A. I would say that the biggest challenge in taking a more regional approach was that first step for people to look beyond their own parish boundaries. I think that over the years parish leadership has promoted such a strong sense of “my parish” as a place, a locality that inspires loyalty that we sometimes have lost sight of the idea that we are a larger church family. I believe that Catholics in our area have and are making that transition well. People are seeing that a regional approach offers life to our parishes – it is not a threat. Moving beyond familiar boundaries can be frightening – but once people do it – they begin to see a larger picture, and a positive picture of how our parishes will walk into the future emerges for them.

Q. Do you think the parishes of Mountain Maryland are well poised for the future? Is the organizational model effective?

A. Yes, I do think that the parishes of Mountain Maryland are well poised for the future – for a number of reasons:

1. Our parishes have been in a planning process over the course of a number for years. Parishioners are used to hearing and thinking in a “planning” mode. While actually changing can be challenging – the idea of change and the need for change are not new concepts to our people.

2. The approach that we have taken to our parishes working together is one that has the ability to adapt to even more changes as they are needed. For example – with the parishes that we call the “Mountain Maryland Six” – we recently had to re-do our weekend Mass schedule in order to accommodate only two priests serving the four weekend Mass sites. We met with the combined Pastoral Councils, Finance Committees and Corporators and talked out a suggested Mass schedule that would meet everyone’s needs. The new Mass schedule that emerged is one that is solid – it gives people choices and it allows the priests who will be celebrating Mass to go from church to church in such a way that they are not rushed. The priests can stay after Mass and greet people, perhaps even attend an after Mass social gathering – without feeling rushed. I believe that the revised Mass schedule for our MM6 parishes allows the priests to serve the people better – that is what it is about.

3. The organizational model is effective because it allows change as it is needed. The models that the Mountain Maryland Six is presently engaged in – and the model which the Cumberland parishes are moving into – may not be the same in 7 years. The overall model is one that allows us to look at the parishes, their needs, the population trends, – it allows us to ask the question, “What would be best for our people at this time? How can we be better stewards of our gifts? How can we allow staff to really use their gifts to the good of the Church?” Rather than supporting a “status quo” and simply existing as we “always have” – we are encouraged to seek an organizational model that supports life in the parishes. While many of the changes that have been made in Mountain Maryland are to address a general decline in population over the years here, it is important that we frame the changes in terms of the goal. The goal is a lively Church – living parishes. Staying the same as we did in the past is not an option.

It is also important to note that the model that was proposed and accepted for the Cumberland area parishes address some administrative issues. Instead of 5 separate Pastoral Councils, Finance Committees, sets of corporators – now there will be ONE of each of these bodies. That approach will encourage UNITY – something that will serve the people of these sites in a better way. This model also allows the pastor and the parish leadership to work more efficiently for the good of all.

Monsignor Hannon also wanted to give credit to the many people involved in the planning process throughout Western Maryland. Deacon Charlie Hiebler, Dr. Tom Little and Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski were among them.

There are those from the Division of Facilities and Real Estate Management who have walked with us in assessing our buildings, making them safer, planning for work that needs to be done, looking at our cemeteries and their future, – Nolan McCoy, Hugh Andes, Matt Regan and David Owens have given us many hours of committed service to ensure the health of our parishes in this area.

Development – Greg Leitner has been our “go to guy” over the past years. He has been an immense help to me personally – and to our parish staffs as they have faced the need to address any number of areas of parish life that have been served by Greg and the Development people.

Human Resources – Regina McCurdy has been a real service to us on a number of occasions. Regina has helped most recently in the Cumberland parishes as they have and are maneuvering through the process of re-definition. She brings a calm and respectful approach to staffing issues that have presented themselves. She has advise me and other pastors in our area in a way that shows that she sees her work as a service to the Church.

Fiscal offices – Ashley Conley has especially been helpful to our bookkeepers and to me as a pastor. Ashley has always been available to help in any way she can. John Matera has worked closely with our parish staffs in answering questions and being attentive to our needs.

Petra Phelps has helped our parish staffs to better understand employee benefits. She has worked with others at 320 to help our parish staff personnel maneuver changes and the information needed to know what those changes are about.

Chancery – Dr. Diane Barr has come to our area meetings of parish leadership, the regional planning commission and parishioners and has served us so well. She is a real teacher – and she has been able to bring clarity in answers to questions that have emerged as we walk into a future that brings up many uncertainties. She has taken the fear out of the unknown – and brought to light and focus to our work.

Communications Office – Sean Caine has worked to help us present the changes that are necessary in our area in a positive light. He has been a calm and reasoned voice in promoting the Church’s voice on many important issues that are part of the lives of our own parishioners here in Mountain Maryland.

Evangelization – Since Fr. Hurley took on leadership of the Department of Evangelization – members of the “E-Team” have been available and generous in giving their time and interest! We have a member of TWO of the E-Team with us each month when the leadership of our parishes meet. They advise us and offer their expertise as we have gone through changes in our area.

Insurance – Tom Alban has served us so well over the years. If there is an accident, Tom is the guy we call. He is always re-assuring and has served us well in the past years. When St. Ann’s had a fire some years ago – Tom was here, as were other members of the Archdiocesan offices, as we walked through that time and charted a future church for the St. Ann community.

As you can see, George – I think it is important that we name names of people who have been part of our own larger team. The notion of “team-work” includes those from the archdiocesan offices who have worked with us – and we are grateful for their service. They are part of why a new vision of parishes can work. I hope that my own work might break down the “Us vs. Them” mentality that sometimes is present. Giving credit to those who have really been present to us is part of that effort.

Q. What are you going to miss about Mountain Maryland?

A. That is an easy question to answer – THE PEOPLE! The people of the parishes I have served are wonderful, good people. For so many – their connection to the parishes transcends their own generation – it goes back in time to past generations when their own ancestors settled in the area. The many smaller towns that make up Mountain Maryland have a rich and beautiful history – and our Catholic Church is a vibrant part of that history. Their ancestors built these churches. Their ancestors worshipped in these buildings that represent so much to them. Given this connection to the past – it is all the more impressive that so many of our parishioners are able to look beyond their own local parish to see a church that needs to embrace change. It is this ability that will ensure that our parishes will be vibrant into the future.

Mountain Maryland has been home to me for some years. I will, I know – be “home sick” for a while. I have been blessed by some wonderful friendships over the years – ones that I know will continue to be a blessing. I will certainly make it a point to visit often – and to return to be refreshed and re-energized by the people and places that have been an important part of my life these past years.

Some parishes will sing new musical settings earlier than planned

Some parishes may start singing the musical settings from the  new Roman Missal a few months sooner than planned.

New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond, chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Divine Worship, announced yesterday during the bishops’ spring meeting in Washington State that bishops may grant permission for parishes to introduce the settings in September as a way of providing more time to learn them.

The settings were originally scheduled to be introduced Nov. 27 – the start of Advent – when other changes in the language of the Mass are set to be implemented.

The musical settings that will be affected include the Gloria, the Holy, Holy, Holy and the Memorial Acclamations.

Without the variation, it would have been especially challenging for congregations to learn the new Gloria since the Gloria is not sung during Advent.  The first exposure to the setting would have been at Christmas.

A June 17 news release noted that the early implementation of the music settings was authorized by USCCB president, New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, and adopted by the committee to allow parish communities to learn the various parts of the new translation “in a timely fashion and an even pace.”

The Committee on Divine Worship made the decision in response to requests from several bishops, echoed by the National Advisory Council. Some suggested that the various acclamations could be more effectively introduced throughout the fall, according to the news release, so that when the full Missal is implemented, people would already be familiar with the prayers that are sung.

“I ask you to encourage this as a means of preparing our people and helping them embrace the new translation,” Archbishop Gregory told the bishops.

Was Michele Bachmann threatened by an ex-nun?

Here’s a story for the ‘strange but true’ file.  Rep. Michele Bachmann once claimed that an ex-nun was involved in holding Bachmann against her will.  From The Daily Beast:

In April 2005, Pamela Arnold wanted to talk to her state senator, Michele Bachmann, who was then running for Congress. A 46-year-old who worked at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, Arnold lived with her partner, the famed Arctic explorer Ann Bancroft, on a farm in Scandia, Minnesota. Bachmann was then leading the fight against gay marriage in the state. She’d recently been in the news for hiding in the bushes to observe a gay rights rally at the Capitol. So when members of the Scandia gay community decided to attend one of Bachmann’s constituent forums, Arnold, wanting to make herself visible to her representative, joined them.

Michele Bachmann anti-gay platform
Charlie Neibergall / AP Photo

A few dozen people showed up at the town hall for the April 9 event, and Bachmann greeted them warmly. But when, during the question and answer session, the topic turned to gay marriage, Bachmann ended the meeting 20 minutes early and rushed to the bathroom. Hoping to speak to her, Arnold and another middle-aged woman, a former nun, followed her. As Bachmann washed her hands and Arnold looked on, the ex-nun tried to talk to her about theology. Suddenly, after less than a minute, Bachmann let out a shriek. “Help!” she screamed. “Help! I’m being held against my will!”

Arnold, who is just over 5 feet tall, was stunned, and hurried to open the door. Bachmann bolted out and fled, crying, to an SUV outside. Then she called the police, saying, according to the police report, that she was “absolutely terrified and has never been that terrorized before as she had no idea what those two women were going to do to her.” The Washington County attorney, however, declined to press charges, writing in a memo, “It seems clear from the statements given by both women that they simply wanted to discuss certain issues further with Ms. Bachmann.”

The rest of the story touches on Bachmann’s evangelical roots.  Check it out here.

Mayoral candidate might be on to something with voucher proposal

Otis Rolley unveils an education voucher proposal June 13 in Baltimore. (CR/George P. Matysek Jr.)

Otis Rolley is trying to shake things up in his bid to succeed Stephanie Rawlings-Blake as the next mayor of Baltimore.

During a June 13 press conference outside public school headquarters on North Avenue, Rolley said he wanted to close the city’s five worst-performing middle schools and give $10,000 education vouchers to the affected students. The vouchers could be used at Catholic and other nonpublic middle schools in Baltimore. (See The Catholic Review story here).

During the news conference, I asked Rolley what he thought about the contributions made by Catholic schools in the city.  I was impressed that the former Baltimore City director of planning viewed Catholic schools as allies – not enemies – in the common goal of educating children.

“When I think of city kids in city schools, it’s public, parochial and independent schools,” he said. “All of these kids are our kids. All of these schools are our schools.”

That’s a sentiment that’s not always popular in some education circles – although Dr. Andres Alonso, current Baltimore public schools CEO, has gained kudos from Catholic school leaders for keeping lines of communication open between the systems and for serving on Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Catholic education.

Rolley’s plan isn’t perfect, and there are still a lot of unanswered questions.

Pamela Sanders, principal of St. Ambrose School in Park Heights, pointed out that it will face stiff opposition from teachers unions and others. Rolley will also have legal issues to overcome in appropriating $25 million from the city schools’ budget for the voucher program.

Ellen Robertson, associate director for education with the Maryland Catholic Conference, said there might be some challenges with the candidate’s requirement that enrolled children maintain a consistent level of achievement to be eligible for vouchers.

“These students are coming from underperforming schools to start with,” said Robertson, who was eager to see more specifics in the Rolley plan. “It might be putting a lot of pressure on them.”

Yet, as both Sanders and Robertson pointed out, it’s a step in the right direction for a candidate to put vouchers squarely on the line for public debate.

“At least people are talking about it,” Sanders said. “Putting the question out there raises awareness.”

Catholic schools in the city have consistently produced students who go on to earn college degrees and become productive citizens. Yet, because of increased expenses and declining enrollment, they have struggled to stay open in recent years. Vouchers could be a way of bolstering Catholic schools, while also improving educational opportunities for kids stuck in underperforming public schools.

It will be interesting to see whether Rolley’s proposal gains any traction. In the coming months, The Catholic Review will followup on the plan and explore where the other candidates stand.

Rolley deserves credit for including Catholic and nonpublic schools in his vision for making Baltimore a better place.

“I know defenders of the status quo will attack me and my ideas,” Rolley said. “My plan provides hope to parents of current students.”

VIDEO REPORT: Pope John Paul II’s home parish shows love for native son

It’s an understatement to say that the people of Poland – and especially the people of Blessed Pope John Paul II’s hometown of Wadowice – love their Polish pope.  Check out this video report on how the late pope’s home parish expresses that love.

VIDEO REPORT: Our Lady of Czechtochowa inspires devotion

For many of the 26 people who joined Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski on a recent pilgrimage to the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, the spiritual highlight was praying in the presence of the famous icon known as Our Lady of Czechtochowa. The pilgrims had the honor of sitting only a few feet away from the “Black Madonna” as Bishop Rozanski led them in Marian prayers. Moved by the experience, several participants wiped away tears of joy. Check out this video report:

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