Sunday, January 31, 2010

Hey! That name rings a bell!

Galante? Where did I hear that before?

"Biggest Loser, Parish Edition"

Back in November, thanks to the Murphy Report, "mental reservation" got a lot of press. Mental reservation is a longstanding sin-evasion tactic that involves the clever juxtaposition of facts to present the "receiver" with the opportunity to draw a conclusion favorable to the "reserver" even if the conclusion is not true. One of my readers (I have 2 that I know of) commented on my post of November 28:

"You know how the Fox network has that show called "Lie to Me"?....maybe EWTN could have "Amphibologize Me." Is that where we get the word "fib"?"

Well, today's New York Times piece, Catholics Reel as a Diocese Whittles Its Parishes, describing the "consolidation" process in the archdiocese of Camden suggests another potential blockbuster for EWTN: "Biggest Loser, Parish Edition".

Across the nation archdioceses are toppling like dominos in response to financial woes and lack of priests. The archdiocese of Camden is the one most recently publicized in the press, but the repetition makes it no less painful. There is no "they" here. "They" are "us", suffering the same pain and sorrow of loss and receiving, at least in the press releases, little pastoral comfort from the top of the hierarchy.

Today's Times article focuses on the parish of the Most Holy Redeemer in Deptford Township, NJ. Salient quote from parishioner:

"“There is so much blood and sweat in that church,” said Mrs. Medany, who raised four children in the parish, including Deptford’s current mayor, Paul Medany. “We have a church here we busted our humps for. It’s gorgeous and we love it. And we are very upset.”

This is what the archdiocese says:

"Bishop Joseph A. Galante, head of the Camden Diocese since 2004, said his decision to consolidate parishes, although difficult, was pivotal to revitalizing Catholicism in South Jersey.

“With all these individual parishes, effectively we’ve lost 76 to 78 percent of our people who don’t practice the faith,” the bishop said. “To keep doing the same thing over and over again in the same way and expect different results, as you know, is a sign of insanity.”

He said that parishes needed a critical mass of worshipers to attract young people and immigrants, two points that parishioners have made to him. Parishes must also be big enough to pay staff members and not rely on volunteers."

What is being mentally reserved in this statement? Maybe EWTN could create a winning line up by running "Amphibologize Me" and "Biggest Loser: Parish Edition" back to back.

Archdiocesan leaders could learn a lot about doing it right by consulting with parishioners where they've done it wrong. Having lost our churches, we are also concerned about losing our Church. Maybe "Extreme Makeover: Archdiocese Edition" would draw big numbers among the laity. If the powers that be are concerned about "branding," they should consult me. My iron is hot!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Archdiocese of New York Mourns Benefactor

Yesterday in the archdiocese, another life was celebrated and another death was mourned. This obituary appeared in my local Gannett paper. Another man that I never met, though his life surely touched mine through the many institutions and agencies that he helped and guided.

How many of us that never knew need to thank Mr. Harrington with our prayers?

Another Soul for the Our Lady of Vilnius Basement of Kindred Spirits

Some time ago, January 19, to be exact, I lingered over the obituary of David Sarkisyan. I had never heard of him during his lifetime, but he is someone that I regret not meeting, a man whom I would have gladly staked to a Svyturys at the OLV bar above. Some defining paragraphs from his obit:

"Mr. Sarkisyan, who was appointed the museum’s director in 2000, warned of a “cultural catastrophe,” saying that Moscow was losing its face and character. He was highly critical of Mayor Yuri Luzhkov and his wife, Yelena Baturina, a billionaire real estate magnate.

His battles were hard fought but often futile. Thousands of signatures collected by the museum and vocal protests were not enough to save Voentorg, an early-20th-century department store located directly across the street from the museum’s main building. It was replaced by a new building that many regarded as a poor imitation of the old one."

Today, the New York Times ran another piece about Mr. Sarkisyan, An Appraisal: The Keeper of Moscow's Architectural Conscience"

Andre Ilyin's photo, below, accompanying the article, shows Mr. Sarkisyan in his office surrounded by a glorious jumble of archetypes and artifacts, a scene that evokes the Our Lady Vilnius Rectory office.

The following quotes cemented my feelings of solidarity with this man:

"...he was an extraordinary if anachronistic example of what a single person at the helm of a crumbling institution with few financial resources could accomplish — even in a world that seemed bent on silencing him."


“He was not interested in having a comfortable life; he didn’t follow any of the normal rules,” Peter Noever, director of the Museum of Applied Arts in Vienna, said in a recent telephone interview. “He stood for resistance.”

Thanks to all the people who are trying to save the natural habitat of the artistic spirit, possibly the Holy Spirit.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

St. Vincent's Hospital is Endangered

Today as I got my morning jolt of reality from WNYC, I heard that St. Vincent's Hospital as we know it is endangered. The New York Post, in its inimitable style, covers this item in today's article, Prayin' for St. Vinny's. This piece is subtitled "Bishop Leads Fight."

Many Our Lady of Vilnius parishioners receive their care from St. Vincent's, and several compare the quality of care favorably to the higher profile uptown medical centers.

In this fight, we are on the Archbishop's side.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Our Lady of Vilnius on E-Bay


An Our Lady of Vilnius parishioner called my attention to this coin, which is for sale on E-Bay. Apparently the coin was issued by the Republic of Palau in 2009. It is no longer surprising to me that devotion to Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn is so far-flung. In 2005, while St. Stanislaus Kostka was still open, I sat next to a visiting priest, Father Joseph,and showed him pictures of Our Lady of Vilnius church on Broome Street. He immediately identified our altar icon as "Our Lady of Ostra Brama," with whom he was familiar from his boyhood church in Indonesia. I was happy to imagine her serenely gazing over a congregation on the other side of the world.

The text associated with the coin for sale on E-Bay is taken from Wikipedia's entry for Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn and makes brief mention to the closure of our Broome Street church, which it once referenced as one of the of the "Shrines in Other Locations."

Though US currency bears "In God We Trust" (and so do our courtroom walls), the relationship between church and state is always controversial in this country. It is interesting that Palau minted a coin bearing an image of Our Lady.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

To Whom Shall WE Go?

On January 20th Archbishop Dolan made a post in his blog, The Gospel in the Digital Age titled To Whom Shall We Go?

This phrase, from John 6:68, is the inscription on the Archbishop's coat of arms. In this post Archbishop Dolan synthesizes his reaction to hearing "Lady of Knock" sung at Monsignor John Keaveney's funeral with his personal spiritual heritage as delivered to him through his ethnicity. He proceeds to tie this experience to the collective Irish-American Catholic heritage and its role in forming the Catholic Church in the United States. He widens the circle yet again to included the Irish Catholics of the present, who are suffering in the wake of the revelations of the Murphy Report.

This is the final paragraph of the post:

"This great-grandson of a Cavan man, this boy who learned the greatest lessons of life from Sisters of Mercy from Drogheda, and from a humble parish priest named Callahan at Holy Infant Parish in Ballwin, Missouri, who now offers Mass daily in a church on Fifth Avenue, dedicated to Patrick, over the tombs of men named Hughes, McCloskey, Corrigan, Farley, Hayes, Spellman, Cooke, O’Connor, and Sheen, believes with all his heart and soul that the Prince of this World will not triumph! The Queen of Ireland already has! Yes, there seems an abundance of thorns right now, but the “Golden Rose” will blossom!"

As a granddaughter of Mary Brown whose ancestors hail from County Cork, I can to some extent share in the Archbishop's ethnic pride. But I am also the granddaughter of John and Benedicta Nakraseivicius, who came from Lithuania, met in New York and were members of the faith community of Our Lady of Vilnius. Why is the spiritual heritage of one ethnicity celebrated in the Archdiocese of New York while another ignored, exiled and perhaps even banished?

Ultimately we, the parishioners of our Lady of Vilnius, continue our lives as disciples of Our Lord, quietly and independently worshipping outside our cultural heritage, our historical context and the community that we loved. The "Golden Rose" of Ireland is none other than "The Fairest of Lillies" of Lithuania. To whom can we go in the Archdiocese of New York so that we can celebrate our faith in the historical context of our culture, as Archbishop Dolan has? What priest, bishop or cardinal in the Archdiocese of New York will be our alter Christus, will gather us, the sheep who have been dispersed and dismissed? Who will provide us with shelter and feed us as a flock?

This is not a rhetorical question.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Destruction of the Church of St. George, Shenandoah, PA

"For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world."

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Demolition of St. George's Church, Shenandoah PA

Today I received this picture via e-mail. The parishioners of St. George had tried to save the church, closed in 2006, with a civil suit. On December 1, 2009 the court ruled that the plaintiffs did not have a property interest in the church and, therefore, lacked the rights to interfere with the Diocese of Allentown's plan to demolish. (See Pottsville Republican and Herald article)

The St. George web page, not updated to reflect this painful turn of events, is a testimony to the efforts to save this parish. God bless the parishioners of St. George as they face their reluctant sacrifice.