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Faith & Parish

Lay ministry association shows us our inheritance

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Years ago a campus minister at a prominent Catholic university bemoaned the fact that much of the institutional church was squandering its inheritance of laypeople committed to a ministerial call within the church in favor of a continued call for prayers for vocations to priesthood and religious life. Fortunately, for 35 years the National Association for Lay Ministry (NALM) has been working to counter that impression. It has given a public and unified voice to the many lay ministers who work in parishes, prisons, universities, diocesan offices, hospitals and retreat centers, to name just a few.

CARA reports U.S. seminary theology numbers highest since 1988-89

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WASHINGTON -- U.S. Catholic seminary enrollment in theology this year is the highest in almost a quarter-century, the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate reported in the spring issue of its quarterly newsletter, The CARA Report.

The reported growth in seminarians, however, does not begin to match the growth in the U.S. Catholic population, which has increased by about 25 percent in that time period.

"This year's total of 3,723 is the highest enrollment since the 3,788 reported for 1988-89," CARA said.

"During the academic year 2011-12, enrollment increased by 63 diocesan seminarians and religious enrollment by 52 seminarians" over the 2010-11 figures, the report states.

CARA, based at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., has been reporting yearly enrollment figures and other data on U.S. Catholic seminaries and seminarians since the 1967-68 academic year.

At that time, there were more than 8,000 seminarians studying theology, more than 13,400 students in college seminaries, and almost 16,000 high school seminarians.

Methodists uphold policy that calls homosexuality 'incompatible with Christian teaching'

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Despite emotional protests and fierce lobbying from gay rights groups, United Methodists voted on Thursday (May 2) to maintain their denomination's stance that homosexuals acts are "incompatible with Christian teaching."

Two "agree to disagree" proposals were soundly defeated during separate votes by the nearly 1,000 delegates gathered for the United Methodist Church's General Conference in Tampa, Fla.

One proposal would have replaced the "incompatible" phrase in the Book of Discipline, which contains the denomination's laws and doctrines. Both proposals sought to soften the disputed doctrine by adding more ambiguous statements about homosexuality.

Gay rights advocates in the UMC viewed the compromise proposals as the best chance to advance their cause at this year's General Conference, which convenes every four years. On Friday, delegates are expected to debate the church's bans on noncelibate gay clergy and same-sex marriage.

Wisconsin bishop threatens denial of sacraments for 'rumors and gossip'

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MILWAUKEE -- Despite warning signs that they would not win the fight to oust their priests, parishioners in a small Wisconsin town didn't relent. Neither did their bishop, Robert Morlino of Madison.

After battling for almost two years, members of St. Mary Parish in Platteville were told by Morlino on April 25 that if they persisted in what he characterized as spreading "rumors and gossip," the Catholics would face some of the church's harshest sanctions: the denial of the sacraments of Communion, confession and burial.

Louisiana cemetery to take in unclaimed bodies

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Since his death in October 2009, the remains of Brian Walker have sat inside the coroner’s morgue in Lafayette, La. When he died, no one claimed his body. But on April 28, Walker will finally be put to rest, along with 90-plus other unclaimed persons.

Through a steadfast partnership stretching over two years between the coroner’s office, the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist and a Catholic Service worker, 95 unclaimed persons, as well as numerous fetuses, will receive a proper burial in the cathedral’s nearly two-century-old cemetery.

Methodists to debate gay clergy and same-sex unions

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As nearly 1,000 delegates from across the world gather in Tampa, Fla., for the United Methodist Church's General Conference, gay and lesbian activists have printed pamphlets promoting their cause in five languages, including Portuguese and Swahili.

The UMC's global reach, stretching from the Philippines to Philadelphia, compels the multilingual lobbying. Nearly 40 percent of the delegates, who meet through May 4, live outside the United States, according to church leaders.

"We see it as a challenge to deal with the cultural differences," said Bishop Rosemarie Wenner of Germany, who will be installed in Tampa as president of the UMC's Council of Bishops. "But we also see it as a gift."

Convened every four years, General Conference legislates decisions on everything from pensions to prayer books. But few debates garner as much attention and acrimony as the role of gays and lesbians in the UMC.

The homosexuality debate dates to 1972, when a phrase calling homosexual activity "incompatible with Christian teaching" was added to the Book of Discipline, which contains the denomination's laws and doctrines. The UMC also bans noncelibate gay clergy and same-sex marriage.

Mission stressed at convention for Catholic educators

BOSTON -- Catholic educators who gathered April 11-13 in Boston did not shy away from tough issues they face, such as declining enrollments, school closures and competition from charter schools.

During multiple workshops at the National Catholic Educational Association’s annual convention, educators were advised to do more lobbying, strengthen their boards and school leaders, and put strategic plans in place. Above all, they were urged to be true to the mission of their Catholic school.

Cleveland parishes meet reopening news with relief, skepticism

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Saying "it's time for peace and unity" in his diocese, the bishop of Cleveland will not appeal the rulings of the Congregation for the Clergy regarding his 12 closed parishes. Instead, he will begin the process to restore them and reopen the churches as places of worship.

"I will not appeal the decrees to the Apostolic Signatura," said Bishop Richard G. Lennon in a statement Tuesday. "Doing so would prolong the process a number of years and would create more uncertainty and continue to divide our Catholic family."

Bishop to reopen 12 closed Cleveland parishes

CLEVELAND -- Roman Catholic Bishop Richard Lennon on Tuesday (April 17) announced that he will reopen 12 churches whose closings were reversed by the Vatican last month.

The 12 parishes had filed appeals with the Vatican after Lennon, between 2009 and 2010, closed 50 churches in the eight-county diocese, citing changes in demographics and shortages of priests and cash.

Originally, reports indicated that there were 13 churches that had won appeals. But Lennon said this morning that only 12 had appealed.

Lennon said that he had decided not to appeal the Vatican rulings, adding that "it is time for peace and unity in the Diocese of Cleveland."

The 12 churches had appealed to the Vatican's Congregation for the Clergy, arguing they were vibrant, self-sustaining parishes that should not be closed. The panel ruled that the bishop did not follow church laws and procedures when he closed the churches.

The churches have been standing empty since their closings. The diocese, which has sold a number of closed churches, could not, under church law, sell a church or its contents while it was under appeal.

Pittsburgh priests to bishop: Listen to laity on contraception

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Several priests of the Pittsburgh diocese have met with Bishop David Zubik -- the prelate who said in January that the Obama administration's mandate regarding coverage of contraceptives in health care plans told Catholics, "To Hell with you" -- telling him his stance on the issue was alienating women and creating "a lot of anger" among laypeople.

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April 11-24, 2014

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