CLEVELAND -- There’s no steeple. No big stained-glass windows or rectory, no signs along Euclid Street announcing service times or the pastor’s name. The big space where liturgy is held, an old warehouse-looking room where it is said they once manufactured electric cars, has been done over in a kind of updated urban chic with religious emphasis. Open metal beams crisscross above the congregation and give way to skylights. Candles are spaced at regular intervals high on the brick walls.
Faith & Parish
VATICAN CITY -- Pinched by the global recession and tough-love budget demands of the European Union, the Italian government is looking for extra revenue, and has its eyes set on commercial properties owned by the Roman Catholic Church.
On Feb. 15, the government of Prime Minister Mario Monti announced it wants to revise rules on the tax-exempt status of church-owned commercial property. Although the exemption also applies to other not-for-profit entities, such as trade unions, political parties and religious groups, the Catholic church is its largest beneficiary.
"Such a move would have been unimaginable six months ago," said Francesco Perfetti, a history professor at LUISS University in Rome. "After all, no matter whether you are a believer or not, the church is an integral part of Italy's culture."
The exemption, introduced in 1992, has sparked a heated debate, especially after the Euro crisis and Italy's staggering debt forced the government to introduce sweeping austerity measures, including a sharp rise in the pension age.
Critics say the current rules give church-owned businesses, such as hotels and restaurants, an unfair advantage over their competitors.
CHICAGO -- Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha mixed her own Mohawk and Algonquin culture with the Catholic faith she first inherited from her mother and later learned from Jesuit missionaries.
That blend of culture and faith was on display Feb. 26 as the people and staff of the Kateri Center, the Archdiocese of Chicago's American Indian Ministry, celebrated the announcement earlier in February that Blessed Kateri will be canonized Oct. 21, along with Blessed Marianne Cope of Molokai and five others.
Five years ago, the Rev. Teresa K.M. Danieley had an epiphany of sorts. If people can grab breakfast on the go or pay a bill from their cell phone, she thought, why shouldn't they be able to get their ashes in a flash?
That's why, on Ash Wednesday 2007, Danieley planted herself in full priestly regalia at a busy intersection in St. Louis, smudging the sign of the cross on the foreheads of bicyclists, drivers and bus passengers.
Everything is bigger in Texas, even ecumenical faith and love.
For 42 years, seven churches of different denominations in Beaumont, Texas, have shared an ecumenical Lenten mission with one another, gathering three days in Lent for prayer, reflection and fellowship.
“We’ve established many wonderful friends over the years,” said Msgr. William Manger, pastor of St. Anne Catholic Church for the past 21 years.
Besides St. Anne, the churches (some of which entered the group after it started) involved are St. Andrew Presbyterian Church, Calder Baptist Church, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, First Christian Church, Bethlehem Lutheran Church and Trinity United Methodist Church. All are no more than three miles apart.
Harland Merriam has been pastor at St. Andrew Presbyterian Church for 25 years. The series likely started, Merriam said, because of the already existing relationships between members of the different churches and a vision from the pastors.
The pastors “wanted to experience something that we don’t do regularly,” he said, and they had a “desire to do something together.”
ST. LOUIS -- When Fr. Gerald Kleba volunteered to take over as pastor of St. Cronan Parish 10 years ago, he walked into a devastated parish. Its former pastor, Joe Ross, was a pedophile. Even though he had pleaded guilty to kissing a boy in confession, and had been arrested twice on other charges of sexual misconduct, the St. Louis archdiocese had shuffled him from parish to parish until he was sent to St. Cronan, where he was pastor for 11 years.
WASHINGTON -- A new study of U.S. congregations found that some factors are more prevalent than others in spurring the growth of a congregation, among them the age of a congregation's members, family activities and a commitment to recruiting new members.
But the study's author noted that only a minority of congregations of all denominations are actually growing.
"There were about 30-35 percent that were experiencing the highest level of growth," said C. Kirk Hadaway, congregational research officer for the Episcopal Church and chair of the research task force for the Cooperative Congregational Studies Partnership, the study's sponsors.
"There's as many congregations that are plateaued and declining (as) are experiencing rapid growth," Hadaway said during a Jan. 31 webinar on the study, "Facts on Growth."
"A relatively small percentage of congregations are sort of driving the growth to the extent that is occurring in U.S. society. It's not really clear to what extent growth is occurring," he added.
NEW YORK -- A 67-year-old woman with a criminal record for theft has been charged with siphoning $1 million in donations while working in a finance office of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, church officials announced Monday.
The archdiocese said it did not conduct a criminal background check when the employee, Anita Collins, was hired in 2003. Collins' complex scheme drained money from an education fund at the same time the church was closing Catholic schools.
Church and law enforcement officials said over seven years, Collins sent fake invoices to the archdiocese, then issued about 450 checks to accounts she controlled, all in amounts just under the $2,500 threshold that would have required a supervisor's approval.
Most of the money was apparently siphoned from the accounts payable system in the archdiocesan Department of Education Finance Office, according to a statement from archdiocesan spokesman Joseph Zwilling.
In a 2010 article in the archdiocese newspaper Catholic New York, Collins was lauded for volunteering at St. Patrick's Cathedral when Archbishop Timothy Dolan presided over a Mass welcoming 600 people to Catholicism.
WASHINGTON -- How are the new U.S. Catholic ordinariate for former Anglican groups and the 1980 U.S. pastoral provision for Episcopal (Anglican) priests who become Catholics different? What do they have in common? What does the presence of Catholics in the new ordinariate mean for other Catholics?
The pastoral, canonical, ecclesiastical and other questions posed by the new developments are numerous and challenging, but here is an attempt to sort out a few of the bigger ones.
To take the third question first, other Catholics -- Eastern or Latin rite -- who were baptized or confirmed into the church as Latin or Eastern Catholics can legitimately participate in the life and worship of an Anglican-use Catholic community, but ordinarily, they may not become a formal member of that community.
An exception is marriage, for which church laws similar to those applying to Latin-Eastern rite Catholic marriages would come into play: An Eastern or Latin Catholic marrying a Catholic in the new Anglican-use ordinariate could become a member of that ordinariate if the couple agrees on that decision.
WASHINGTON -- Leaders of the new U.S. Catholic ordinariate established Jan. 1 for former Anglicans/Episcopalians said they and their people welcomed with “joy and gratitude” the historic Vatican announcement that Pope Benedict XVI had established the new church jurisdiction for them.