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Faith & Parish

A checkup in Rome for the American bishops

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An ad limina visit, the trip Catholic bishops are required to make every five years to Rome, is a bit like a routine physical. It might flag a serious problem, but usually it’s just a checkup covering a wide variety of aches, pains, and ups and downs.

If nothing else, it’s revealing to learn what doctor and patient are thinking about, because it might provide hints of treatments to come.

In the face of church's change, new liturgy is really 'Whatever'

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Commentary

We were visiting family over the holidays and attended Mass at a parish where there was evidence of the ongoing tussle with the new liturgy. At one point during an attempt to keep up with that unnecessarily unwieldy construction of "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof," someone nearby got tongue-tied and finished it off with, "Whatever."

I chuckled. It was good to laugh about it.

Those of us who by virtue of our circumstances (religion writers, for instance, or professional liturgists) know the back story to the changes are more likely than not to bristle at the rather saccharine presentation of reasons for the changes. The reality, of course, is that the changes were as much as anything else about power and maintaining control, rolling back the language that came to reflect the changes in theology and community disposition that occurred as a result of the Vatican Council of the 1960s. Yes, yes, it was to restore some of the majesty and awe, some of the precision of the Latin upon which the prayers are based, to restore anew the sense of mystery and to re-establish the distance between priest and people.

San Francisco parish to build columbarium behind main altar

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Responding to repeated requests for a parish columbarium, Dominican Fr. Xavier Lavagetto, pastor of St. Dominic Parish in San Francisco, has announced that 320 niches for cremated remains will be installed in the Friars Chapel behind the church's main altar.

It will be the only Catholic church in San Francisco to have a columbarium. In the 1930s, the city mandated the closure and removal of all cemeteries within its borders except for three historical sites. Four Episcopal churches and the Neptune Society now have columbaria, but Catholics must travel outside the city to bury their loved ones.

The niches at St. Dominic's will be reserved for registered parishioners and their families and will cost from $4,200 to $15,200, depending on their location. The parish also plans to include a low-cost community niche for those who cannot afford an individual niche. The columbarium will be financially self-sustaining and will not require any special fundraising among the parish's 3,200 registered parishioners.

Recession brings drop in parish incomes, growth in needs

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WASHINGTON -- More than half of U.S. Catholic parishes surveyed in late 2010 said the nationwide financial crisis has sparked a growth in requests for financial assistance and pastoral counseling while parishes struggle with falling incomes caused by the recession.

Key findings from a survey of 390 Catholic parishes, reported this month by economist Charles Zech of Villanova University in Philadelphia, included:


  • More than nine out of 10 parishes said they have been called to do more for parishioners because of increased unemployment in the parish.

  • Eighty-five percent said they have faced increased requests for financial assistance.

  • Five out of eight -- 62 percent -- said they have received more requests for emergency housing as a result of the recession.

  • Nearly two-thirds -- 64.6 percent -- reported that the recession has caused an increase in requests for pastoral counseling.

Church secretary says interracial marriage got her fired

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FAYETTEVILLE, Tenn. -- A white church secretary is suing her former employer, saying she was fired for marrying a black man.

Debra Dodd, the former secretary at the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Fayetteville, Tenn., and the Rev. Tim Smith, pastor of the church, agree on one thing: Most of the members of that congregation are great people.

But from there, their stories diverge.

Dodd has filed a lawsuit for back wages and $500,000 in punitive damages against the church after she was fired for what she says is racial discrimination.

Dodd said the all-white church first embraced her during her two years as secretary -- and then suddenly shunned and subsequently fired her May 26 after they learned she had married a black man in April.

Smith said Dodd's marriage is unrelated to her firing, but also said his lawyer has directed him not to discuss particulars.

"In this congregation, I work with some of the most loving people in the city," Smith said. "I can't comment on the lawsuit, but there is more to this story."

Buying the Crystal Cathedral: Great deal or big gamble?

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Even by the depressed metrics of Southern California's real estate market, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange negotiated a pretty sweet deal when it purchased the iconic Crystal Cathedral, the longtime pulpit of the Rev. Robert H. Schuller and backdrop to his popular "Hour of Power" television broadcasts.

Advent a make-or-break chance for churches, visitors

Advent has arrived in American churches, which means the lapsed and the curious who seldom darken the door just might drop by for a taste of the season's spirit.

But if visitors briskly come and go without considering a commitment to join or get involved, then churches will have missed a golden opportunity with huge implications for the future.

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September 12-25, 2014

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