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Faith & Parish

Building community at heart of lay ministry, conference speakers say

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ARLINGTON, Va. -- The head of Catholic Relief Services urged an audience of lay ministers to work with one another and develop a sense of community.

And one key to building that community is charisma, said Carolyn Woo, CEO of Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops' overseas relief and development agency.

"Charisma is the ability to take people as you find them, like them for what they are, and do not dislike them for what they are not," she told attendees at the annual conference of the National Association for Lay Ministry.

The meeting, which featured prayer, speakers and informational booths, was held in the Crystal City area of Arlington May 31-June 2.

Woo urged empathy and a capacity for others. "This capacity for others is grace," she said, emphasizing that the word "grace" should be spelled with a capital "G" -- "because grace is what God gave us."

Grace, she continued, is the key to having the empathy that keeps lay ministers from competing with one another and instead builds a community of lay ministers.

Open letter to American priests

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I am watching my 2-week-old grandson sleep. It is my time to be on watch so that his mother can sleep. When he wakes and cries, I will bring him in to her to nurse.

You may find this an odd opening sentence for a letter to American priests, arguably as far as any imaginable cohort from the day-to-day realities of newborn babies, nursing mothers. But it is the presence of this little boy, so new to the world, that has broken through my paralysis, my despair, because nothing breaks through paralysis and despair like a new birth.

Legionaries of Christ withdraw from California parish

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Citing its need to restructure in the United States after a series of sex abuse scandals involving its founder and several prominent members, the Legionaries of Christ are withdrawing from the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe here, effective July 1. The order has administered the large Hispanic parish in the state capital for the last 12 years.

Their departure follows the closure last year of their two local schools, the University of Sacramento and the Immaculate Conception Apostolic School, because of diminishing enrollment.

"Our religious congregation has suffered a crisis in the past few years and we must restructure ourselves in the United States," said Fr. Lino Otero, pastor, in a message to parishioners. "In these difficult moments, we have enjoyed the support and trust of Pope Benedict XVI, who accompanies us in these times. We view our future with hope and enthusiasm, forming a more solid congregation of religious and priests."

Cleveland priests doubt Lennon's leadership, call for removal

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The recent decision of Cleveland bishop Richard G. Lennon to eliminate his diocese’s pastoral planning office appears to have been the final straw, atop a growing list of grievances, for some of his priests.

Since the office’s closing and concurrent firing of two long-time and respected employees, several priests have written letters to Lennon’s superiors in the United States and in Rome, voicing a lack confidence in his leadership and requesting his removal.

The letters surfaced even as Lennon is engaged in the early stages of restoring 11 parishes, carrying out an order from Rome that reversed his earlier decision to shutter the churches. The bishop said in a May 23 meeting with the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s editorial board he hopes to begin reopening parishes by mid-June and complete the process by Aug. 1, the newspaper reported.

Cleveland Catholics demand Lennon reopen parish immediately

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Canon lawyers representing St. Patrick Parish of Cleveland filed a motion Wednesday in Rome demanding Bishop Richard G. Lennon immediately reopen the church and restore the parish, and if he won’t, have someone else do it.

The motion is the second filed by the parish since decrees came from the Congregation for the Clergy in early March ruling in favor of St. Patrick and 11 other parishes Lennon had attempted to suppress in a string of closings in 2009.

Conspiracy counts dismissed in case against Philadelphia priests

PHILADELPHIA -- For weeks the words of Msgr. William J. Lynn in testimony before a 2004 Philadelphia grand jury investigating clergy sexual abuse were used against him by state prosecutors.

They intensified their use of the testimony and a trove of hundreds of archdiocesan memos and letters, narrated by Philadelphia police detectives and assistant district attorneys along with some four dozen witnesses, to show jurors in a landmark criminal case that Lynn, 61, former secretary for clergy of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, was part of a conspiracy to protect priests and endanger children.

In a significant decision the day the prosecution rested its case, presiding Judge Teresa Sarmina on May 17 dismissed two counts of conspiracy against Lynn and another defendant, Fr. James J. Brennan, 48.

Only two counts of endangering a child remain against Lynn: one related to former priest Edward V. Avery, who pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a boy in 1999; and another charge related to Brennan.

Student loan debt may prevent many U.S. Catholics from entering religious orders

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WASHINGTON -- Student debt might be forcing many Catholic U.S. college graduates considering religious life to postpone or even forego testing their vocation, a new study reports.

"In essence, they're too poor to take the vow of poverty," commented the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, which conducted the study.

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.

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