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Faith & Parish

Few friends, many enemies in diocesan down-sizing

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CLEVELAND -- Even before he was officially installed as the Roman Catholic bishop of Cleveland in 2006, Richard G. Lennon was already talking about the need to close churches.

“As painful as a funeral is, it’s there that you commend your loved one to God,” Lennon told reporters just weeks before his installation.

Those words, coming from an auxiliary bishop who had just closed scores of churches in Boston, sounded a death knell for dozens more in Northeast Ohio—and unleashed a small but shrill backlash across Lennon’s new flock.

The extensive downsizing is essentially over, although some of the closings remain under appeal with the Vatican. In the end, 50 parishes were closed. Vacant churches are up for sale, merged parishes are moving forward.

Now, Lennon must minister to a diocese where emotions remain raw.

Like many U.S. bishops in financially struggling regions, Lennon faced a rapidly changing church: too few priests and too few members for too many buildings.

Outline of new life

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27th and last in a series

Eighteen months ago, I started out on a reporting project that soon became a series and took the name “In Search of the Emerging Church.” Twenty-six reports later, looking back through scores of interviews, demographic data, anecdotes and personal experience, what emerges is the outline of new church life, much of it quite healthy, if less fastened than the church has been to traditional clerical structures.

In hindsight, the headline -- Emerging Church -- was, as headlines often are, at least inadequate, suggesting that something whole might be emerging in place of something else. The reality is more complex.

The reporting would take me to Ohio, New Jersey, New Mexico, California and Pennsylvania, and included interviews with experts both inside and outside the Catholic community. What precipitated the project was a conference in Florida in 2009, the culminating event of a four-year study, Emerging Models of Pastoral Leadership, financed by a $2 million Lilly Endowment grant. The financing and the study have since been extended. The 1,200 people who showed up at the gathering, most of them lay, and the stories they told clearly demonstrated that change was under way.

Marriage: the second act

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Last May my wife left me. Packed up the car and drove with her father back to California, where we had been living prior to our relocation to Washington, D.C., for my job. We have been living on separate coasts since then, in separate lives, in separate realities. The only thing that binds us is the fact that we were married in the church and are still married, although neither one of us wears the gold bands that we had custom made from a small jewelry shop in Berkeley. I remember how excited we were when they were finished, trying them on and showing them off as we walked down the street arm in arm, even though they were very simple. Now, nothing is simple. Not our relationship, not our future, not our finances, and not our emotions as we try to make sense of the past several years.

Tips for a kid-friendly parish

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My daughter is squirming in my arms, as I unsuccessfully try to bribe her into behaving with Goldfish crackers. For a 20-month-old, she can fling them a pretty good distance. Meanwhile, my 3-year-old son has taken off, and I’m afraid he’s headed for the tempting plate of Communion bread waiting for the offertory procession.

Then I hear him: “Mama, I have to go poopie!”

Incoming president of bishops among those surprised by his election

BALTIMORE -- New York Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan was as surprised as anyone that he was elected president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Nov. 16.

"I'm surprised, I'm honored, I'm flattered and a tad intimidated," Dolan told Catholic News Service shortly after being elected in an unprecedented departure from the USCCB's normal tradition of electing the conference vice president to the presidency.

He said he had no idea what was behind the bishops' 128-111 third-ballot vote to make him president instead of current vice president Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson, Ariz.

The election of Archbishop Dolan marks the first time since the bishops' conference was reorganized into its current form in 1966 that a sitting vice president who sought the presidency did not win the election. In two elections, circumstances dictated that the vice president did not rise to lead the conference.

In 1974, St. Paul-Minneapolis Coadjutor Archbishop Leo C. Byrne, vice president since 1971, died less than a month before his term ended.

Spurning tradition, Bishops elect Dolan as new president

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BALTIMORE – The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Nov. 16 elected Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York as president of the conference for the next 3 years.

It was the first time in the modern history of the conference, since it was reorganized in the 1960s after the Second Vatican Council, that a sitting vice president who was on the presidential ballot did not get elected president.

Scathing report on missal translations sent to bishops

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NCR has obtained a copy of a scathingly critical report of what was to be the final Vatican-approved English translation of the Roman Missal. The report was sent to English-speaking bishops’ conferences around the world.

Read the full report: Areas of Difficulty in the Received Text of the Missal.

The professional expertise of the report suggests that it was probably written by a group of scholars who were involved in the 2008 translation of the Roman missal by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy, or ICEL.

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August 15-28, 2014

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