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Faith & Parish

Foreign priests, enculturation programs proliferate

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WASHINGTON
It was simple for Uganda native Father Alfred Onyutha to bring his ministry to America almost four years ago -- he filled out a form and was on his way.
"I didn't have much (of an) interview," Father Onyutha said from his office at St. Margaret's Church in Woodbury Heights, N.J.

But behind the scenes, the Diocese of Camden, N.J., had a lot to consider when reviewing Father Onyutha's credentials. He needed to commit to five years, have a working knowledge of English and bring enough money to buy a car. His sending bishop needed to sign off on things like physical and psychological health, the ability to live and work with people of diverse backgrounds and freedom from demanding family obligations, according to guidelines from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Because dioceses are not required to follow the bishops' guidelines, procedures vary widely for accepting and orientating international priests. Some common steps are background checks, training in the Virtus child protection program, Homeland Security procedures and visa assistance.

Secondary role suggested for rebel Episcopal church

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Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams suggested Monday, July 27, that the Episcopal church may have to accept a secondary role in the Anglican Communion after voting to allow gay bishops and blessings for same-sex unions.

Williams, the spiritual leader of the world's 77 million Anglicans, said "very serious anxieties have already been expressed," about the pro-gay resolutions approved this month by the Episcopal church at its General Convention in Anaheim, Calif.

Sticking with an imperfect (church) fit

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Parish Life

In his rule, St. Benedict describes one of the decrees of monastic life. The monk "is to promise, before God and his saints to be stable" -- that is, to settle in a place, one place, for life. It is not an assumption we share. Indeed, the notion of a grown man still living in the house where he was born conjures images of instability, mental and emotional. We imagine Boo Radley, afraid of the world beyond his porch.

Our world is shaped and defined not by stability of place, but by mobility and its partner, consumer choice. The premise of consumer choice is that, somewhere, the perfect fit between product and purchaser exists. It is the responsibility of the producer to offer it, the responsibility of the purchaser to find it. Shop till you drop.

American churchgoers no longer prize stability of place in worship any more than we prize stability of place in the rest of our lives. Accordingly, there is a body of literature on leaving one church and finding another. Little is written about choosing to stay, as sticking with an uncomfortable fit is never thought wise in a consumer culture.

Mail-in ballot: bishops approve liturgical translations

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops announced July 17 that four liturgical texts for use in English-speaking countries have been approved by the bishops, nearly a month after their spring meeting in San Antonio.

The texts contain prefaces for the Mass for various occasions; votive Masses and Masses for the dead; solemn blessings for the end of Mass; and prayers over the people and eucharistic prayers for particular occasions, such as for evangelization or ordinations.

Solar power: Let the sunshine in

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Mission Management

The “environmental crisis,” we are reminded, is a “moral challenge” that requires us “to examine how we use and share the goods of the earth, what we pass on to future generations, and how we live in harmony with God’s creation.”

Just the latest environmental pabulum from the trendy religious left? Hardly. Those words were promulgated by the U.S. bishops in their 1991 statement “Renewing the Earth: An Invitation to Reflection and Action on Environment in Light of Catholic Social Teaching.”

When Vatican II came to the Bronx, Part II

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In the late sixties, for the first time I could remember, priests came to the house for dinner. Fr. Eugene was a favorite because he always performed a few magic tricks over coffee. Fr. Ignatius, who oversaw the altar boys, somehow scrounged up enough money from the modest parish fund one Christmas to buy each of us knock-hockey games.

There was Sr. Richard, of course, who taught us folk songs. Sr. Stephan was her best friend. By 1970, they would be allowed to revert to their birth names: Maryann and Karen -- it was a revelation to know them by their actual names, and picture them as real daughters who once wrote their own book reports and drew their own Mother's Day cards. By 1971, they would lose the face-enveloping nun's habits, too, and wear only a small scarf on their heads. But they were never demystified to me. They were always the face of the church in my eyes: only now that face had cheeks and hair -- and a smile.

Computer tool aims to optimize priest assignments

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Mission Management

So few priests. So many parishes. What's a bishop to do? This question may rightly belong in a Sunday New York Times' crossword puzzle, but it's real and it's at the center of long-term planning in dioceses around the country. It becomes more complicated when priests' language skills are a key factor in parish assignments. Some dioceses, for example, have parishes that are predominantly Spanish-speaking, but there are not enough Spanish-speaking priests to cover the parishes.

Fired! Do church employees get unemployment benefits?

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Mission Management

Unemployment is difficult. For many, it's downright tragic. But at least when the hammer falls there's the guarantee of a half year's worth of benefits through the government's unemployment compensation system.

Unless you work for the church. Churches and religious organizations are exempt from paying unemployment taxes, which fund the system.

During another brutal economic environment — the Great Depression — Congress enacted the Federal Unemployment Tax Act in 1935. The act called for a cooperative federal-state program of benefits to unemployed workers. It is financed by a federal excise tax on wages paid by employers in "covered employment," explains attorney and certified public accountant Richard Hammar, in an article titled "The Church as Employer: Unemployment Taxes" (Church Law & Tax Report).

The federal act was amended in 1970 "to exempt service performed in the employ of a church … or an organization which is operated primarily for religious purposes and which is operated, supervised, controlled or principally supported by a church," says Hammar.

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July 18-31, 2014

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