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Faith & Parish

Churches share ongoing Lenten ecumenical mission


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.”

Involved laity and determined pastor rebuild St. Louis parish


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.

New study examines factors that spur growth of US congregations

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.

Woman charged with embezzling $1 million from NY archdiocese


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.

New ordinariate and 1980 pastoral provision: An analysis


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.

Philadelphia archdiocese announces major school closings


Updated 5:45 p.m. central

Dramatic realignment to the Philadelphia Catholic school system is coming. Today, the archdiocese announced that it will close four high schools, and 44 elementary schools will either close or merge with other schools.

News of which schools were affected spread after a closed-door meeting this morning between the archdiocese and priests and school administrators at Neumann University. At a press conference this afternoon, Archbishop Charles Chaput spoke with optimism for the school system’s future.

“I’m convinced, if we take this report to heart … we can renew Catholic education across the archdiocese,” he said.

Other key recommendations from the commission were the establishment of a foundation dedicated exclusively to raising money to support schools; a new governance model consisting of an executive education board chaired by the auxiliary bishop overseeing Catholic education and four additional boards representing each area of education; and advocacy for government support to allow parents free choice in schools.


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April 10-23, 2015


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