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Faith & Parish

Guidance offered to resolve conflicts in liturgical calendar this year

WASHINGTON -- The earthly calendar is causing some conflicts in the liturgical calendar as 2010 heads to a close.

The third Sunday of Advent falls this year on Dec. 12, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe -- important to many U.S. Catholics, and especially Mexican-Americans. But because Sundays take precedence over feast days, only the readings for the third Sunday of Advent may be used on that day.

New York archdiocese calls for school closings

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NEW YORK -- A strategic plan for the elementary schools of the New York archdiocese will close underperforming schools to reduce growing deficits, channel funds from the sale or rental of shuttered properties to an education fund and replace the traditional parish governance model with a regional structure.

The three-year plan, named "Pathways to Excellence," was released Oct. 5.

"We like the analogy of the biblical vine grower," Timothy J. McNiff, archdiocesan superintendent of schools, told Catholic News Service. "When you prune a tree, you're prepared for growth."

McNiff said the short-term target is to reduce by half the subsidies the archdiocese gives to struggling schools. "We can only sustain deficit spending for so long," he said.

In 2009, the archdiocese spent $30 million to support needy parishes and schools.

More than 56,000 students are educated in 188 parish and archdiocesan elementary schools throughout 10 counties. Private Catholic schools enroll another 4,800 students. The archdiocese includes Manhattan, Staten Island, Bronx and seven counties north and west of New York.

Vocation directors report fourth year of increased interest

WASHINGTON -- New revelations of clergy sex abuse and the Vatican apostolic visitation of U.S. communities of women religious have not discouraged Catholics from considering a religious vocation, with the majority of vocation directors seeing an increase in inquiries for the fourth straight year, according to a recent survey.

Bringing resources to US dioceses in need

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Poverty in the United States is at a 15-year high, according to the Census Bureau. It is expected to get worse. Forty-four million people -- one in seven residents -- are living on less than $10,830 as a single person or $22,050 as a family of four. Households inside major cities experienced a 1.9 percent increase in income, whereas households outside major cities experienced a 1.9 percent decline. Most poverty can be found in the South and West regions in the United States.

'No parish is safe'

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Canon 515, which gives a bishop unfettered power in determining which parishes to erect and which to suppress, was cited recently by the Vatican’s Supreme Court in its ruling that Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston correctly followed church procedures in closing parishes. The ruling was delivered in appeals by 10 parishes in Boston that had been closed.

Spiritual leaders in the battle zones

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Fr. Kenneth R. Beale, an active-duty Air Force major and chaplain, was preparing for his ninth deployment since 1996. This time around, he was scheduled to go to Afghanistan in March. Beale, pastor of St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Community on Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., the largest base in the free world, was scrambling to find his replacement. At times Reservist priests or civilian parish priests step in, other times he must ask retired clergy to cover his absence. There are some 1,500 Catholics at Eglin.

On other side of church closings, new reasons for hope

CLEVELAND -- Holly Nixon used to need only 10 minutes before the 9 a.m. Mass to pick up her elderly, disabled mother and find a parking spot close to the sanctuary door.

That was before St. William Catholic Church in Euclid merged with nearby St. Robert Bellarmine, which then closed, shifting hundreds of people into St. William's pews.

"Now I have to pick her up at 8:30," said Nixon, noting that the parking lot, expanded since the January merger, fills up pretty quickly on Sunday mornings.

Nixon's mother, Loretta Valencic, has been attending Mass for more than 50 years at St. William. The church is now Ss. Robert & William Catholic Church, the result of an extensive downsizing by the Cleveland Catholic Diocese.

Seventeen new parishes, involving 39 churches, have been created as a result of mergers since last year.

Ss. Robert & William stands as an example of how the consolidation -- however painful for the parishioners losing their churches -- can lead to growth and good will.

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