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Faith & Parish

Among Black Catholics, a deep loss

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Cleveland

Sr. Sheila Marie Tobbe glanced down the corridor at the Thea Bowman Center where people were gathering in front of a half door opening to a food pantry. Richard Bass was on the other side of the opening, under a sign that explained how many bags of food could be handed out depending on the size of a family.

He's been doing this for years, but he's rarely seen things so bad. In this already poor section of Cleveland, the recession keeps adding to the line for food.

"That woman with two children," Tobbe said quietly at a distance, "is facing foreclosure." She pointed out another woman, a friend of the first -- there are several children between them -- who is facing the same fate. The center had become a refuge.

Cleveland diocese shaken by seismic shifts

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Cleveland

When I arrived here April 28, the gloom and anxiety hung thick in the air around some Catholic leaders and groups who were either grieving or making plans to resist the news they had received the preceding month: Of the diocese's 224 parishes, 29 would close, 41 would merge, meaning the diocese would end up with 18 new parishes and a net loss of 52.

The situation in Cleveland is one of the latest indications of the seismic shifts in demographics, structure, ministry and other fundamental elements rattling the Catholic church in the United States. The forces moving the plates beneath the surface of the Catholic landscape are many, some well known and obvious, some unseen and mysterious.

Improving the bishop-priest relationship

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Mission Management

The rapport between a bishop and his priests is the single most important factor contributing to the health of a diocese. So says Bishop Blase Cupich, who is in a position to know. The 60-year-old Nebraska native and former chair of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Vocations heads the Rapid City, S.D., diocese.

“It is clear to me after more than a decade of serving as a diocesan bishop that the one nonnegotiable for the growth of a local church is a sound and vibrant relationship between a bishop and the members of the presbyterate [the body of priests within a diocese],” said Cupich.

Swine flu prompts changes in Mass practices

As the number of swine influenza cases increases around the world, some U.S. bishops are suggesting ways that pastors can alter certain practices within the celebration of Mass in an effort to prevent the spread of the highly contagious virus.

The swine flu is transmitted when an infected person coughs or sneezes around others. It can also be spread when a person touches a surface contaminated with the virus and then touches his or her eyes, nose or mouth.

Philadelphia Catholics, in bad times, face hard choices

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For the family of Kraig Null, a financial planner who owns his own business, the downturn in the economy means cutting back and living simpler, but one item he doesn’t intend to cut is the family’s donation to their parish, St. Thomas of Villanova, located in a wealthy suburb of Philadelphia.

Those donations, part of the weekly collection, are essential to funding many organizations within the Catholic community in this region, and one that is especially dependent on help from the outside is St. Thomas’s sister parish, Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament located in West Philadelphia, a poor area of the city.

Why do people leave their churches?

Think former parishioners have left the pews because of sex scandals? Or because they no longer believe in God?

While some have departed for those reasons, the vast majority of former Catholics and former Protestants who are now unaffiliated with any faith have "just gradually drifted away," according to the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

Kansas City Bishop to pro-lifers: 'We are at war!'

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Editor’s note: Robert W. Finn, bishop of the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese, delivered the keynote address, "Warriors for the Victory of Life,” at the 2009 Gospel of Life Convention held at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park, Kan., earlier this month. He called the “church militant” — the church on earth — into a battle for human souls in defense of the sacredness and dignity of human life. His complete address follows:

Thank you for coming together for this second annual Gospel of Life Convention, cosponsored by the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas and the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. It is a privilege to welcome you and greet you this morning. I am grateful for the encouragement of your presence and – as a Bishop it is my solemn and joyful duty to do all I can to fortify you in your own faith.

But as I speak a word of encouragement today I also want to tell you soberly, dear friends, “We are at war!”

We are at war.

Conference tells administrators it's their time to shine

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On Monday, March 30, I delivered a keynote address at the National Association of Church Personnel Administrators convocation, held this year in Oak Brook, Ill. The association brings together human-resource officers for dioceses, religious orders and other groups within the Catholic church.

I hung around the edges of the conference for a while, and doing so offered an object lesson in the two different levels at which the Catholic church is struggling to respond to the current economic crisis. On the one hand, the church acts as a voice of conscience, applying its social teaching to broad public-policy debates; on the other hand, the church is also itself a large financial enterprise obliged to make hard choices about how to cope with declining resources and mounting costs.

The group assembled in Oak Brook represented the church’s frontline in responding to this second set of challenges.

Does U.S. culture really care about 'family values'?

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Remember those parenting promises you made before you had children? “I won’t let my kid act up in public” or “I will feed my baby only organic fruits and vegetables” or “I will calmly discipline my child without yelling.”

Mine was: “I will not allow my children to become walking billboards.” No Scooby-Doo T-shirts; no Spider-Man shoes; no Dora the Explorer underpants. That includes Disney diaper bags and Winnie the Pooh shampoo, too.

One day, some seven months into parenthood, after changing my son’s diaper, I realized that blazoned across his little butt was none other than Elmo, the red, furry Muppet of “Tickle Me” fame. How had I missed that his Pampers were already prepping him to be a “Sesame Street” fan?

American Catholics, diverse and holy

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Since I was an undergraduate I've believed that the church would fare better if the hierarchy had keener listening skills. As a psychotherapist, one of my most valuable tools has been the ability to attend to persons in pain. Counselors know healing and growth may be promoted when someone attends to another, passes no judgment, validates the person's input, and manifests genuine compassion for the other's needs and concerns.

I am not saying that church leaders need to be like therapists, but then maybe that is a workable paradigm. If we more frequently experienced being heard by the powers that be, then many more of us might come to believe we are the people of God. Most active Catholics, in spite of little affirmation from church leaders, know that they are indeed God's people.

In his book Sense of the Faithful, Jerome Baggett reveals the variety of ways in which the people of God both grasp and grapple with their Catholicism.

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August 15-28, 2014

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