Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Fr Phillips Edging Back In At OLA?

A visitor reported that this past Sunday's bulletin at Our Lady of the Atonement mentioned an apparent revision in Fr Phillips's official retired status. The visitor says he threw it out before recognizing that he should have scanned it, but "[e]ssentially it said that Fr. Phillips will be traveling to the OCSP communities as Bp. Lopes wishes but also that he will be present at OLA because the new Pastor Fr. Lewis wants that."

In response to a question at a parish meeting concerning why Fr Phillips was to be replaced, Bp Lopes replied only that this was in a letter from the Holy Father. Nobody outside a small Houston group has seen exactly what's in this letter, and it's not clear how an apparently more active role for Fr Phillips at OLA conforms to this letter.

Normally, a priest of any denomination who retires or leaves a parish for any other reason is ethically constrained to discontinue any formal relations with the former parish. That Fr Phillips would own property immediately adjoining the parish property is a problem in this context, which Msgr Steenson recognized.

There is in fact a faction at OLA -- I don't know how large -- that would like to see the parish make a new start after the controversies surrounding Fr Phillips. I assume Fr Lewis knew what he was getting into when he accepted the assignment to OLA, but the announcement of a more or less official change in Fr Phillips's status is not encouraging for those who might prefer a clean break.

If anyone can send a scan or direct quote from Sunday's bulletin, I'll appreciate it. While there's a page on the OLA site for bulletins, this hasn't been updated since January.

UPDATE: Clearly the matter here is nuanced. My regular correspondent notes,

Well, the original announcement said Fr Phillips would be the "Pastor Emeritus," as I recall, which did not suggest that he would be completely absent, unlike the typical situation of a retired pastor, as you describe. Pastors Emeriti exist in some abundance, I've discovered. The designation is at the discretion of the diocesan bishop.

That may be, but that a bulletin would seek to clarify Fr Phillips's status -- which it's doing -- indicates some clarification was in order, My correspondent replied,

[Y]ou wouldn't name someone Pastor Emeritus if you expected him to give the place a wide berth. If anyone expected that he was indulging in wishful thinking. Bulletin notice was invoking Fr Lewis to underline that it was useless to protest.

Further,

Initial accounts, including Sr Thurley's typically thorough one in VOL, describe Fr Phillips' future role as involving significant ministry in the parish.
But that naturally implies someone was protesting something, or at minimum misunderstood something originally planned and announced. And the protest, perhaps based on misunderstanding, was presumably vocal enough to require a public slapdown. I don't see this developing well.

My advice to anyone with doubts about the OCSP, in San Antonio or anywhere else, continues to be to investigate diocesan options. Diocesan parishes are not uniform, and those that are successful are successful with good reason.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Correction On St Mary The Virgin

A visitor reports,
SMV Arlington didn't build its church as a catholic parish. They built it as an Episcopal parish, and the congregation and building withdrew from TEC under what appeared to be an extraordinary arrangement by Episcopal Bishop of Ft. Worth, Clarence Pope, who was sympathetic to the cause, to let them and the building go, and the Catholic bishop of Ft. Worth, to receive them under the Pastoral Provision. That was in 1991. They then worshipped as an independent congregation, under the care of the Catholic bishop, until Rome approved Fr. Hawkins' ordination in 1994.
Recall that Bp Pope traveled to Rome in 1993 to meet with Cardinal Ratzinger to present the proposal that led to Anglicanorum coetibus. Pope rather clearly had a personal agenda, although married, to become a full Catholic bishop. The release of St Mary the Virgin seems to have been connected with that plan.

Success Stories Or Potemkin Villages?

My regular correspondent sent me an e-mail entitled "Success Stories:
Amid the basement chapels and cafetoria there are of course OCSP parishes that own churches of substance. Holy Nativity, Payson; Christ the King Towson; Incarnation, Orlando; and St Barnabas, Omaha we have already discussed. Two groups---Mt Calvary, Baltimore and St John the Evangelist, Calgary---bought their churches from their respective TEC/ACC dioceses. Two others---St Thomas More, Scranton and St John the Baptist, Bridgeport---bought redundant churches from their respective Catholic dioceses.

And OLW, Houston; SMV, Arlington; and of course OLA, San Antonio have built churches. Once a congregation has its own building and facilities for social events and other activities it can offer the fullness of parish life which every Catholic needs and deserves, and there is a reasonable expectation of stability; when Fr Black retires he can be replaced by Fr White. Naturally this is the vision Bp Lopes has for the OCSP, but it is not easy to attain. Buildings are expensive to acquire and maintain and we can see that even a relatively successful church like SJE, Calgary can lose momentum quickly.

The manpower shortage, which is ultimately a financial shortage, leaves the North American Ordinariate very fragile. The OOLW just ordained ten deacons, all of whom will be holding at least a part-time diocesan assignment. Most have no ministry in any Ordinariate congregation. The OCSP under Bp Lopes has chosen not to follow this model, which I think is wise, but it means finding stipends, and this is very challenging.

I tend to think this assessment is too optimistic. Referring to a "manpower shortage" when the inside joke about the OCSP seems to be "more priests than people" misses the mark, it seems to me. There are three main groups of OCSP priests: those in middle age or approaching retirement, who are probably in surplus, who go to established communities as they are able, though their mobility is restricted. There are marginal candidates looking to come in with new groups-in-formation, though the groups as well as the candidates appear highly marginal, and I think my correspondent is right to call them make-work projects. Then there are the celibate seminarians, who have a good fallback position to move to dioceses should the OCSP go belly-up. Where is the shortage, though, if make-work projects are in train and the best prospects must certainly have Plan B in mind?

Two of eight full parishes, St John the Evangelist and Our Lady of the Atonement, face crises of transition.

The informal message we have is that St Barnabas is shrinking, as are other groups like St Timothy's that seemed promising five years ago. Others are tiny and not moving at all, like Our Lady of Good Counsel Jacksonville.

Every glimpse of real communities I've seen so far suggests I've been pretty accurate in estimating the OCSP membership in the low four figures -- though I would revise it to say low four figures and shrinking.

Monday, June 26, 2017

More On St Timothy's Fort Worth And St John Vianney Cleburne

Regarding yesterday's post, my regular correspondent commented
St Timothy's Ft Worth had over [60] people received when it entered the OCSP--- a large group by Ordinariate standards. The fact that their former rector was transferred to another community a year ago and has just been replaced this month, and even then only "pro tem," along with the move from a parish church to this small venue, suggests to me that the game plan is to unite St Timothy's under their former rector when his group---St John Vianney, Cleburne---builds their own church. The property has already been acquired, so this goal could be realised relatively soon.
I replied that this plan seems speculative, and plans for St John Vianney seem off in the indefinite future. My correspondent replied,
Hard to say if the St Timothy's parishioners are in on the plan; there was a notice on their website for at least six months to the effect that they would be getting a new priest in January 2017. It remained there into March. They used to post the weekly bulletin on the website but have not done so since moving to the Diocesan Center. There has been nothing on the website about Fr Kennedy's appointment. I think that the group has shrunk because those who have eyes can see that Houston is phasing them out, and have moved to St John Vianney or to a diocesan parish.
This is a further indication of the desultory and opportunistic nature of the OCSP. It isn't managing growth; instead, it's dodging indications of decline and looking for ways to merge shrinking communities without quite saying that's what it's doing.

Shifting the focus to St John Vianney, my correspondent points out

St John Vianney is one of two OCSP groups currently meeting in a school auditorium. Here is the "cafetorium" of Marti Elementary School set up for Sunday mass. An article in the Ordinariate Observer noted that 110 people attended a confirmation there in Fr Hough III's time so that gives you some idea of the capacity.

Attendance in the photo seems more like 50-60, heavily skewed to older age groups, and if one added the St Timothy group, you'd probably still have empty seats. It would be interesting to see details of the St John Vianney construction plans.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Chapel Veils

My regular correspondent sent me another photo of the chapel interior where St Timothy Fort Worth meets, this time during a DW mass:

Several of the women are wearing chapel veils, which bears out accounts I've had from time to time that chapel veils are common in the Texas communities. Msgr Charles Pope gives a pretty comprehensive discussion of the subject here. In brief, there is currently no Church policy on the subject, and head covering for women is completely voluntary.

On the other hand, this post at the Catholic Answers Forum begins to reflect my own views:

From the days when mastadons roamed the earth (ie pre-conciliar times) this male recalls women normally wearing hats in church. Whether a dressy hat or a beret, it didn't matter. Chapel veils (not mantillas) were generally considered an "emergency measure" and many women kept one in their purse "just in case."

I recall that, in grade school, the nuns always had a supply of simple chapel veils at hand for the girls who didn't have a hat for First Friday or other occasions. Those who could afford it would pay 25 cents. Those who could not got it free. The important thing was a head covering, not the money.

I've always liked the tradition of a head covering for women, and I still do (even though I do not voluntarily attend the OF). At the same, though, I don't have a problem with women going bare-headed, even to the EF.

These days, there seems to be this mantilla-cult that has emerged, and I just don't get it. If the women are of Spanish descent, it's fine because they know how to wear it. OTOH, those who are not, do not: they generally wrap themselves up in the thing, just about like a burka. EF or OF, I do have a problem with that.

The lady in the center of the photo above strikes me as an adherent of the veil-as-burka school, and beyond that, I continue to view photos snapped during mass as tacky. Indeed, I would say that the phtographer, perhaps a church lady of the sort we've seen before, focused on the burka-lady receiving the sacrament as something especially holy.

All I can say is that this is a very small group of a size reflecting the small venues we've been seeing here. A drop-in could well get a sense of ostentatious exclusivity, feel uncomfortable, and not return. Now, maybe I've got the wrong impression, and in that case, this small group will grow and thrive.

Er, how long have they been in that small chapel? How's the building fund coming along?

Saturday, June 24, 2017

St George Republic, MO

My regular correspondent comments,

This is the chapel in the former retreat centre which is now the Seraiah family's home. There are three services a week here, one followed by a Bible study. Fr Seraiah is also responsible for two diocesan parishes in the area and occasionally services are held jointly with them. When the group started meeting here last summer it was "Bring your own chair" so progress has been made in upgrading the worship space; the long term plan is to build a church on the property. Fr Seraiah's background is evangelical Protestant and while his theology seems soundly, and conservatively, Catholic I do not see much in his approach that is Anglican. I'm not quite sure why he wants to be in Ordinariate rather than diocesan ministry (he spent the first four years after his ordination as a diocesan priest in Iowa). On the other hand, the local lay leadership was very anxious to find an OCSP priest who would relocate, and unlike some Fr Seraiah has been prepared to do that many times in his ministry.
It seems to me that the Seraiah saga is illustrative of the desultory and opportunistic development of the OCSP -- he was hired by the ACA St Aidan's Des Moines parish on the assumption that it would go into the OCSP, but it backtracked. At that point, he was ordained a married Catholic priest in effect to rescue him from that circumstance. Eventually he has been able to take over a very minimal startup effort on a part-time basis.

So far, it looks like there's nothing unusual in the highly provisional arrangements we see, nor the very low attendance.

Friday, June 23, 2017

St Barnabas Omaha, NE

Here is a view of the interior from this past Corpus Christi Sunday:

My regular correspondent notes,

The congregation does not seem large, if this Sunday was typical; however the community must have considerable resources. [Correction: the parish always owned its property, a matter that was resolved in litigation.] A new organ was installed; extensive repairs and upgrades to the church are continuing;; a new rectory has just been purchased, and I believe the parish has another building which will provide an apartment for the music director, and possibly the sexton. Fr Catania has been resident and assisting at a local diocesan parish but will be taking on full-time ministry at St Barnabas next month. An existing Catholic school is relocating next door to the church. The website has been completely overhauled and there is a general air of energy and enterprise about the place which is a refreshing change from some other communities we've looked at. St Barnabas is not yet a full parish but Fr Catania is working on that.

Pastors like Fr Catania and Fr Stainbrook who came directly from TEC rather than a continuing body seem to bring a different mentality to their new parish responsibilities. They expect to grow and to be connected to the local diocese as well as the Ordinariate. I think too many of the others are content to continue as a tiny outpost of orthodoxy in an unappreciative world

I would say that with the steadily shrinking job market in TEC, for a male priest to have had any sort of sustained career there -- especially in light of increasing demand for women, openly same-sex-attracted, and even transgender candidates -- means they've got to be especially well qualified, and this will carry over into the OCSP. "Continuers", seminarians who weren't ordained in TEC, or those who had more marginal careers, will perform pretty much the same in the OCSP, with some exceptions.

While the interior of St Barnabas is clearly much nicer than the great majority of OCSP communities, it's worth noting that the nave looks less than half full, with many empty pews. This is consistent with my memory of TEC, where on many Sundays, we had to lean across two rows of pews to exchange the peace.

At its best, the OCSP is cloning TEC, but more frequently it's cloning "continuers". I think Bp Lopes has to rethink some basics here. One thing I notice about our successful diocesan parish -- which has been this way for many generations -- is that a diocesan vocations director is in residence there, and promising seminarians spend summer internships there. Associates rotate into other parishes and transmit their experiences and abilities more widely that way.

It seems to me that Bp Lopes needs to pay more attention to personnel issues while closing the least successful communities and relying on the most capable priests to move around and build on success.

UPDATE: A visitor informs me that there was a major bequest to the parish in late 2015, which accounts for the spending that's taken place. However, as reflected in the photo, attendance has steadily declined as well.