Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Vignettes Of Small Group Life

My regular correspondent has brought me up to date on how the OCSP is thriving in Massachusetts and Kansas City.
The transition I am looking forward to with morbid interest is that which will have to take place when Fr Bradford retires from St Athanasius, Chestnut Hill. At the moment the members of that group seem quite adamant that they remain a congregation of the Archdiocese of Boston, despite my understanding that the Pastoral Provision for parishes/congregations ended early last year.

Meanwhile St Gregory the Great, the OCSP group formerly meeting in Stoneham, MA under the leadership of Fr Liias, now retired, is presenting itself as the present tenant of the 11:30 am Sunday slot at St Lawrence, Chestnut Hill. There was a lengthy discussion regarding the makeup of the current congregation here whose implications are interesting. Regardless of the current canonical status of the group, the existence of two websites is unusual, shall we say, and suggests that lay leadership remains in two camps.

Fr Bradford seems to think his retirement is imminent. Mr Guivens has frequently pointed out that the St Lawrence location is awkward and particularly so for the former Stoneham congregation, so that will be another possible bone of contention.

Regarding Kansas City, the news is:
Here is the story in Fr Davis' own words, of how he brought the Pastoral Provision community of of Our Lady of Hope into the OCSP. After about two years of combining full-time hospital chaplaincy with ministering to OLH, Fr Davis was reincardinated in the Diocese of Kansas City-St Joseph, and is now the pastor of a local parish. His replacement was Fr Randy Sly, an OCSP priest who had moved to Kansas City for family reasons and became Associate Pastor at St Therese North there, a position he still holds. He is also the Pastor of Our Lady of Sorrows, the host parish for OLH.

The OCSP group may have felt that they got the short end of the stick when it came to Fr Davis' pastoral attention, but they are even less visible under Fr Sly's management. The website remains unchanged since it was first set up by Fr Davis; the last FB post was Christmas 2016. On the FB page of Our Lady of Sorrows, we see a new sign for OLS, largely contributed to by the Ordinariate community, mentioning the DW service time. It also displays a OLS website address, not yet active, as a commenter notes (sign was erected last May). So perhaps it's just that the interweb isn't Fr Sly's thing.

A permanent and a transitional deacon were recently ordained for OLH; perhaps the latter, a former CEC colleague of Fr Sly's, is slated to take over the group when he becomes a priest, although he is a near-contemporary. If I were a member of the OLH mission I wouldn't be getting my hopes up about a new beginning.

I think we can refer to these newer examples to draw a more complete profile of all but a dozen or so OCSP communities, new and old:
  • They are effectively ghettos, isolated from diocesan parishes by schedule and location, possibly as well by perceived social class division.
  • Where OCSP priests happen to serve diocesan parishes as well as OCSP groups, the diocesan parishes get priority, probably due to level of attendance and financial contribution, as well as more local attention from the diocesan bishop. Bp Lopes is in Houston, the diocesan is nearby.
  • The OCSP groups ghettoize themselves, apparently feeling superior to diocesan Catholics, to the extent that in Chestnut Hill, the OCSP clique is separate from the Pastoral Provision clique in the same location.
  • However, the small communities are subject to actuarial conditions and the shortage of deployable OCSP priests. When their administrator retires, the little group is abandoned by the OCSP's bishop.
  • It does not appear that the OCSP makes any effort in these circumstances to prepare such groups for this eventuality or transition them to life in a diocesan parish. (This would be an effective admission of failure, of course, which would not be politically acceptable in the current environment.)
It's worthwhile to enumerate just some of the sacramental, devotional and fellowship options that are routinely available in diocesan parishes but are effectively denied to these self-ghettoizing groups:
  • Frequent masses
  • Frequent confessions
  • Rosary groups
  • Adoration
  • LifeTeen, Steubenville, and other youth activities
  • Bible study
  • Special events, presentations, and lectures
  • Parish social activities, fairs, and fundraisers
  • Ethnic celebrations
  • Counseling.
The problem I see is that Anglicanorum coetibus is by its nature self-isolating a small population of new Catholics -- and an additional population of unknown size made up of angry traddies looking for a new separatist option -- from the wide diversity and enormous resources of diocesan life. I see no indication that Houston is encouraging any OCSP laity to familiarize themselves with the wider Church. But recognizing that we're already seeing Bp Lopes abandon groups for whom he can't find a replacement administrator, he's doing them no favors here.