Thursday, April 5, 2018

Murrieta -- The Phillips Model?

Regarding the very iffy homeschool "support" project mooted on the Holy Martyrs website, my regular correspondent comments,
This is a description of the projected parish school which has remained on the STM, Scranton website for several years, despite the fact that the plan was mothballed after the bookstore/coffee shop plan fell through. The school plan was developed with the help of Fe Phillips, who came to Scranton to look at the existing school property and advise Fr Bergman on the way forward. Granted it did take OLA seven years to open the Academy after acquiring property and building a church.
My correspondent also gave a more detailed history of the various school efforts in the OCSP:
This is an apparently successful Catholic part-time school that began at SJE, Calgary but then moved elsewhere. It is not clear whether the move was related to lack of support from the parish leadership or the need for better facilities, but the fact that SJE is trying again with something apparently quite similar suggests that SJE parents and children did not remain involved with the St John Choir Schola.

Here is the announcement of the start-up of the Maria Kaupas Academy at STM, Scranton and this year's registration form. The fundraising campaign does not seem to have been a success.

Here is the announcement of Toronto's Baldwin Academy, now defunct. Fr Ousley also floated the idea of a homeschool support group at St Michael's, the predecessor of SJB, Bridgeport. Once again, OLA has been an inspiration to other OCSP clergy but they have discovered that it is not an easy model to imitate.

Without detailed knowledge of these efforts, I would have to say that two possible reasons suggest themselves for their failure. One is simply that they weren't adequately planned and funded -- and funding for such tentative efforts could not have been a major undertaking. This could relate to the idea that by and large, they were Potemkin villages, intended primarily to make the OCSP priests involved, or the ordinary himself, look good, at least until everyone forgot about them. The Murrieta website gives this impression, certainly.

If they were sincere, however feckless, a possibility for their failure would be that the sort of people who make up -- or at least, made up in earlier times -- the vestries and standing committees of TEC parishes and dioceses didn't move to the OCSP, as they didn't move to the "continuing" denominations. These would include major donors and those who can volunteer legal and organizational talent to such efforts. Another very simple explanation could be lack of threshold demand from the tiny groups that make up the OCSP communities.

Whatever one says about Fr Phillips, it appears that he was able to attract a solid group of laity in the early days of developing the Our Lady of the Atonement project, and he attracted enough people to support the school. But it's becoming plainer that he was a huckster as well. What he's tried to pass on in the OCSP seems to be more of the huckster side, but as my regular correspondent points out, it took seven years to get the Atonement Academy started.

What this suggests is that long-term focus and behind-the-scenes effectiveness haven't been favored in the OCSP, and what it's gotten instead has been self-promotion and short-term opportunism from the marginally qualified clergy who seem to be most visible. This is simply not a recipe for success.