Program #0286 for Thursday, April 26, 2012: Co-Workers in the Vineyard; Single Catholic women; Faith formation on vacation; Promoting vocations

April 26, 2012

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Summary of today’s show: Our regular Thursday panel of Scot Landry, Susan Abbott, Fr. Roger Landry, and Gregory Tracy discussed the week’s headlines including the annual Co-Workers in the Vineyard conference; Emily Stimpson’s new book that gives hope to single Catholic women; keeping your kids Catholic during vacation; Clergy assignments; and concrete steps that parishes can take to promote vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

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Today’s host(s): Scot Landry and Susan Abbott

Today’s guest(s): Fr. Roger Landry, executive editor of The Anchor, the newspaper of the Fall River diocese; and Gregory Tracy, managing editor of The Pilot, the newspaper of the Boston archdiocese

Links from today’s show:

  • The Anchor
  • The Pilot
  • Some of the stories discussed on this show will be available on The Pilot’s and The Anchor’s websites on Friday morning. Please check those sites for the latest links.

Today’s topics:

1st segment: Scot and Susan caught up on their week and Susan said it’s been a difficult week for her as she’s been to the funerals of three people close to her. She talked about the hope and consolation of her faith. They also talked about the Co-Workers in the Vineyard Conference and spoke about encountering listeners to the show.

Scot also discussed his recent work preparing for the next phase of the educational campaign for the effort against legalized physician-assisted suicide in the Commonwealth. He recorded some talks that will be posted on the campaign’s website SuicideIsAlwaysATragedy.com.

2nd segment: Scot said the there is an annual conference in the spring for clergy and the laity called Co-Workers in the Vineyard. Susan said what’s impressive is that whole parish staffs come to the conference together. She said the theme was excellence in pastoral leadership. The keynote speaker was Fr. Michael Keating and Msgr William Fay gave an update on the pastoral planning process. Cardinal Se├ín began the day with Mass. Janet Benestad gave a talk on physician-assisted suicide. Scot said that presentation will be available in a different format on the assisted suicide education website.

Susan said there was a panel discussion as well with a number of pastors. They discussed what it was like to enter a parish as a new pastor and to bring parishes together. Scot said a number of ministries support and sponsor this event.

Greg tracy said they put this story on the front page because they want to raise awareness of the event and increase attendance at these types of events. It can be easy to get focused on your day to day work. Scot mentioned that there are two seminars next week on the same topic, one for clergy and the other for laity. The topic is the book Women, Sex, and the Church: The Case for Catholic Teaching.

Fr. Roger said they have a large article in The Anchor about the book “The Catholic Girl’s Survival Guide for the Single Years” because he often hears from young faithful Catholic women on their despair at finding a good husband and remaining single in those years. He found the book to be a great book and he said Emily is a tremendous writer.

Fr. Roger said any young woman listening to the show and is in this situation would find this book to be a great help. He said parents, friends, and priests could also read the book to understand how to help support women in these circumstances because a lot of the time we inadvertently cause pain to those in these circumstances by what we say, even when well meaning.

While working on a story featuring vocations, Stimpson had spent some time talking to nuns, priests and married couples. She listened to them say, “The vocation fills the desires of your hear!.” Well. she would counter, “God never drags you kicking and screaming into any vocation you don’t wont to go into, so why would being single be called a vocation?”

“We don’t want to be single; this isn’t filling the desires of my heart,” said Stimpson. Few ever cry about becoming a nun or priest or being married, she added. It wasn’t until she talked to a priest who was the vocations director for the Archdiocese of Denver that she got her answer. “He said there is no single vocation,” said Stimpson, meaning there is no vocation that does not involve the consecration of one’s self as a gift to God and others. “That was helpful in that I’m not imagining things – that makes sense to me. There’s not a lot out there explaining why it’s not a vocation.”

”There are millions of single people around going, ‘Hey! What about us?’” continued Stimpson. “So even though it’s been made clear that there is no single vocation, no one had really developed why that was the case. That’s when I realized how there was so much imprecision in how people talked about vocation. Sometimes they’re talking about vocations to holiness, or how my job is a vocation – all are using these words but not in the same way. We need to sit down and take 3 step back and define our terms, so that’s what I try to do in the first chapter.”

“Women want a faithful spouse who won’t ask us to commit a mortal sin before or after marriage, and those guys are not easy to come by. We have to own the situation,” she said. “that we’ve made this choice and made the decision to shop from this very small pool of eligible men. So when you see it and own it, and there’s an explanation, that’s what helps. Being told to console ourselves for this made-up primary vocation doesn’t help women.”

Susan thought the distinction that there is no vocation to the single life to be very interesting. She said she sympathizes with how difficult it is to me someone today. Fr. Roger said there will be another article next week in which she talks about practical ways women can deal with this situation and can continue to enjoy life and take advantage of their free time to do good, to focus on what they have, and make themselves attractive to potential suitors.

In the Pilot, this week, Susan has a column writing about Faith Formation during vocation.

The primary place for faith development is in the family where parents are their children’s first and most long-lasting
religious education teachers. Parents are not alone in this work – parishes partner with parents in the faith formation
of youngsters. During the summer months, when children and teenagers are not in school, families have a special opportunity to nurture the faith in family life.

She had six concrete suggestions for families. She said first that we continue to go to Mass every Sunday. We don’t take a vacation from worshipping God. They can also take time to pray with their children, even if they begin with something simple like asking God to bless the dinner. They can share books on the faith and she suggested people could go to the Daughters of St. Paul store in Dedham or the Carmelite book shop in Peabody. They can go to confession together as a family. On long car rides, have a time when the electronics are off and have a conversation. She also said there are great feast days for saints in the summer. Find out the saint of the day online and talk about it. Scot further suggested taking a family day trip to a beautiful church or shrine or retreat center.

Greg concurred that some of the best conversations he’s had with his kids have been on car rides, whether long or short. Susan said it’s a captive audience and Greg said it’s often one of the few times that you can be alone with the child and speak heart to heart. Fr. Roger said Susan has all the main thoughts there. He added that people might want to attend daily Mass when they can as well. He added that as families travel that they should enjoy the beauty of God’s creation because it reminds us of the Creator who has done all this for us and to thank Him for it.

Scot said in the Pilot this week also was a new official announcement that Fr. John L. Sullivan was leaving as Pastor of St. Gerard Majella in Canton as of June 5 and will be accepting a new pastoral assignment. There was also the official announcement that Fr. Kevin Sepe will leave St. Francis in Braintree to become Secretary for Pastoral Life and Leadership.

Also in the newspaper are four profiles of priests who will be accepting senior priest/retirement status: Fr. Richard Crowley, Fr. Henry Jennings, Fr. James Rafferty, and Fr. Francis Daley. Fr. Jennings has been at St. Joseph Parish in Somerville for 45 years, since 1966. They also note that Fr. James Rafferty was ordained in his home parish of Holy Name in Roxbury because there were 5 men from the same parish being ordained together.

3rd segment: Scot said Fr. Roger’s editorial this week is on how parishes can help promote vocations as we look forward to Good Shepherd Sunday. Fr. Roger said we need to pray for vocations first. One of the reasons for the shortage of priestly vocations is because we haven’t been praying as insistently as we ought to for the gift of new priests. The second thing we need to do is invite young people to consider it. He remembers at his home parish of St. Michael’s in Lowell, how women would approach him at 5 years old and encourage him to consider it. The third stage is to encourage our own families.

There’s a tremendous example of this type of vocational soil in a superb prayer booklet published in 2007 by the Vatican’s Congregation for Clergy. Entitled “Adoration, Reparation and Spiritual Motherhood for Priests,” it lifted up as a model of the type of prayer to the Lord of the harvest that was done in the tiny village of Lu Monferrato in northern Italy. In 1881, when secularism and virulent anti-clericalism were becoming increasingly pronounced, the mothers of this tiny village of a few thousand inhabitants, conscious of the need for priestly vocations, began to gather each Tuesday afternoon for eucharistic adoration to ask the Harvest Master to send priestly laborers. They would together make the following prayer: “O God, grant that one of my sons may become a priest! I myself want to live as a good Christian and want to guide my children always to do what is right, so that I may receive the grace, O God, to be allowed to give You a holy priest!” That prayer, their fervent desire for vocations, and their home’s and parish’s great awareness of the love of God in the blessing of priestly vocations, bore more fruit than any of them could have ever imagined. In the span of a few decades, this one village parish smaller than many parishes in the Diocese of Fall River – produced 152 priestly vocations and 171 religious women to 41 different congregations.

Then Fr. Roger said we’d never have a shortage of priests in any diocese if one young man from each parish entered the seminary every eight years. Many of the seminarians who start don’t get ordained so we’d have a new priest from each parish every 12 years. If a parish has 100 boys, then you’d have one vocation to the priesthood out of every 100.

Scot said he has advocated in the pastoral planning process that if a parish produces regular vocations to the priesthood or religious life that should be part of the weighting of the vibrancy and strength of the parish.

Scot said there’s been a lot of coverage of the Vatican’s decision on a leading leadership of women’s religious. Fr. Roger said the mainstream media has framed the story as old men clamping down on all religious sisters. He said he hopes it will eventually become clear that this is about ensuring the Catholicity of certain groups of religious sisters. He said this isn’t about all women religious, but the leadership of the LCWR, which has done some things in recent decades that leads many bishops wondering whether they support the Church’s teachings, including abortion, priestly ordination, healthcare, moral theology, and more. He said the great sisters who have served us over the course of time will eventually be heard and will say that this reform is what they want too.

Scot said his sense is that you have the typical liberal newspapers talking a story narrative for this which is “Conservative organization continuing the ‘War on Women’”. The Church is the most pro-woman organization there is, but part of this the normal election cycle of 2012 where pro-Obama columnists stirring up sentiment against the Church. Scot believes that the request for reform probably came from women within the orders being led by the women who’ve been saying these questionable things.

Greg said it’s true that this is being driven by an election year agenda framing it as a wedge issue. One way or the other, many of these pundits see the Church as anti-woman and oppressive. He said the secular press comes to the issue without a full understanding and this shows why we need a diocesan newspaper. The Pilot’s slogan is “Read the Pilot and be fully informed.” You’re not going to get the full perspective on the Church from the secular media. Similarly Greg could write an article about Wall Street, but he’s not an expert.

Scot then mentioned an article in the Pilot about the rise in the number of people saying that they are atheists or nonbelievers. Under the age of 29, 25% believe themselves atheist, agnostic, or nonbeliever. Susan said she just wants to ask them how they can live without the hope that faith gives them. Scot said it’s his experience that your life won’t be fulfilled without acknowledging the fuller life of faith that extends from this world to the next.

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