Monday, June 2, 2008

There went out a decree that the whole parish should be re-enrolled

Our pastor at St. Al's, Fr. Alan Jurkus, sent parishioners a letter back on April 14, 2008. He says that "after considerable thought and prayer" he is making various staff changes.
Another full-time priest will not replace Fr. Wally for at least a year.

That's Fr. Walter Vogel, who had retired as a pastor and took up duties as an associate pastor at our parish. Now he's retiring as associate. Our pastor does not here remind us there won't be an associate because he saw no "compatible" replacement available this year (see this earlier post). Our pastor came to us last year from a stint as pastor at St. Monica Church. The St. Monica Parish History says,
In 1994, Father Alan Jurkus, who in addition to pastoral work, was involved in the archdiocesan vocations program, was named the fifth pastor of Saint Monica Parish. At this time, the last associate pastor transferred from the Parish and was not replaced.

Presumably not on grounds of incompatibility. He hasn't, so far, mentioned any insights from his work in vocations then when he comments on their shortage now. The St. Monica history goes on,
...Also, Father Jurkus has reorganized and strengthened the parish administration and management to make it reflect the realities of the 1990s.

Fr. Jurkus will also be reorganizing the St. Al's staff (presumably not to make it reflect the realities of the 1990s).

The Director of Music Ministry will also take on the duties of Director of Liturgy. The current Director of Liturgy is also a deacon and be given the new position of Pastoral Associate. The suggestion of a combined director of liturgy and music came up regularly a decade ago when I was on the parish council. Then it was unthinkable, "contrary to the direction we've [sic] chosen for the parish" regarding liturgy. Now it's a pastor's idea.

(I did once see an idea go from being opposed by a pastor, to him later thinking he had come up with the idea, to him then complaining that the parish council wasn't moving fast enough to implement it. It's a good strategy for parishes with time and parishioners with patience.)

The three Directors of Child, Youth, and Adult Ministry have been cut from 12 to 11 months, i.e., will be paid less. They
are working on instituting a new approach to all our Formation efforts. This is a very exciting initiative, which will eventually involve all parish members who want to deepen their faith and recommit to discipleship. I have encourgaged the entire parish staff to be supportive of this project, tentatively called "Dreams and Vision". More later.

(see this earlier post)

Our pastor later says,
If we want to continue to have a vibrant parish

That's one way to promise more of the same.
we cannot "cut or reduce" our way to financial stability. I'm asking each and every one of you to search your soul today, not tomorrow, and then step forward.

The party line is everything's wonderful, except to the extent we parishioners just aren't trying.
If you shrug your shoulders and assume, "someone else will take care of this," St. Alphonsus doesn't stand a chance.

Would that be a shrug of the shoulders like parishioners get when they raise liturgical issues? The shrug of the shoulders parishioners got when they pointed out the parish had recurring "financial crises" in the operating budget yet undertook a multi-million dollar building expansion? Or the shrug of the shoulders I'd get a decade ago whenever I pointed out declining Sunday Mass attendance?
Please, we are truly at a crossroads. If we do not turn the financial corner soon, we will see our parish fade away into history, as so many others have.

If so many other parishes have closed, might that not indicate a lot of parishioners had already stopped caring if they stayed open? Maybe the first step in their not caring was getting the impression a parish was complacent about everything but money.

In a P.S. he asks that we all again fill out a parish registration form. It's a blank form, not one showing the information they have and asking it be corrected or supplemented.
It will be important to return this form, if you wish to be considered an active parish member.

Seems to literally put form over substance. The May 25, 2008 parish bulletin has an item on page 2 on the "Re-Registration Forms" that says
Your prompt response is very much appreciated. If you have not yet returned yours, please do so as soon as you can.

On the other hand, on page 3 is an item "Volunteers Needed For The Parish Office" that says
The Parish Office is in need of volunteers to help cross-check and verify information from the recently mailed Re-registration Forms to the information we now have on record in our parish membership. This is a very detailed task and will take some time to complete.

Sounds like it might be a while before they get to the bottom of the stack.


Anonymous Aquinas said...

I've compiled a list! This for the benefit of Catholics who seek parishes in which they and their families can grow in faith and holiness. Should any of the following words appear as descriptors in any of the parish's written or verbal communications, abandon hope and run to the next nearest parish. Rinse and repeat. Given the state of things in the Milwaukee Archdiocese, the "rinse and repeat" process may take up quite a bit of your time. And, now, the list (in a few cases, the normal, non-pretentious, orthodox descriptor is given in brackets as a guide to those seeking sanity):

• "vibrant"
• "faith community" [parish]
• "faith journey"
• "inclusiveness"
• "social justice"
• "emerging paradigms"
• "empower"
• "diverse"
• "Presider" [Celebrant, priest]
• "affirmation"
• "re-imaging/re-imagining"
• "woundedness" [sin]
• "worship space" [church]
• "ministry" [service, apostolate]
• "liturgy" [Mass]
• "embrace" [believe]
• "lived experience"

The above list is by no means exhaustive. Please feel free to add your own examples; help a Catholic find a Catholic parish!

1:00 PM  
Blogger Terrence Berres said...

"run to the next nearest parish. Rinse and repeat."

Now that's a different take on We Are A Pilgrim People.

1:45 PM  
Anonymous Aquinas said...

I'll grant more than a touch of cynicism on my part. Given the fact that you're still at St. Al's, you're a far more patient man than I would be in your situation. And, though my previous posting was (only slightly) tongue-in-cheek, I generally don't advocate parish hopping. That said, I find the status quo at most of our parishes appallingly mediocre, given the resources. Isn't it interesting that one of the least financially able parishes in the diocese does some pretty remarkable things in the areas of education, liturgy, and music (I'm speaking of St. Anthony's on 9th and Mitchell)?

I'm not looking for perfection. I'm simply looking for a parish that places the care of the souls of its parishioners above things like "re-imaging the Church." My experience has been that when that's taken care of, the financials take care of themselves. Again, St. Anthony's is a great example, but for an example of spectacular turnaround (very nearly dead in 1988 to thriving today), go here:

It can be done.

3:28 PM  
Blogger Terrence Berres said...

Such exceptional results I sometimes hear discounted on the ground that such parishes are serving a "niche market" within a diocese. Might be something to that, at least in some cases.

On the other hand, maybe the mediocre results at a parish like St. Al's indicate it's only serving a niche market within the parish. If so, some of parish leadership might be unaware of this, and assume that the current approach has broad appeal. Others in leadership might be committed to the current approach even if it doesn't have broad appeal.

5:14 PM  
Anonymous Aquinas said...

If the "niche market" is normal, orthodox Catholics, what's the problem? I'll grant that that may indeed be a small market, but it is a fiercely committed one, and one that's very likely to attract others (in the same way that our Lord's call to the Twelve was made to a tiny "market" and that its size in no way reduced its effectiveness). Way more likely than the very vanilla variety of Catholicism served up at so many places—you know: the one that holds out and tells in countless ways that Church teaching is either silly or meaningless, performs banal music and liturgies, and spoon feeds endless bowls of indifferentism and relativism, to the point where any thinking human being must come to the conclusion, "Yeah, this really is silly and meaningless. I'm outta here!" In other words, a Church that is based on a seriously flawed assumption: that making the Church more like the world will attract more people to the Church.

Gimme "niche market" any day!

11:21 PM  
Blogger Dad29 said...

Re: your topic...

Many parishes are now very assiduously 'scrubbing' parish registrations: taking off names of dead or relocated members.

That's due to the embarassment they suffered in the tick-counts of attendees vs. registered members.

1:14 PM  
Blogger Terrence Berres said...


"If the 'niche market' is normal, orthodox Catholics, what's the problem?"

One problem is whether normal, i.e., average or typical, Catholics and orthodox Catholics are the same people. The average Catholic doesn't attend Sunday Mass.

There are parishes with wide followings, but that might depend on some particulars with limited, or irreproducible, appeal.

Perhaps you mean to critique alternatives of indeterminate flavor rather than vanilla.


Better to purge them than inspire a sequel to 'Dead Souls'. Hard to see how the parish can send me envelopes and cash my checks, have me teach Sunday School, but need a re-registration form filled out to know if I'm a parishioner. Seems almost...bureaucratic.

2:02 PM  

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