THOUGHTS FOR THE DAY: FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT
Once again we enter the season of waiting. It may be a coincidence, but the gospel of yesterday morning was similar in tone - Christ told a story about keeping faith. He compared our duty for faith (or, "watchfulness") to the duty of household dependents left behind by a master who went on a trip. Christ pointed out that those people should keep the household in order because "you don't know the day nor the time" of the return, in so many words.
While surely we should take this lesson to heart for our personal salvation, it is not wrong to apply the lesson of faithfulness to the places where we worship, and to the household of the Springfield Diocese.
Nowhere locally is this fine tradition and duty to wait in hope more evident than in the daily lives of the parishioners of St. Stan's and Mater Dolorosa, who refuse to give up on their faith traditions, and who continue to hold out hope for a change of heart in church officials. We ask, WHEN will church officials begin putting our household back in order by reaching out to those conducting vigils?
Let us reflect on three things: the problem, the situation, and the solution.
the problem: It is clear that local Catholic laity are going to church less, donating less in the offertory, leaving fewer legacies by will and trust, and volunteering less. Increasingly, they join the large group of Roamin' Catholics who attend church twice a year: at Easter, and Christmas. It is equally clear that a lot of this lack of commitment and trust is related to the handling of the sexual abuse crisis in the Diocese. This has caused not only a large financial drain, but, more importantly, a trust drain. Diocesan officials can continue to plead ignorance about the supposedly "under-the-radar" bad actor priests, rather than admit supervisory negligence, but, the problem remains that no one, including insurance lawyers, judges, police, victims, media, and laity, believes this.
the situation: this leaves the clergy with an insurmountable credibility gap in that particular area. At the same time, life goes on, and the Catholic laity, while losing trust in parts of the structure, retain faith in the most important truth, namely, the mission of Jesus Christ to bring salvation to all people, for all time. Even though chancery officials have hurt and continue to hurt the most faithful and committed with an ill-advised parish-wrecking program, many segments of the faithful are on the sidelines, still have Catholicism in their DNA, would like to come back, and are watching and waiting.
the solution: the officials of the Diocese have a golden opportunity to re-capture their prime supporters by settling with the people of St. Stan's and Mater Dolorosa, who continue to hunker down and pray in the churches they were raised in. They can do this by opening a genuine discussion, with everything on the table. This may lead to partial re-openings, and respectful agreements that will bring the faithful back to supporting the Roman Catholic church, and reduce opposition to the mergers.
one last question: is this hope in vain, and must there continue to be disruption, lack of trust, and obstinacy in the household? Or, can the Roman Catholic Bishop of Springfield adapt to changing times and thinking Catholics?