Cleansing Fire

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Witness Talks @ St. Joseph

October 5th, 2010, Promulgated by Dr. K

St. Joseph church in Penfield, one of the many wealthy east-side parishes that churns out money for the Diocese of Rochester Catholic Ministries Appeal, will be having “witness talks” at all Masses in order to inspire people to give more money.

I seem to recall Redemptionis Sacramentum #74:

If the need arises for the gathered faithful to be given instruction or testimony by a layperson in a Church concerning the Christian life, it is altogether preferable that this be done outside Mass.”

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6 Responses to “Witness Talks @ St. Joseph”

  1. avatar Rita says:

    Let me introduce myself —- I am Rita Oberlies; an avid follower of this blog; a conservative Roman Catholic, and an active voice that has spoken out for that last decade on local liturgical abuse. I have expressed my concerns through many avenues (discussions with my pastor, letters to Buffalo Road, the D&C and the Vatican). Let me assure you that my viewpoints are well known (and that I would never be described as a progressive). Ironically, I keep a copy of Redemptionis Sacramentum in my desk drawer. (And yes, I know laypersons should never speak during the homily).

    When I speak this weekend it will be on stewardship. Every reader of this blog knows that true stewardship has nothing to do with what the church needs to receive from us but what we need to give back. If I ignore the call to be a Disciple of Christ because of what transpires locally then I will have failed. I refuse to allow anything to get in the way of my faith. I owe it to my children, to St. Joe’s School, to retired local priests who gave so much of themselves, to remain engaged. Throwing my hands up in frustration (which I have done in the past) doesn’t send the right message to my family I’m proud of my faith and I want my children to be proud of it, too. In terms of money, it’s tempting at times to hold back on financial support —- but I know that our retired clergy need every penny that trickles down to them. Many great men have devoted themselves to serving God and this community and they deserve our support. Frankly, I also see a need for Catholic education to continue. There are some incredibly devoted families at St. Joe’s School who believe there is a huge advantage to keeping Catholic schools viable. That takes money. Ultimately, stewardship is a choice. I need to give back to God. Since Rochester is where I reside, that giving will be here.

  2. avatar Dr. K says:

    Thank you for your comment, Rita.

    I do hope that there is some way one can give money to the worthy causes (i.e- Catholic education, support of our retired priests, programs to help the poor, etc.) while being able to specify that they do not want their money to go to the less than noble aspects of the CMA appeal (i.e- the progressive formation of lay administrators).

    I do take issue with the methods employed by the diocese to obtain donations for the appeal. The Mass is sacred, and this should be protected. There is nothing wrong with having people write bulletin articles/inserts speaking of the good of offering their donations (St. Joseph did something like this when they sought money for the church renovation), or even having an evening devoted to such witness talks in the parish hall. But for fund raising to take place during the Mass? Let me give you another example of what the DoR is doing to promote the appeal– Sacred Heart Cathedral had a giant screen assembled before the altar upon which they projected and played the entire CMA “Let your light shine” video prior to their Masses. Other parishes do similar things, such as dragging out a television in front of the altar and playing the video.

    As Jesus said, “my house shall be called a house of prayer” (Mat. 21:13). I think the diocese has too easily forgotten this. I wish they would use more appropriate means to encourage people to give to the appeal.

  3. avatar Rita says:

    Thank you, Dr. K.

    I completely agree with you. Whenever possible I give directly to those groups that I believe to be most deserving. On the flip side, I’ve come to accept that when appeals like the CMA falter, those hurt the hardest are sometimes the most deserving (if you know retired priests in this Diocese you probably know what I mean). Many, many people don’t give for the very reason you state. Sadly, while this might strike a blow to questionable practices and programs, it also crushes the good in the process. Sort of a ‘darned if you do’ and ‘darned if you don’t’.

  4. avatar Nerina says:

    Hi Rita,

    I sat on our church’s stewardship committee for three years. There is so much to like about the concept of stewardship (really just an expression of discipleship, in my opinion) and I actually gave a witness talk after Mass. In it I spoke about a very powerful experience I had with the Eucharist while I was in the midst of post-partum depression.

    Even though I believe strongly in the duty of all Catholics to live as stewards (again, disciples really), my husband and I stopped supporting the CMA about 7 years ago. I find that the diocese is not really a good steward of the financial support we have given in the past. We were also contributors to the “Partners in Faith” campaign until we found out how so much of that money was used (especially in funding the travesty of the renovation of Sacred Heart Cathedral). So, we give directly to organizations that do a much better job with serving intended populations without the overhead and oversight of the DOR. Some times that money goes to local initiatives (e.g. FOCUS Pregnancy center) and sometimes it goes to national and international ones (CRS, CMMB, Food for the Poor). And we do support our local church financially since it is a precept of the faith.

    Thank you for taking time to introduce yourself. I wish you luck with your talk and that people will have ears to hear the stewardship/discipleship message. If we all (myself included, God knows) really lived according the faith we profess every weekend, the world would be a much different place.

  5. avatar Rita says:

    Hi Nerina! Your words, and those of Dr. K, certainly strike a chord with me. In fact the comments here reflect dozens of conversations I have had with family and friends who share similar points of view. People give when it is important to them. People don’t give when they are uncomfortable with how that money will be spent. I’m at the point now, where I’m trying to focus on the good, in the hopes that it will spread. For my own sanity I try to remember that this is about my relationship with God and not a sign of passive/active agreement with the DOR. If the funding isn’t there we might lose even more churches and schools, which will make the job of our next Bishop even more daunting. This might be a Pollyanna perspective but it keeps me from feeling defeated.

  6. avatar Eliza10 says:

    Rita, pardon me for commenting after the fact. I am reading now after only recently finding this site, after mention of its existance in the Catholic Courier.

    My feelings and practices about giving are just the same as DrK and Nernia. I have only once before ever mentioned my feelings or choices about donating to the DOR to anyone. That was when a young mother was in angst over giving to a parish’s hard-driving, guilt-inducing new-building fund appeal. I told her that the fund-raising methods were ungodly and that is why she felt that way, and that she should give generously to where her conscience dictates, and be at peace about that. And I told her that I was not going to support that kind of immoral fundraising.

    I cannot bring myself to give to the Diocsean appeals. Their desparate need is natural consequences of their own doing. The amount of money they spend on the appeal is so wrong. They should get people who believe in their agenda to give generously. And they should not desecrate our Mass with appeals.

    I respect your choice to give to the appeals and to speak for giving. Clearly you are following your conscience and Our Lord must certainly be pleased with the intent of your heart. But speaking during Mass? Why take part in that intrusion? And they need your witness – so you are in a position to say, “I will not give my witness during the Mass, but I am happy to write for the Bulletin, or to ask the congregation to stay briefly after Mass so I can speak then, or to come speak at a Spaghetti Dinner.”

    Because the end doesn’t justify the means.

    I know you already talked but maybe you will reconsider if you are asked to intrude on the Mass again.


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