I had promised in the post on TLM and STA to add my comments to the others. Then I realized that I had more that I wanted to say (and some pictures to share) so here is a post instead. Do look at the Bernie’s beautiful pictures of STA, shown below, and please read the original post which follows further below if you have not already done so. And add your thoughts and comments to the collection basket at St. Stan’s this weekend, as Fr. Bonsignore requested.
RISK OPPORTUNITY CHALLENGE
I’ve been pondering for several days how to comment on this risk, opportunity, and challenge. And, indeed, it is all three! But first I want to share something that happened on Tuesday, July 29th. I was driving from Rochester to Boston on a business trip, and stopped off in Fonda, N.Y., the location of the National Shrine of St. Kateri Tekakwitha. I have a heart for the people of STA, even though I have only been to Mass there a few times. But my own experience under pastoral planning, the suffering of my own community (Our Lady of the Lakes, OLOL) under less than honest leadership, erroneous financial analysis, and soul-rending manipulations which deeply wounded many relationships during diocesan-driven pastoral planning, perhaps give me a better understanding for what the STA community has endured, and a realization of what they would face in re-entering the larger parish at whose hands they’ve suffered. I’ll say more about my own experience when appropriate, but now only share that unless one has walked in these moccasins, one just can’t know the pain.
Arriving in Fonda, I had at first no particular agenda, except to visit where I’d never been and to pray for the people of STA. Somehow, during prayer, I found myself asking St. Kateri to “let go” of STA, that it might be freed and once again become a strong, vibrant and faithful witness to God. It wasn’t that I thought St. Kateri had done anything to “take over” STA, only that the forced, new parish structure is under her patronage. Therefore, there was some legitimacy in asking her for this deliverance. I hadn’t gone to Fonda intending to pray this particular way, it happened during prayer and it felt right and appropriate to me then and now. In learning more of Kateri’s own story, I now know she was treated poorly by her contemporaries due to her conversion to Christianity and her deepening love of Jesus. The faithful of STA have much in common with Kateri, and perhaps she has a heart for them too.
While there, I knew of the TLM meeting, less than two weeks away, but it was far from my consciousness as I prayed for STA. I want to make it very clear that in no way do I think my prayer, simple and short as it was, had any impact except for me. Obviously, the wheels were already in motion by the Lord. But I do think it is a gift when He invites us into the stream of His work, even when we don’t know what we are doing! After Fonda, I got to spend a few hours in Auriesville at the Shrine of the North American Martyrs, another beautiful experience. And I have been carrying the relic card of St. Kateri ever since this trip. Imagine how surprised I was last Sunday when Fr. Bonsignore related Bishop Matano’s proposal to reopen STA in conjunction with the TLM community. Now for some thoughts on risk, opportunity and challenges.
- RISK: TLM community began by taking a major risk 21 years ago. At any moment the prior bishop could have withdrawn permission, which was needed before Pope Benedict gave all priests the right to celebrate Mass in the EF. At any moment, the hospitality of St. Stanislaus community to TLM could have been withdrawn. Without the ability to strongly build community, everything could have eroded and lost vitality. That TLM has survived to this point is, I believe, a testimony to the Holy Spirit’s care and tending. We have never been orphans. Risk? The greatest risk is NOT to flow where the Holy Spirit wants to carry us. But, of course, we must pray mightily to discern if and where He is carrying us. With so much that has been so right in just over 7 months of Bishop Matano’s shepherding, we already have a very strong indication that we can trust where the Holy Spirit is leading this local church.
- OPPORTUNITY: We have the opportunity to be a blessing to others, not only for ourselves. Who would have ever thought that adding TLM would be an answer to the prayers of a Novus Ordo Community? Doesn’t it simply show that we are all one in the Body of Christ? We are Catholics! It is perfectly reasonable that not all plans are in place at this time, cost of roof repairs,
moving the high altar back into place,* financing and so much more. Open and generous hearts should be able to show their gratitude by working out these details. Let us not think too small, too meagerly. Let us not be like Peter who doubted and began to sink, but rather to know that the Lord’s arm is there for us, to bear us up. Sometimes parish communities take on aspects of their patron saints. As Saint Thomas himself showed, it is easy to doubt, but how much greater is the lesson he brought to us about trust. That is what the STA people have done for 4 years, what we have done for 21 years. My Lord and my God! This character of both communities bodes well for working together. We have suffered; we have been blessed. It is impossible to imagine all that could be at this point, but it is an opportunity to show what people rooted in the Faith can do together in Jesus Name when the machinations of the prior farce of diocesan “pastoral planning” is not present in the situation. And that leads me to the challenges, and the practical implications. *deletion is made with apologies for the confusion, and thanks to Monk for calling my attention to it. Apparently there have been no changes to the Sanctuary, and I misunderstood that the “table” altar (my words, just to be descriptive) has been used for both the EF and for the Novus Ordo. On the prior post, further comments on the altar, and other questions, have been added in replying to Monk’s post. dh
- CHALLENGES: And first, another preface. We all have our opinions on these matters, and of course I will express mine as well (never having been good at NOT expressing my opinion!) Opinion is just that, opinion. But I will also venture to offer advice, based on experience and not merely opinion. As background, I’ve spent over 30 years in strategic planning, mergers, financial analysis etc. I can’t ignore what I have learned from that and it would be unjust for me to do so. And having had the personal experience of the wounding of communities and souls in the unfair and manipulative way in which the Rochester Diocese carried out its “pastoral planning” in the past, it is natural to reach some conclusions. I’m going to state these in the way I would if I were consulting with a client, trying to successfully merge organizations or cultures, but applied to TLM and STA.
- Act with timeliness. Time works against successful merging of cultures; i.e. the longer it takes, the less likely it will be successful. GE used to have a formula that required start-to-completion in 100 days or less, credited for much success. On the other hand, the OLOL parish took 36 months of discussion before even having the first set of recommendations! It was a disaster. No plan will be perfect, but most things can be corrected. Loss of time can never be corrected. It has no shelf life. And much else is neglected as time passes.
- Participants need to have a stake. If this merging of TLM into STA is to happen, knowledgeable and focused individuals who have a STAKE IN ITS SUCCESS need to evaluate the information, make decisions and recommendations to Fr. Bonsignore and to Bishop Matano. Many (though not all) of the problems I witnessed in OLOL were related to diocesan staff who seemed poorly equipped and without a strategic bone in their bodies, and who burdened the process with their own personal problems, using trite high-school facilitation methods to build lukewarm consensus that did not reflect the needs or cares of the community. If one of those diocesan facilitators is involved in the TLM/STA process I would predict a very poor outcome. I have seen that those who have only their own meager raises and employee evaluations as a stake in the process have already destroyed much that was good with false financial statements, repeated lies and sham consulting. It is bad enough when church communities and liturgical space are destroyed for the sake of someone’s bragging rights, but injury to souls is beyond calculation.
- Transparency should be the rule of the process. That means transparency in and completeness of financial statements, openly giving input (as we are right now), and fair and honorable communications. What I had witnessed previously failed on all counts. A key question related to STA is to honestly and openly determine to which church the funds taken from STA really belong. If there were any fraud in the transfers, it should be undone. It should be righteously re-distributed.
In my OPINION, the above REALITIES lead to the conclusion that the failed process in so-called pastoral planning (which I experienced elsewhere and which many STA parishioners say they experienced previously in their own community) is a warning sign that St. Thomas the Apostle should be stand-alone from St. Kateri Tekakwitha. The challenges of working with all the St. Kateri parishes (without TLM) would be overwhelmingly difficult. With TLM, perhaps it is impossible. To expect people to come back together again who have participated in an opaque and warped process which ignored them and destroyed their church community is asking too much and an unnecessary burden on TLM. If this were a business situation, I would strongly advise against it. And although we are all called to forgiveness, we are not called to stupidity. We are not called to wasting time and effort and losing the opportunity the Holy Spirit seems to be offering us. (On a more mundane level, as the saying goes, lied to once shame on you; lied to twice, shame on me.)
For example, with multiple churches involved and having similar votes in parish council, parish councils then can veto just about anything. This would be a great danger to TLM as well as to STA . The process and structure has already shown itself untrustworthy. Moreover, and I am being very frank, the fingers from outside STA point to both Basilians, Father Tanck and Father English, as having been obstructive and non-cooperative with the people of STA, ignoring needs and/or taking punishing actions. The story is told, for example, of STA finally getting long-awaited approval to hold a funeral Mass in the (closed) church. So, accordingly, the church was opened, but the bathroom was locked. There are many stories and many injuries. It is not my purpose to reopen old wounds, but four years without healing or restoration, and without any visible CARING about healing, have very likely put achieving reconciliation beyond human reach. Moreover, even if it were achievable, such efforts would dilute the attention needed on the serious merging of STA and TLM, putting that entire endeavor at risk. It seems most logical to leave the current active St. Kateri churches under Fr. English, and provide new pastoring (without the baggage) to someone who can be consistently committed to realizing the opportunity being offered, fair to both communities, and who can build trust.
In conclusion, I hope that all our attention, recommendations and comments won’t just be on the survival and thriving of TLM. The people and parish of St. Stanislaus offered us shelter for these many years and, costs/expenses notwithstanding, we should be grateful for the opportunity we had, and recognize that removing our financial support is bound to create a financial challenge for St. Stan’s. Let’s not leave them out of our prayers.
Tags: Latin Mass