Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

Posts Tagged ‘Fr. Robert Ring’

Zeal for Thy House Will Consume Me -Part XIII- Cardinal Llovera’s Failures

March 9th, 2013, Promulgated by Diane Harris

This post should be read in conjunction with the Zeal Post Part XII.  In that prior post, it was noted that after two mailings to both dicasteries (through the Apostolic Nuncio, which is required), on November 15th and again on December 18th, the year 2010 closed with still no answer from either dicastery.  The Nuncio confirmed that all the materials had been sent.   As reported previously, Fr. Ring and others on his staff were stating that demolition of St. Jan’s Sanctuary would start “in early January.”

After more than seven weeks had expired without even an acknowledgment from either dicastery that the urgent request for intervention had been received, the petitioners of St. Januarius wrote a third time, by fax letters beginning January 5, 2011.  The letter were mailed by January 10, through the Nuncio to Cardinal Llovera, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (reproduced below) and to Cardinal Piacenza, Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, with the same content.

Third Letter to Cardinal Llovera

Llovera fax p 1 of 2

















Llovera fax p 2 of 2 crop crop












The Nuncio again confirmed receipt and that he forwarded the materials,  in  a letter dated January 19th.  Meanwhile, a letter dated January 18th was on its way to the St. Januarius petitioners, from the  Congregation for the Clergy, assigning a protocol number but stating:

“The Dicastery has forward your materials to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, as it is competent in the areas with which your letter deals.” 

Thus, the first reply was from the Congregation for the Clergy and was sent just over two months since the urgent request for intervention began.  That is considered prompt apparently in the Vatican, and outshines Cardinal Llovera’s first and only reply received in August of 2011.  But that is getting ahead of the story.   The net effect was that the Congregation for the Clergy confirmed that it was not responsible for handling the matter, so the St. Jan’s petitioners ceased further correspondence with that Congregation.  That left them sadly in the unresponsive hands of Cardinal Llovera and his Congregation, with jackhammers still threatening at any moment.

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Zeal for Thy House Will Consume Me–Part XXI–Survey

November 24th, 2011, Promulgated by Diane Harris

Throughout the pain of the St. Januarians in Naples, when parishioners were refused the right to speak of their concerns at Care of the Community meetings and when Pastor Robert Ring was denying that there were any concerns (let alone valid ones!) about the Sanctuary demolition, the laity continued with what was within their control:

  1. withholding funds that would only be used to damage their church
  2. complaints and petitions to the Bishop (useless)
  3. complaints and petitions to Rome (also useless in spite of Canon Law which is supposed to guarantee their rights)
  4. leaving the church for another Catholic Church (and unfortunately for Protestant churches or NO church)
  5. Newsletters, publicity, and dialogue among parishioners
  6. and SURVEYS to document opinions and damage.


When opinions are disrespected, valid surveys at least refute the denials and do establish truth of parishioners’ opinions.  There were three important surveys, all of which have excellent response rates compared to most consumer surveys (usually less than 5%).

Original Sanctuary

Newsletter Survey 2009:

The first St. Jan’s survey was in November 2009, after Fr. Ring invited parishioners to a so-called “Care of the Community” meeting to discuss issues of concern.  There were 40 parishioners who came and then Fr. Ring refused to let them speak on anything of significance.  Thereafter, and as a result of the muting of parishioners, a survey was done by the Newsletter “It Really Matters” on the key issues, and had a 15.7% response rate.  That survey disclosed that more than half the respondents wanted Fr. Ring and Cris Wensel (DRE) to leave;  it showed 75% opposition to the then-unfolding sanctuary plans, and a strong desire to keep the organ (worth $75,000-$100,000) which Fr. Ring was entertaining to sell for $3,000.

What LaBella Promised

Parishioners’ Survey 2010:

In June 2010, a group of St. Januarius parishioners gathered on their own time and at their own expense to survey all St. Januarians, asking a simple “thumbs up or thumbs down” question on the LaBella plans to demolish the sanctuary and to change forever the people’s worship space.   They offered Fr. Ring, pastor (and Fr. George Wiant, retired) the opportunity  to collaborate with them on the survey.  The pastor turned it down.  The parishioners’ group intensively followed-up for replies (regardless of which side a respondent favored).   Results were reviewed by an outside consultant, and showed 72.8% were opposed to Fr. Ring’s intentions and LaBella’s plans.  The simplicity of the question and the intense follow-up yielded a very high 32.2% response rate.

What LaBella Delivered

Sheepfold Survey 2011:

Finally, now that the unwanted renovation work is completed, yet another group in Our Lady of the Lakes has conducted a Survey of what St. Januarians think of the results.  This survey group is the Sheepfold Steering Committee, organized in 2007 to resist the church closings and amalgamation changes being pushed by Fr. Ring under the guise of  “pastoral planning.”   This group guided the 174 original mandaters to Rome asking for intervention and relief on combining 6 parishes over more than 700 square miles into one (unworkable) parish.  The “Sheepfold” is responsible for this final survey of St. Jan’s registered parishioners and attendees, to ascertain if people have become more accepting of the Sanctuary changes over time, now that they see the results, or if the distaste and criticism remains.  The purpose of this blog post is to present those results obtained by the Sheepfold Steering Committee.  It is excerpted from both the Final Report to participants as well as from the October 2011 edition of the Newsletter “It Really Matters.”  

[Note regarding the last picture above: the shadows from the crucifix seeming to “lurk” in the background were not included in the survey, as it had not been noted in parishioners’ pictures.  However, this is the staged picture on the OLOL website (presumably therefore it is Fr. Ring’s choice to illustrate the results, and shows those shadows of the crucifix caused by the lighting.  (Isn’t an architect supposed to anticpiate such problems?)  The photography is apparently from a stepladder, which forces an alighment of the back edge of the altar to the wrought iron pipe railing, minimizing the  conspicuous wrought iron railings and shadows.]  No pictures were included with the survey.

Description of Sheepfold Survey

This current survey was sent to 227 St. Jan’s households on Oct. 14, 2011, with a 2-week response time, no follow-up, with a return envelope but without postage.  A response rate of 18.9% was received.  There were 17 points regarding the Design Elements which respondents could judge on an A-F scale, and 10 points regarding Project Management and Communications to grade on the same scale.  The survey also had an (ungraded) comment-only section for the 4 elements which had been promised to donors to be accomplished but which were not (repair or replacement of divider screen, immersion baptismal font, face-to-face addition to confessional, and a quiet room for children and families).  Finally, there was an opportunity to set forth the one item of the completed renovation which a respondent would change if possible (most commentary was on either not doing the project at all, or at least not moving the Tabernacle aside).  There were also general comments made on the project, all of which are shown below.


  • The Design Elements were graded as “C-minus.”
  • Project Management/Communications were graded as “D-minus”
  • The overall weighted grade is “D plus” grade.
  • Respondents also had the opportunity to give a numerical grade on a 0-100% numerical scale.  It averaged out to be 37%, well below a failing grade.  The numerical grade of 37%, much poorer even than the consensus letter grade, would seem to indicate that there are other points of objection, pain, anger etc. which were not covered in the points surveyed
  • See also comments in gold below. for the Design Elements (the seven for which the sum of D plus F grades exceeded 50%) and for the two items for which the sum of A plus B grades exceeded 50%.  Other results are shown without comments, to try to shorten this post, but can be supplied to those who are interested.  We show all comments in gold and without correcting respondents’ typos and without trying to explain what they meant.   x2 indicates two respondents from the same household giving same response, counted as 2 votes.

1. Characterization of Respondents:

  • Anonymity:  71% of respondents identified themselves; 29% were anonymous.
  • Attendance: 43% indicated they no longer attend St. Jan’s.  This corresponds closely to the 47% of parishioners lost to St. Jan’s during Fr. Ring’s reign.  A number had left due to the way the sanctuary renovations were being handled.    What was surprising is that those who left still care enough about St. Jan’s to spend time doing a survey, giving their thoughts on the issues, and reflecting their pain.  The 43% of respondents who no longer attend St. Jan’s is made up of 23% who go to another Catholic Church (St. Mary Canandaigua, the VA in Canandaigua, St. Jude, Transfiguration, St. Pat’s and St. Mary Honeoye); 18% who no longer attend any church whatsoever, and the small remainder now at a Protestant church (CrossWinds and St. John Episcopal).   It  is appropriate to include the survey results of those who left since a number had said they would be back when Fr. Ring is gone, and already the attendees have increased about 10% under the new pastor in just two months.  From a practical point of view, there would be no way to distinguish who has left and who has not left for the purposes of an even-handed survey mailing.
  • Years of attending St. Jan’s:  Av: 28 yrs.  Range: 6 – 76 yrs.

Comments on no longer attending St. Jan’s:

  • We left because of the leaderships lack of caring and wrong priorities.
  • When I go!  Use to go every morning during the week
  • I do go back to St. J’s from time to time and are still registered there
  • I still go, but not as often or not at all
  • I go when it is impossible to get north to Canandaigua.
  • Catholic church was not honest about Father Emo. Said he had a nervous breakdown.
  • it became unpleasant to go there.

2. Shift in Opinions after Project Completion:

The Sheepfold Survey tried to assess shift in attitudes since project completion.  Of those who responded, 76% state that they do not like the results.  Several have refused to return to view the results.  The percentage is statistically unchanged since the project was first disclosed (2009).

Donors’ vs. Non-Donors’ Opinions:  The resistance of 3/4 of parishioners shows up again with those who donated (25% of respondents) and those who didn’t  (75%).  The results below separate donor’s opinions of the opinions of  non-donors for ease of reading and identifying the issues.  What is interesting is that 60% of those who donated now report they don’t like the results or don’t like something about the results.  Among non-donors, 10% now report that they like the results.

  • Donors’ Opinions and comments:  
  • We need a united parish community in the beautiful area and, at the time, we thought we should support the project.
  • The amount of work planned for originally, and what was ultimately done / completed, did not give good value on the $ spent.
  • Lighting is an improvement, the overall appearance not as good. Some parishioners, for the most part, were deceived. (x2)
  • The Sanctuary look much cleaner, more cohesive.  There is much more room in the sacristy
  • looks like a stage setting. Act I Scene II
  • Excellent job.
  • the workmanship is beautiful, but it looks out of place.
  • I’m OK with the changes made — although didn’t think they were necessary. Upset about the apparently false impression about the financing of the project.
  • Lesser amount when told true story of Wegman family and their donation.


  • Non-donors’ opinions and comments:  
  • Wood backdrop not attractive — rather view a tabernacle
  • Better before
  • A “catholic” looking ornate and beautiful environment now is drab, plain, non inspiring and “protestant” looking
  • It now looks, more protestant …
  • it is lob sided. It covers up the beautiful church it was
  • It isn’t a case of liking or disliking. It’s a case of deceit and wasting money that could be used for the needy.
  • There was no need for a renovation. The deceit that has gone on in this church is beyond reproach!
  • I know a person who donated but said it had to be for something outside the sanctuary!
  • I was terribly disappointed to see our beautiful altar go.
  • Why?  But we are again back to our church — our place of worship
  • It was not needed. It has changed the atmosphere making it a cold rather than warm as a church should be.
  • I love Mary and Joseph statues, the chorus area is wonderful, love the file cabinets off the altar.
  • Hate how low everything is can’t see anything not even the song numbers.
  • At this point it does not matter — it’s a done deal — time to move on! It’s over
  • I feel this project was clearly pushed through by Pastor Ring, Bishop Clark and a select few parishioners — St. J’s first survey proves this.
  • I like the open
  • Did not like the dishonesty in how the project was handled.  We probably should have put on a new roof for that amount of money.
  • Now we have made the church “pretty” — I find it more difficult to ignore all that blond wood and concentrate on theMass.
  • I find it not conducive to meditating — too bright, too distracting.
  • waste of money — better spent somewhere needed
  • Place looks more sanitized — not holy!
  • It’s horrible design work. There is no flow of religious spirit — they are blocked out!

3. Design Elements and Commentary:

There were 17 elements of the Sanctuary design for which respondents were invited to grade A, B, C, D or F.  The following percentages indicate the combined D plus F ratings.  The ratings are shown in descending order from worst to best of all those which had a 50% response or greater for the sum of D and F ratings:

Seven criticisms garnering D plus F votes in excess of 50% (sum of A+B votes shown after each topic):

73% =D+F     Removal of the stone “shrines”  (A+B= 17%)

  • that was wrong. I liked them.
  • that was part of the church’s charm
  • too bad
  • never cared for them
  • I loved them — sad they’re gone
  • they were pretty bad (x2)
  • they were unique
  • miss them (x2)
  • they were ok
  • they were beautiful

71% = D+F    Moving Tabernacle from center to the side (A+B=13%)

  • promotes fuller understanding of Eucharist
  • front & center is and was better
  • dumb
  • not needed
  • needs to be in center
  • It should be front and center — raised
  • less prominent
  • It ought to be central (x2)
  • disrespectful!

67%=D+F      Position of keyboard and other choir elements   (A+B=20%)

  • couldn’t see them at all
  • cannot see them
  • did not notice
  • not part of church/ isolated
  • okay glad no more metal cabinets
  • looks like we’re hiding them. Why? (x2)
  • hidden (x2)
  • organist can’t see priest

62%=D+F    Wooden table and backdrop for Tabernacle  (A+B=17%) 

  • if backdrop is curved, why is that table square?
  • our original was beautiful
  • not needed
  • lopsided arrangement
  • grotto was nicer
  • misplaced (x2)
  • doesn’t match other side
  • table — A / backdrop — C Wish it echoed the curved wall

57% = D+F    Wrought iron railings (A+B=33%)

  • again very distracting
  • don’t need it
  • could have been wood to blend         
  • awful! Breaks up appearance (x2)
  • who uses these?
  • don’t match wood
  • too harsh. Use wood

53% =D+F    Wooden curved wall behind the altar  (A+B=25%)

  • different shades of wood, some almost white to dark brown.  I find that the backdrop of wood is more distracting because it is different shades of wood colors & I find my eyes following a strip of wood from top to bottom
  • Awful —— no feeling of warmth & caring — cold!
  • Not Pretty
  • not needed
  • it looks detached / out of place
  • pretty
  • separates me from natural ambience of church
  • but I don’t like it (x2)
  • Hides organ / looks like shooting star

53% =D+F    Crucifix atop the wooden curved wall.  (A+B=25%)

  • liked the risen Christ better
  • the original inspired me
  • I miss my beloved statue of Jesus       
  • Great! The flying Jesus is gone! (x2)
  • miss the suspended one (x2)
  • At least it’s still there
  • Where is the “Risen Christ”?
  • hides organ
  • could have been bigger, not proportionate

There were two accomplishments achieved by the sanctuary design, as evidenced by the combined A and B grades exceeding 50%.  (The percentage shown represents the sum of A and B grades; the sum of D+F is shown after the item.)

  55%=A+B        Extra space in front for wheelchairs     D+F=16%

  • Good
  • did not notice
  • okay
  • Love this!
  • who uses this space?
  • OK (x2)
  • Needed
  • All this for one or two wheelchairs.? disabled

55%=A+B    Lighting in the Church (nave)   (D+F= 22%)

  • OK
  • now very bright in church
  • Excellent
  • needed new lights
  • great improvement
  • Brighter — like the old
  • need reostat  to turn down as needed (x2)
  • too bright
  • more is better

Other Design Elements Rated: 

The following 5 items were also reviewed and received more D+F votes than A+B votes.  Comments are not shown below, to minimize size of this post.  The percentages shown on the left are the percentage of votes receiving a D or F, and percentage on the right is A+B.

  1. 48% Ramp installed from the nave to the sanctuary floor  26%
  2. 48% Installation of Mary and Joseph statues from St. Mary Rushville  22%
  3. 46% Positioning of the organ and its pipes  18%
  4. 45% Lowering of the altar to two steps above the nave (main floor)  23%
  5. 38% Raising the sanctuary floor from 1 to 2 steps above the nave  23%

Similarly, the following 3 elements of design garnered more A+B votes than D+E votes.  The percentage on the left  refers to the percent of A plus B votes combined and on the right to the percentage of D+F votes:

  1. 42% Lighting in the Sanctuary  (17%)
  2. 40% Carpeting in the Sanctuary (14%)
  3. 38% Ambo (pulpit) raised from one to 2 steps above nave.  (24%)

 Overall Grade:  this section on Design Elements received 66 “A” votes, 83 “B” votes, 126 “C” votes, 79 “D” votes and 149 “F” votes, for 503 votes cast in this section.  If we use the grading system of A=4, B=3, C=2, D=1 and F=O  then the composite grade for this Design Elements Section is C minus. 

Those who made donations gave this Design Elements section a composite grade of C and those who reported they did not donate gave this section a composite grade of D+.  Those who gave their names gave the design section a composite grade of D+ and those who answered anonymously gave this section a composite grade of C.

4. Project Management and Communications: 

There were 13 “A” votes, 24 “B” votes, 34 “C” votes, 25 “D” votes and 141 “F” votes, for 237 votes cast in this section. The overall grade for project management and communications was a D minus, which is an “F” in many schools.

The following all had the D + F grade total in excess of 50%, in descending order, with the most negative ratings first:  (The combined D+F grade is shown on the left; the combined A+B grade is shown on the right)

91% Communications from the Diocese of Rochester   (4.5%)

90% Communications from LaBella Architects    (10%)

86% Disclosure of Financial Elements of the project (11%)

83% Communications  from Sanctuary Steering Committee  (9%)

77% Communications from Pastor, staff, OLOL Council  (11%)

76% Information in OLOL bulletins (24%)

74% Information from newsletters, Naples Record, other  (17%)

70% Overall effectiveness of project planning and execution  (7%)

52% Issuing of time table and adhering to it or not  (13%)

In the Project Management and Communications Section (no item received A+B votes as more than 50% of the votes cast) but there were more A+B votes (43%) than D + F votes (17%) for:

“Handling of Masses during the construction period”

The composite grade for this Project Management and Communications section is D-minus. 

Those who were donors gave this section a composite grade of D+ and those who reported they did not donate gave this section a composite grade of D-.  Those who gave their names gave this section a composite grade of D- and those who answered anonymously gave this section a composite grade of D+.  Again, whether someone donated or not, or answered anonymously or not, the grades for communications and project management were quite devastating.

It is somewhat surprising that in spite of the divisiveness of the sanctuary project, there is not a bipolar distribution of data (e.g. with donors all clustered around a grade of  “A” and non-donors around a grade of “F.”)  Rather, even among the divided there seems to be a consensus that the results were poor, and an attempt to be fair in evaluation.

5. If you could change one thing about the renovation, what would it be?

  • Put the tabernacle in center and “secure it.”
  • put the tabernacle back in the center.
  • Jesus (God) is the reason for the Mass and should be right up front.
  • should not have done
  • The area where the musicians sit should be camouflaged / made nicer — it looks too stark and bare
  • I liked it the way it was with no changes
  • not have it done in first place. No warmth.
  • move the tabernacle back to the center
  • get rid of the curved wall
  • have waited
  • raise everything up and put my statue of Jesus above us again
  • leave the sanctuary as it was!
  • Move the tabernacle back to center
  • return the altar to its original state
  • removed wood walls sound system problems of late (x2)
  • to have not done it at all or to have addressed the real issues regarding the structure
  • Get rid of the black iron pipe railings — wasn’t there anyone with interior design credentials involved? (x2)
  • take the wall down they put up and put the tabernacle back up
  • respond to will of the parishioners (x2)
  • Phase II should have been first
  • Phase II was all that was necessary
  • remove wooden Xmas tree
  • wish tabernacle wall was curved
  • In this financial crisis, all that money should’ve gone to helping community members in need. St. Januarius church has acted wastefully, selfishly and materialistically.

6. Letters/Notes Accompanying Surveys:

 The impact on souls is not just a matter of numbers.  Some expressed themselves eloquently in the side notes or margin comments they included.  Some struggled to express what they meant.  Some filled out the questionnaire; some did not.  Here are all the additional opinions expressed:

  • What has happened to the Catholic Church helping out in the Naples Community — Trinity Federated is doing more for the community and has much fewer parish-ioners — we should be ashamed to have done this unnecessary renovation when people in our town are going hungry and in need of heat, clothing and food. Shame-shame on us.
  • I ask Fr. Bob — he said he had nothing to do with renovation.  Ask Mrs. Clutes.  She said don’t ask her.
  • Have never entered St. Jan’s since all the turmoil began so we’re unable to comment except to say we regret we never were allowed the opportunity to keep the wooden rails donated in [my wife’s] parents’ memory.
  • Sad, sad lack of compassion on the part of spiritual leaders. We chose not to donate — did not believe in this project and therefore were ignored.
  • There are people starving in Naples. The Trinity Federated is involved in the Angel Ministry. They are doing a back pack lunch program in the schools. We don’t take the lead — never!  What is the church about — Buildings not people.
  • Totally unnecessary — but what is done is done.  Too bad the wasted money could not have been used where needed.
  • The renovation was the least thing needed by our wounded community. The clergy elected to make taking care of their own wants a priority. In my years of employment, I spent 50 – 60 hours per week at my desk. My office was painted once. A given priest might spend 3 hours per week using this “enhanced?” environment. I am embarrassed to try and defend the reasons why the much loved old sanctuary was changed to the drab thing it is now. The Naples folks of other faiths can’t understand why such a beautiful sanctuary was changed. They have known about our troubles! (Long before the Naples Record articles.) My children and grandchildren have questions I cannot answer. How sad!   P.S. I know few (very) folks who like the new sanctuary.
  • I am returning your “last survey”. I refuse to be apart of dragging this renovation out forever. How many “NO’s” do you need to give it up? [Personal attack portion of this letter deleted.]
  • A HUGE MESS — It was frustrating to feel like my opinions / our opinions were not even heard. The project was forced and inconsiderate with too many opposed. It should not have been rushed.
  • I went to S_ [funeral]   Mass. Sat in the hall. Couldn’t hear. Speaker was not working. Most of the time I saw the back of somebodys head. Only thing I liked was the new lights.
  • Why did they have to break something that wasn’t broken and didn’t need fixing anyhow.  The curved backdrop and the squared off tabernacle are architecturally off and dumb. And for all the talk about different shades of wood before, well look at it now (before the woods –railings, altar, etc. were all separated by the space between them) now the backdrop is several different shades and they are all together in the backdrop — so who’s kidding who??
  • Because we no longer are able to attend St. Jan’s because of the hostile atmosphere caused by Beigel et al (actual threats) we have not seen the changes.
  • For 63 of my 65 years I was a faithful and contributing Catholic: parish council, Board of Education, CCD teacher, fund raiser, usher. A significant part of my life is gone because of Ring & Beigel.  Why is there no outreach to all those who left?
  • Turn on the heat.  God bless of Church.  Get rid of Cris Wensel.  The outside of the house and church need to be fixed up!  Have the church unlocked a half hour before the Mass!!!
  • Sheepfold:  You are beating a dead horse. The church renovations are complete. Let us put the past behind us and support our new pastor. I am sure we will see improvements in our parish, St. Januarius and in Our Lady of the Lakes Cluster in the next 2-3 years. Pray that the Holy Spirit will guide our new pastor in his duties in our Cluster.
  • It should have been totally left as it was before.
  • We were given no accounting of the amount of money collected for this project or for what it cost.
  • This (communications) was done through Pastor, staff, OLOL council, Sanctuary Steering Committee and LaBella Architects.
  • Why can’t we be happy?
  • Re: Sheepfold Steering Committee: Why? Who? What will they do, re-do the re-do?
  • Overall: A Design is cleaner, fresher, brighter [omitted] Question #4: Overall: A  Meetings were held — steps explained.
  • Re question 4: Project management.  ONE BIG MESS!
  • I do not think the renovations were done in aesthetic good taste.  Who decided on the new design?  Parishioners should have had a say / vote!
  • I no longer feel connected to the church I grew up in. (I’d have a hard time setting foot in there again)
  •  I can’t support the motives of the church.

Thank you for your interest in the story of St. Januarius Sanctuary, the treatment of parishioners and donors, and an “after-the-fact” survey of St. Januarians.  If you’d like to register your own opinion of the survey results, here is an opportunity:

Your Own Survey!

Those who have considered the opinions of the people who have lived through and are living with the third picture shown above (the renovated sanctuary shown next to “The Sheepfold” Survey) and would like to express their own opinions are welcome to do so, either in a reply post here, or by emailing your opinions to to the following abbreviated Design Element questions:  (Please use a grade of A, B, C, D or F so that we can compare results).

1. The curved wooden wall behind the altar: 

2. Lowering the altar by 2 steps

3. The crucifix atop the wooden wall

4. Ramp and its wrought iron railings

5. Moving the Tabernacle from the center to a side table

6. Appearance of the Tabernacle table

7. Positioning of music and choir elements

Other Comments:



Zeal for Thy House Will Consume Me — Part XIV — LaBella is not so “bella”

October 16th, 2011, Promulgated by Diane Harris

Although this post is Part XIV of the Zeal Series, it was delayed in posting in order to collect additional information.  There is still more to find, but it seems time to share what is available.  As the headline says:  “LaBella is not so bella.”  The word ‘bella’ is supposed to mean beautiful.  But that was apparently not the experience of the folks at St. Januarius in Naples, NY or in the dynamics of their Sanctuary Renovation project with LaBella as architects.

Check out: which lists under “markets served”  its “religious projects” in the following order:  Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Church of Christ the King,  Sacred Heart Cathedral, St. Anne Church and Parish Center, St. Catherines [sic] Church, St. Matthew Church, St. Titus Church, St. Louis Church.  We can’t help but notice that St. Januarius in Naples didn’t make their list.  Are they ashamed of that work?  It seems plausible that they wouldn’t want to be too closely associated with such a result: 

LaBella Renovations from OLOL Website

One can easily observe a certain sterility and Protestant scent to much of LaBella’s “Religious” work, but that isn’t the only disconcerting aspect of their work. 

Obviously, the Diocese of Rochester is one of LaBella’s valued clients, so much so that there was no visibility to any fair bidding process for the work at St. Jan’s, and one has to wonder if there was any arms-length bidding at any other DoR sites?  There also seemed to have been no accountability to parishioners for the work commissioned by DoR, no sincere attempt to meet with parishioners to determine their real needs, to hear their comments, to respond.  It seemed to some to be just a blind execution of Fr. Robert Ring’s personal agenda, and at what a horrible cost!

I conducted a newsletter survey of St. Jan’s parishioners and am also aware of a similar and simple survey conducted, not by me, but by a group of St. Jan’s parishioners.  All results confirmed that about 3/4 of the parishioners opposed the project.   I wrote the following to LaBella’s President,  and never received any reply:

PO Box 23973

Rochester, NY 14692

January 19, 2011

Robert A. Healy, AIA, President

LaBella Associates, PC

300 State Street

Rochester, NY 14614

Dear Mr. Healy,

Please permit me to introduce myself.  I am the Editor of the Newsletter It Really Matters, which is written on behalf of many of the parishioners of three of the six parishes in Our Lady of the Lakes Catholic Community.  While I would expect that you have received prior copies of our Newsletter through Father Robert Ring, pastor, regarding the long-standing opposition of approximately three-quarters of St. Januarius parishioners to most of the renovations your firm proposes for St. Januarius, I realize that may not be the case.  Information flow to parishioners has been significantly restricted, perhaps to you too.  Hence, in a spirit of openness and fair communication, I am writing to you.

On your website, you specifically mention as an attribute of your company: “Honesty and Integrity in all Transactions.”  That is a noble commitment; however, regarding the St. Januarius Project, we believe that has not been the experience of the majority of the parishioners.  And that may not be La Bella’s fault.  For example, it may not have even come to your attention that Fr. Ring forbade parishioners from discussing the project at Care of the Community meetings to give input prior to decision making, or that an excellent survey was completed by a committee of parishioners (with external review) which identified serious deficiencies in and resistance to the project, all of which has been ignored.  While you may not have been told of the numerous complaints or dissent, nevertheless it is obvious to many parishioners that no visible effort has been made to sincerely seek and respond to their input, or to creatively and compassionately resolve issues causing deep division in the parish.

To better assist your understanding of these matters, I enclose a copy of the most recent issue of It Really Matters.  If you would like to see the survey results or speak with members of the committee seeking to protect their parish from demolition and unwanted renovation, I would be pleased to put you in touch with them.  If you would like copies of prior Newsletters, please contact me.  I simply felt that in a spirit of “honesty and integrity” I should be sure that you knew of the situation and had received this communication involving a project of your firm.

Very truly yours,


 Diane C. Harris, Editor of It Really Matters;  member of Our Lady of the Lakes

LaBella’s rudeness in not replying to this letter, and in not acting as one would expect an architect to act (with sensitivity to the community in which they leave their work behind ) is perhaps nothing less than knowing on which side their bread is buttered.   But what many may not know is that the unpopular turbine windmills in Prattsburg and Italy Valley and Cohocton (controversial to say the least in Naples, and with some parishioners having financially benefited and others having suffered from the negative impact on their environment) is but one other way in which LaBella has brought its bread to be buttered.  And, more recently, LaBella acquired a hydrofracking consulting company in Pennsylvania.  Does that have anything to do with the Courier article on hydrofracking?  or to do with buttering more bread?

There is still no financial report on this project from Our Lady of the Lakes administration, nor have St. Jan’s folks (or other OLOL parishioners) yet received year-end June 30, 2011 financial reports for their parishes.  It is hard to understand why parishioners continue to give anything, when they can’t ensure it is spent properly.  

The Mystery of St. Jan’s Financials

As for all parishes in the Diocese of Rochester, and to align with priests’ starting and ending dates as pastors and in new assignments, the DoR fiscal year (FY) begins July 1 and ends on June 30.  Thus, the FY 2011 began July 1, 2010 and ended June 30, 2011.  In the summer of 2010 (at the beginning of FY 2011) Fr. Ring wrote to parishioners and summer visitors alike at St. Januarius, telling them that Wegmans were contributing $300,000 for the renovation of St. Jan’s sanctuary, and asking his addressees to donate $30,000 (unclear if in addition to or part of the supposed pledge by Wegmans) and saying that it was a memorial to Bob Wegman.  Fr. Ring’s (and Fr. George Wiant’s) exact words on the letter they signed were:

“…The Wegman family, in memory of Robert Wegman, has generously offered to fund this, though also wanting parishioners involved, raising part of the money. The approximate cost of the renovation will be $300,000. We are expected to raise $30,000 from our parish. The Wegman family will provide the remaining funds. Such an opportunity is unlike [sic] to come our way again….”         (Summer 2010)

Some months later, Danny Wegman denied he was giving $300,000, and said he was giving only $50,000 although he’d been asked for $300,000.  He also denied that it was to have been a memorial to his father, Bob Wegman, and he denied that he required that parishioners had to give $30,000, saying he only wanted to be sure that parishioners were supportive (which we know from surveys that they were not.)

It is interesting that today the fundraising letter and pages of other project detail have disappeared from the OLOL website.  Fr. Ring never set forth an explanation or apology for doing fund raising with untrue representations.   All that remains on the OLOL website  is before and after (see above) pictures of the Sanctuary and the following text:  (We show OLOL’s words in blue, and our comments in red.)   Note: LaBella, Fr. Ring, and Wegmans are not even mentioned.  However, one can see in OLOL’s statements the efforts to defend what some consider the indefensible.  One can also see the blatant error in both the text below, and the picture above.

“In 2011 the sanctuary area was renovated that:

  • Provides a special area created solely for the Tabernacle (one positive — OLOL has stopped improperly calling it a chapel.)  However, the squared-off back and the massiveness seem to tip the entire sanctuary off center.  This OLOL comment ignores what so many see as a demotion of the Real Presence from the Center of the Sanctuary to a place near the exit door. 
  • Lowered the sanctuary height from four steps to two steps (this is a lie:  the Sanctuary was previously one step up, prior to the renovation.  Now it is two steps up.  The altar – not the sanctuary – was lowered from 4 to 2 steps, ignoring the fears that it would be too low) to find a balance between being too high for the parishioners sitting in the front pews while still being high enough to be seen during Mass by parishioners sitting in the rear.   Recent feedback indicates that all the fears of having the altar too low are true; people in the rear are having trouble seeing, just as we’d predicted!  We have been told that at a recent, well-attended funeral, someone reported not being able to see the Tabernacle, or to see anyone at the ambo, and only the top of the celebrant’s head. )
  • The existing altar was removed. The top from the existing altar was cut and refinished to be used as the new altar top. A new base was constructed that is more stable than the previous base. Other pieces of the existing altar were used in the new ambo and tabernacle area.  To some, this seems a desecration of a sacred, consecrated object.  Others have expressed a feeling of loss, and wonderment as to why they weren’t told until the deed was done.
  • The main lighting was replaced with new features that brighten the church while keeping in mind energy conservation.  Please note that if you look in the sanctuary lamp there are two old style lights that remain. These lights were in the previous church that was torn down in 1966, thus maintaining some continuity throughout the history of St. Januarius’.   There have been a number of compliments about the new lighting being brighter and easier to read.
  • To help make the church more accessible to the handicap, the doors on the west entrance were replaced with handicap accessible powered doors and a ramp was added to provide access to the sanctuary area.  The ramp has been generally seen as unnecessary, taking up of too much space and its railings casting unpleasant shadows; however, in the accompanying  “cutsey” photography,  pains were taken to align the shadows of the railings with the railings themselves, so the shadow doesn’t show.  But that is only for the benefit of anyone choosing to stand on a ladder in the middle of the aisle during Mass.   By aligning the rail just over the altar, the shadows are also hidden, and by subtle positioning of the presider chair some of the shadows are masked, though some are still seen near the presider chair.  The above OLOL (blue) text doesn’t mention the blockage of light by the rear wooden wall, and its overbearing look,  or the weird shadows from the top of the wooden wall lurking in the background.  That the floor space has been radically minimized and that the organist can’t even see the presider aren’t mentioned either.
  • The project was originally estimated at $300,000.  The renovation was split into two phases. Phase I is the work described above.  Phase II is expected to include replacing the slide partition between the church and the hall and the construction of a new baptismal font.  There is no date scheduled for Phase II.   Now, the questions really are “How much money was raised?  How much was spent?  How much is left?  Where is it?  And why don’t the financial statements show these details?”  It isn’t as if we have no financial statements, but  available statements through May, 2011,  raise more questions than answers.  For example, on the May balance sheet, does the $55,229.30 in “Renovation Fund Liabilities” mean that much is still owed?  To whom?  Where are the funds to cover it?  And what is the $43,551.02 liability to OLOL and does it have anything to do with pushing the liability to St. Jan’s without the funds?


Fr. Ring and certain members of his staff said in September/October 2010 that nearly $30,000 was raised from St.Jan’s parishioners.  However, through December 2010 no such income showed up either in Revenues, or as a separate asset.  At that time, St. Januarius had not yet been merged into OLOL, and if there really had been such funds raised for the St. Jan’s renovations, where were they posted?  Were they in the OLOL account?  Or in a Diocesan account?  That would seem to be improper accounting, as there is an apparent liability on the December 2010 St. Jan’s balance sheet of $22,196 owed for renovations.  If money had been given for this purpose, it shouldn’t be in a separate corporation’s savings, earning interest for that corporation and not deployed for the purposes for which it was given.  Similarly, the question becomes “Where does the supposed $50,000 from Wegmans show up on the St. Jan’s balance sheet?  Is this total of approximately $80,000 “someplace else?”  Why?  Where?

While we’d hoped to have some definitive  financial reports to include and explain on this blog, including how much La Bella was paid for their work, all still seems to be a secret, as well as how much was collected, was there money left over or were there cost overruns, and how can so much be spent for such little architectural merit?

Life With LaBella:

Holy Week Jack-hammer






Happy Easter 2011


Welcome Summer Visitors

Jesus near the exit door

After posting this segment, I was searching through the DoR Directory and came across an advertisment by LaBella.  To me it was kind of shocking, although not really surprising, to see what they consider a good ad for the Diocese:  an empty church, 4 steps up to the Sanctuary (which is what they created their work around removing in Naples) and a Sanctuary area which can only be examined with a “Huh?”  What IS it supposed to be?  The vision of DoR for its churches?  Well, after all, the Diocese does hire LaBella consistently, and even permits this ad to be in the Annual DoR directory.  What else are we to think if not a shared vision?  Click on the picture to see more detail.

LaBella Ad in 2011 DoR Directory

Zeal for Thy House Will Consume Me — Part XIX–Rebuttal

September 10th, 2011, Promulgated by Diane Harris

It occurred to me when I was doing Zeal XX (see third blog post below this one) that I had not uploaded the rebuttal of  the St. Jan’s Renovation Supporters.   Zeal XVI was focused on the investigative reporting article by Jack Jones which was published in the Naples Record.  The article did not go unnoticed by a few of Fr. Ring’s and the project’s supporters.  First, Andy Beigel wrote a letter to the editor longer than the original article, claiming to represent St. Jan’s and setting himself forth as “President” of the Parish Council of OLOL.  Following his letter to the editor there were 5 more letters published in the next edition, one being from his wife.  This is the gist of those 5 letters:

  • Joaquin Aymerich (why he and his wife are grateful and so donated to the project)
  • Lynn Lersch to compliment the investigative reporter and the Naples Record for being willing to publish a story that “needed to be told and documented.” 
  • Rachael O’Connor saying :  “the tone of the ‘article’ is screamin’ yellow”! 
  • Marianna Beigel to complain about “shoddy journalism” (after they’d just published her husband’s tirade), and about logs in some eyes and splinters in others, etc. 
  • Joan Hoeffel who contributes her own interpretation of other people’s motives, including that she sees those who dissent as railing against St. Jan’s (rather than against what is being done to St. Jan’s.)  Her answer was “let them find other churches, other priests and even other faiths.” 

Each, of course, has a right to his or her opinion.  However, the letter of most concern was from Andy Beigel who didn’t only set forth his opinion, but set forth seriously wrong information which needed to be corrected.  Therefore, I am publishing the correction below, which will be fairly self-explanatory as to what was in the Beigel letter, without again reiterating his errors.  But here is a sampling of what was just plain wrong from Andy Beigel, who was setting himself forth in the role of a spokesman for St. Jan’s:

  • “I am currently the President of the Pastoral Council for OLOL.”
  • “74% of those attending Mass were in favor of the renovations”
  • “…nothing was demolished”
  • “each person had the opportunity to express his or her concern”
  • “decisions are made without input from the faithful…for well over 1000 years”
  • “A special Pastoral Council meeting was scheduled, so that all concerned parties could come and express their concerns”

The parishioners’  letter set forth below counters each of these errors, and more besides.  There are a few typos, but I left them alone as the meaning still seems clear.  As you will also see in Zeal XX we are often dealing with outright lies, errors or selective omissions.  Thus, the misleading of the flock metastasizes.

Closing Arguments: At first this title brought fear to my heart; we are all so used to thinking “Closing of Churches” that it threw me for a moment.  But it wasn’t arguments to close St. Jan’s, but rather it represents that the Naples Record is done with the subject, having printed Mr. Beigel’s letter and five others, and then a rebuttal signed by 7 parishioners who opposed what was done to St. Jan’s Sanctuary and opposed the errors perpetrated by Mr. Beigel.  A few of the signatories to the parishioners’ letter to the editor told me that many more people read their letter, said that they agreed with it completely, but were afraid to sign.  I congratulate those who did sign, and sympathize with those who are afraid.  In future writing I will be dealing with the issue of intra-parish bullying. 



Zeal for Thy House Will Consume Me — Part XX — Courier Between the Lines

September 10th, 2011, Promulgated by Diane Harris

The following article appeared in this week’s e-Courier, and was also contained in the September Newspaper Catholic Courier, Regional Finger Lakes section.  It is reproduced in its entirety, with comments in red  which relate to our earlier postings and current information,  except for the Courier’s picture of Sister Binsack and the Bishop pouring chrism on the renovated altar,  because that picture  is copyrighted.  In the following reproduction of text, some paragraph separation (but not reordering) was done for the sake of clarity.  Background and summary information is in blue; my remarks on the Courier text are in red, and the Courier text is in white.  An earlier picture of the renovated Sanctuary is included, just for reference (before the Tabernacle was placed on the table shown).

Previously,  we have only alluded to the 25% of parishioners who supported the renovation, but without naming names.   The Courier names names, quoting parties alighned with Fr. Ring regarding the travesty at St. Jan’s.   The view into their thinking  showcases what is wrong with the attitude of the undercatechized toward the church, the Mass, and how “feel good” seems to have replaced responding to the question “How does God want to be worshiped?”  It demonstrates how putting less informed people into leadership positions makes it easy for pastors or diocesan staff to run rough-shod over a parish by claiming it was the will of the people.  Notice particularly in the Courier comments the lack of  words like  “God,” “Jesus,” “Christ,” “pray” and “worship”.  See what you think, especially about the supporters’ priorities.

The surprising name missing from the article is Fr. Robert Ring.  Why would he not even be mentioned on a project he conceived, raised money for, and drove to completion against the wishes of 75% of his parishioners?  Will he later point to this article and say “See, I wasn’t involved.  It was Fr. Wiant?”  We can’t help but wonder!


 September 2011 Diocesan Courier

Renovations complete at Naples church (complete?  what happened to the rest of the money and the rest of the work that was promised in the fund-raising?)

By Jennifer Burke/Catholic Courier

Bishop Matthew H. Clark visited St. Januarius Church in Naples Aug. 14 to rededicate the altar of the church’s newly renovated sanctuary.

The base of the altar is new, but its top was constructed using wood from the previous altar. This new altar is highlighted by a curved wooden reredos, or backdrop, which comes to a point above the altar. A crucifix hangs at the peak of the reredos, and another portion of the reredos stretches out to one side to provide a backdrop for the tabernacle.   Reredos is a pretty fancy word for what we’ve been calling the Ugly Christmas Tree (UTC).  A friend looked up the meaning of reredos on line and tells me it usually applies to a wall of some artistic merit behind the altar.  I hope Bernie will have a comment on whether or not reredos is appropriately applied here. 

St. Januarius Demolished/Renovated Sanctuary July 2011

 The tabernacle itself was moved from its previous place behind the altar to a chapel of the Blessed Sacrament to the left of the sanctuary, just steps from the altar.  The Tabernacle, unsecured, is perched on the table to the left (Tabernacle is not shown in picture as Mass had not yet been said here), close to the exit door.  It strikes us as a Tabernacle on a Table.  How can the word “Chapel” be applied to a table?

Several other elements of the church also were changed during the renovation, including:

*the sanctuary floor, which was lowered to make it more accessible, Former Sanctuary; one step up; 3 to altar.especially for the elderly or those with disabilities.  (wrong; it was already one step from the nave to the sanctuary floor, then it was three steps from the sanctuary floor to the priest’s position behind the altar.  It was the altar which was lowered, not the sanctuary floor.  The Sanctuary floor has actually be raised to 2 steps from 1.  That means that lectors now have to go up and down 2 steps instead of 1, increasing the chance for their tripping, especially with a kind of free form shape to the curve of the steps.)  

Whereas five steps previously led from the nave to the sanctuary, now there are only two (wrong again, count them!  from the floor of the nave there had been one step up to the sanctuary floor, and another 3 to the altar.  One plus three equals FOUR, not five, to where the celebrant stands).  Now there are two steps total, from the nave to the sanctuary floor, and the altar table sits on the sanctuary floor.

A ramp into the sanctuary also was installed at the rear of the area.  There was never a single insurance claim or any known fall on the prior steps.  There was no need for a ramp, a very expensive item and for what purpose?  It is believed that the whole installation of a ramp is to interfere with the Tabernacle at the center, behind the altar and to impair celebration of a Latin Mass at any time in the future.  If a lector really needed to use the ramp, it would involve going up the left side, crossing behind the altar and wheeling to the ambo?  It is hard to believe that people who can’t count up to 5 steps actually were capable of evaluating a survey, keeping track of funds, and voting with any conscience at all.

* the crucifix at the reredos’ peak. The cross is new, but the corpus previously had hung on another cross in the church’s foyer. 

This crucifix is significantly smaller than the previous large crucifix which commanded more imposing sanctuary space. 

Some parishioners have already expressed their disappointment that the original, magnificent crucifix is “missing in action,”   and that the presence of the Crucified Christ has thus been diminiahed.

What happened to the large crucifix?   Where is it?  Who has that blessed object?

Here is a picture of the original large crucifix, just  in case anyone finds it:

Large original crucifix

* the ambo. Wood from St. Januarius’ previous altar was used to fashion a new top for the ambo, as well as part of the new Blessed Sacrament chapel. 

This Courier article is the first time that many St. Jan’s parishioners are learning that their previously consecrated altar has been broken in pieces and spread over at least three places, with other parts unaccounted for.  Since the altar is supposed to be a symbol of Christ, some folks wonder: “how can it just be broken in parts?”  Why do we bow to something that can be willy-nilly chopped into pieces?

* the lighting and electrical systems in the sanctuary and nave, which were upgraded and made more energy efficient.  Time will tell.  At the moment there are some weird shadows cast by the handrails of the ramp, creating a new kind of clutter.  It may be a function of both bad design of the ramp rails and unnatural accents caused by the lighting.

* the church’s Tobey Street entrance, where an automated handicapped-accessible door was added.  We are told that this entry automation is not working properly; but most parishioners agree it would be helpful.  The building itself has had long term issues of poor locking mechanisms, which endanger the security of the Blessed Sacrament in the Daily Mass Chapel and now in the church as well by having an easily movable Tabernacle.

St. Januarius also has become home to two statues from St. Mary Church in Rushville, which held its last regular (it was not “regular” at all; it was a Saturday morning (weekday) Mass, and was 15 months after the last Mass of Sunday obligation was said at St. Mary)  Mass Jan. 1, 2011.  Both churches are part of Our Lady of the Lakes Catholic Community.  Questions abound on the hijacking of St. Mary’s statues to St. Jan’s.  In separate posts, in a new series, there will be more discussion on St. Mary’s Rushville, victim of DoR pastoral planning machinations.

The rest of the article (more than half) is a plethora of support statements for the disaster of the demolished/renovated Sanctuary at St. Januarius.  Most of the  individuals quoted have varied backgrounds of significant compliance to Fr. Ring’s whims.  Without trying at this point to lay bare individual faults or errors, we will simply say that among the names quoted as authoritative commenters on the joy of the renovated Sanctuary are a person who compiled the secret plans for demolition/renovation that were later found on the OLOL website; one who was the one of only two  in a meeting of 30 people who (with spouse)  voted to get rid of the organ for $3000 (worth $75000-$100,000), someone who hung around the construction site for the duration, one who is a retiree but who is the only “altar boy” in the parish (the children having departed),  a person who wrote a letter to the editor of the Naples Record awarding himself a title in OLOL that doesn’t exist and presuming to speak for the parish and making claims especially regarding data and surveys which were erroneous (more to come in Zeal XIX). one who is an employee of OLOL and likely to get a full time job with Fr. Ring at St. Louis, two who participated on a secret subcommittee  to decide between St. Mary Rushville and St. Theresa Stanley for survival,  (there was no member of the committee from St. Mary’s, which parishioners didn’t even know of the existence of the secret subcommittee), three who were members of the St. Januarius Parish Council who voted to refuse the petition of  dozens of parishioners to have OLOL split rather than amalgamated into a 700+ square mile OLOL parish, two who have brought pressure and insult to bear, demeaning some  who opposed the Sanctuary changes, refusing to speak to them, e.g., another who is a fairly recent graduate of St. Bernards, looking for a job in DoR, one who was previously chair of the parish council,  one of the two members of the pastoral planning team which worked for over 30 months in closed sessions without using parishioner input and supported Fr. Ring in his insistence of amalgamation in spite of OLOL-wide survey results,  a member of Finance Council  yet parishioners have been unable to get finance statements relating to many matters,especially to the renovation, and one person representative of those who are afraid to speak their opinions clearly out of fear of retaliation.   

Fr. George Wiant we mention separately, as he is a public figure as a priest.  Without diminishing Fr. Ring’s responsibility, it is also fair to note that Fr. George’s support for the project significantly undermined the ability of parishioners to present the truth to the steering committee and to make their voices heard.   Although Fr. Ring thrust him to the front, he is in large part responsible for the debacle at St. Jan’s.  The Wegman connection was used for money, illogical liturgical arguments were put forward that were untrue, collaboration on a survey was rejected,.  We note that Fr. George isn’t even using the ramp.  It is sad for a retired priest to now be seen as not able to be trusted due to his role in the demolition/renovation, to the pain of parishioners.

But the above spokespeople who pursued and supported what 75% of the parish opposed are obviously in the way of achieving any real healing between parishioners at St. Jan’s.  Now, at least, everyone knows who they are!

The following is the rest of the Courier article, with the quotes in white, and again in red there is commentary on the quotes, but not on the quoters (as noted above) based on what we understand at this time.  It is noticeable how preoccupied the commenters are with steps and lights, without ever noting the impact on the worship of God, attraction for new parishioners, care for children, or any way in which the Kingdom of God (rather than the Kingdom of the Clergy) will be advanced by what was done.

The Courier continues:  “All of these changes were made for either liturgical or safety reasons, said Jerry Luzum, a parishioner and volunteer at St. Januarius.  “From a liturgical standpoint, the concerns were that the focus in the sanctuary was no longer the altar,” said Luzum, noting that this focus was obscured by wooden railings, organ pipes and other items in the sanctuary. “There were just a lot of other things that had been added, and when you walk into a church, you ought to have a sense of what’s the most important thing there.”   This is mostly mouthpiece for Fr. Ring’s arguments to do what he had determined to do.  Railings at least helped people step up.  There are no railings now, and hopefully no one will get hurt going up 2 steps instead of the one to lector.  Demolition was hardly necessary to mask the organ pipes and if Luzum really had a sense of “the most important thing there” it wouldn’t lead to moving the Blessed Sacrament out of the way. 

“It was just a little crowded up there, busy,” added fellow parishioner Sue Hopper.  It appears that the floor space is much less now, and the priest risks stepping off the ramp.  It seems much more crowded now. 

The height of the sanctuary floor had been a safety concern for some time, said parishioner Andy Beigel, who noted the condition of the stairs leading to the sanctuary was “treacherous at best.”   As noted above, there was only one step up from the main floor to the sanctuary.   Beigel seems to have sanctuary and altar confused.  The three steps from the sanctuary floor to the altar had railings, as shown above. 

“They had weird rises, very narrow tread, and a few of them were kind of shaky,” said Beigel, a member of the steering committee for the renovation and cochair of the cluster’s pastoral council.  The cement that had to be jack-hammered was “shaky?”  It doesn’t take $300,000 to lower the rise or increase the run of steps.

The church had been built with a raised sanctuary to allow people sitting far away to be able to see what was happening at the altar, explained Father George Wiant, a retired priest who regularly assists at St. Januarius. When the church was built in 1966, weekend Masses drew large summer crowds of visitors, so a movable, accordion-style wall allowed overflow crowds to be seated in the gathering space beyond the nave.  This is true.

“To me as celebrant, it made me feel quite distant from the people,” Father Wiant said, noting that this extra space is no longer needed during Mass.  How sad, that attendance has dropped 47% and the overflow room isn’t “needed.”  How sad, also, that it seems to be spun as a positive.  Fr. Wiant doesn’t have to sit in the pews and look around other people’s heads to see what’s going on, something impossible for the children.  But then again, most of the children have been driven away.  “The motive was to lower the altar down where it felt like it was more of a community together.”  Typical of the overemphasis on “It’s all about us” rather than “It’s all about Him Whom we worship!”  This is the same mindset in the church today that leads to emphasis on a communal “meal” rather than liturgical worship, in my opinion.  What is also weird about Fr. Wiant’s comments is that it makes him seem unable to function in a large church where people may well be further back from the altar.  And the pastoral planning drive to close small churches and try to create mega-churches is certainly out of step for the personal need expressed by Fr. Wiant.

With the floor lowered (again, it wasn’t– IT WAS RAISED!  why do you think they are so insistent on constantly repeating what is obviously untrue?)  and the ramp installed, it now will be easier for people with disabilities to serve as lectors or extraordinary ministers of holy Communion, added Cris Wensel, pastoral associate at St. Januarius. (As if there were actually a need, which there has not been, and there is no sign on the horizon that there will be.  And see the notes above, how a lector now has to go up two steps, or else go up the ramp, traverse the altar area and then go to the ambo, and then do it all in reverse!  This seems very distracting!) 

The new lighting makes it easier for parishioners to see, and the new layout of the sanctuary draws one’s eyes to the altar, Beigel said.  One’s eyes were always drawn to the altar.  Now that it is lower AND smaller, and lacking as much floor space surround, and competing with an overbearing Tabernacle wall, one can predict that all eyes will likely be drawn away from the altar, not toward it.  The result of the new design seems to accomplish just the opposite of what Mr. Beigel claims was intended.  Moreover, another impairment of visibility which no one seems to mention is that the organ is tucked into a back corner where the organist  CANNOT see the presider!  Why?  Is it part of getting rid of the organ without getting rid of the organ?

“I think it’s very simplistic. Wonder if she meant “simple?”   However, her word “simplistic” is much closer to the truth: Definition of Simplistic:   adjective:  Treating complex issues and problems as if they were much simpler than they really are:simplistic solutions”.  It’s almost as if when you come in, it wraps its arms around you,” said parishioner Jackie Leysath.  The touchy-feely is a very poor reason for advocating these changes.  Where is arm-wrapping in the GIRM?  In ANY liturgical directive at all?  Or is it a new age prop, inconsistent with Catholic liturgy?

“I find it a serene, very meditative environment. The curvature of the reredos seems to be embracing, like a set of arms pulling you in,” Hopper agreed.  Here we go again.  More of the “It’s all about ME!”  But who knows what St. Bernards has been teaching on this subject?

Yet some parishioners did not share such sentiments about the reredos, or the renovation in general.  Convictions would be a better word than sentiments.  The 75% of parishioners opposed to the demolition/renovation put forth their specific reasons, all unanswered.  The “leaders,” especially Fr. Ring, refused to allow discussion.  So how would the supporters even know what the logical arguments were?  Touchy feely giggles were never seen as a plus by anyone on any survey.   

“The new design looks like a wooden Christmas tree, and you can’t see the organ (anymore),” noted Bill Vierhile, who said he and a number of other parishioners were not in favor of the renovation and liked the church the way it was.  “A lot of people weren’t for it, but I think it came out all right,” he said. “Probably we’ll get used to the new design.  This is just what the perpetrators are hoping.  I think in time it will probably work out OK, but it’s different.”  Is “getting used to” something that is bad or ineffective or just wrong a good thing?  Were the Jews supposed to get “used to” their exile in Babylon?  Or were they to long for return?  So, too, may the many parishioners long for the return of Jesus to the Center of their Worship Space.

Leysath said she loves the sanctuary’s new look, but understands it will take time for some people to get used to such a drastic change. It’s human nature to be afraid of change, said parishioner George Horsch, who was on the steering committee for the renovation.  We wish that George Horsch would also acknowledge that it is sometimes human nature to oppose stupid and wasteful changes, change for the sake of change, while needs such as religious education of children, evangelization and care of those in need goes relatively unaddressed.  When did “change” become a worshippable deity in Catholicism?

“There was a lot of negativism, a lot of critique about what they were doing to the beautiful sanctuary,”  Horsch recalled.  Critique?  Yes, George is right.  But he should also mention that he completely ignored the input.  Negativism?  Well, it is hard to say something good about something bad.  “THEY were doing to the beautiful sanctuary?”  Don’t you mean YOU, George?” 

Wensel acknowledged the mixed feelings about the renovation and said parish leaders didn’t want to make people unhappy. Nonetheless, “You go by what needs to be done,” she said.  And by what Fr. Ring tells her  to do.  One of the key points is that there were only two things that needed to be done:  the divider wall and securing the Tabernacle.  In spite of all the money collected and spent, neither was done.

All aspects of the renovation were meticulously planned (doesn’t quite fit with not being even able to count the steps!)  with the goal of making sure St. Januarius remains a vibrant church community, Beigel added. It would be wonderful if it were true that St. Jan’s is “vibrant” but it  lost 47% of its attendees on Fr. Ring’s watch; that  is hardly vibrant.  There is a 75:25 split among parishioners.  That is hardly vibrant.  It remains to be seen what a new pastor can do.  But if there is improvement it will be because of the return of many who said, when they left, “I’ll be back when Fr. Ring is gone,” (and some who now add: “and when Fr. Wiant is gone”) and it will be because of healing brought by the new pastor, in spite of the Sanctuary changes and not because of them.

“It’s like labor,” Hopper said. “You go through a lot of pains, there was a lot of pain in the community itself, and maybe the baby doesn’t look exactly like Mom or Dad, but it’s beautiful in its own way. The Lord gave it to us.”  — This last paragraph was not in the printed newspaper copy.  But when the Lord is finally mentioned it is to lay the blame at His Feet: “The Lord gave it to us.”  No, He didn’t.  You took it AWAY from the Lord–His position in the elevated center of the altar, the visibility of His Sacrifice in the Mass, the ability to offer Him a Mass in the Extraordinary Form, and the inspiring beauty of His House.  And now you say the Lord did it?  At least His Name finally got mentioned, even though dropped in the paper edition.

Selected Comments on Line

by Mary on September 6, 2011, 5:09 PM
I’ve seen various images of the St. Jan renovation on the Internet, and I have to admit that the results are not impressive (at least to me). The removal of the tabernacle from the center of the church over to a secondary position on the left side of the altar diminishes the importance of the Real Presence of Jesus Christ. The sanctuary appears overly-simplistic and uninspiring. At least with the former design the sanctuary was elevated contributing to a sense of the importance of what takes place at the altar during Mass. A dividing wall near the Baptismal font, which was supposedly an important renovation priority, was left unfixed. It is my understanding that this renovation was hotly contested by a sizable number of parishioners which has contributed to many leaving the community. When all is said in done, striping the sanctuary down and moving the tabernacle is not worth the anger this project caused and souls put in danger of those who leave.

Zeal for Thy House Will Consume Me — Part XVIII — Testimony of Pictures

September 1st, 2011, Promulgated by Diane Harris

It is often said that “a picture is worth 1000 words”.  Try to keep in mind that these pictures show a cost (as best we know) of about $300,000.  The question isn’t only if the demolition/renovation at St. Januarius in Naples is worth the money, but was it worth dividing a parish, severing long time relationships, and deepening the alienation, for THIS?  (We regret that some of the pictures are fuzzy; people run in and run out trying not to get “caught” and that is the kind of fear that is so widespread when a parish is divided.  As better pictures become available, we’ll post here, so please check back.

(For reminders, the original pictures of the Sanctuary can be found in Part II, X and XVII of this series.)  This is what the Sanctuary looked like last week:

1. Overview from left Rear of Church


2. View from center, right side.








3. Close-up of Tabernacle


4. Presider Chair and Altar



5. Crucifix in Sanctuary







6A. Statue of Mary taken from St. Mary Rushville 6B. St. Joseph not shown




7. Rear of Church; Divider not repaired or replaced









It should be remembered that 1) about three-quarters of St. Jan’s parishioners opposed these changes, 2) that they were not allowed to discuss their concerns at Care of the Community meetings, 3) that the faith community did not have a vote (but the Parish Council which is not representative of the parishioners and is mostly hand-picked by Fr. Ring did have the vote), 4) that the parishioners and summer visitors were solicited for contributions with false information regarding the chief donor, the purpose of the donor, and the requirements of the donor (Zeal post XV) 5) that the work that needed to be done (divider wall repair or replacement and adequately securing the Tabernacle–Zeal V) were set forth as part of the project but were not done 7) that no accounting for the project has been given to parishioners; they don’t know if their parish is in debt or not   8.  that greatly insulting actions against the parishioners were taken such as conducting demolition during Holy Week and making the Church unusable for the Triduum, 9) that secret plans were drawn up for a Sanctuary without the organ and the pastor entertained selling it for $3000, its having a worth of $75,000-$100,000 10) that donations by parishioners of railings, shrines and other art, for example, were unceremoniously trashed.  And more….but that is enough to at least convey the hostility of pastoral leadership toward many of the parishioners. 

A very key question that yet has no answer is why would a pastor who knows he is leaving and who had presided in the Sanctuary for nearly a decade, insist on making such dramatic and damaging change in the weeks before he left?  Perhaps those with less vested interest can candidly comment on the fruits of Fr. Ring’s work in the St. Jan’s Sanctuary.  But for the moment, relating to each of the pictures above, we will try to point out the parishioners’ many objections to the final result.

By way of background, the bright balloon shapes of the windows are not the actual experiences in the Sanctuary but are due to the scatter of light in the picture taking, so we won’t comment on that effect further. If you look back at the earlier postings of Sanctuary pictures, you will have a better idea of the appearance, which is unchanged.

Comments by picture #:

1. People have, most of all, complained about the Holy Eucharist being removed from the prominent center position behind the altar and shunted off to the side near the exit door.  They have remarked about the architectural imbalance of the squared-off back drop for the wall behind  the Tabernacle being at odds with the sweeping lines of what is un-affectionately called “The Ugly Christmas Tree-UCT.”  Complaints have been heard about how the enclosure of the UCT has a separating effect, and how its architectural style expresses no continuity with the architectural style of the church, even with the ill-matching of the yellows of the wood to the blues of the reinforced concrete.  There are complaints that the massiveness of the Tabernacle Wall and Table unbalances the entire Sanctuary.  It is a bit of a shock that a firm like LaBella would put their name on such a debacle.

2.  This view shows the free-form steps, now only two (reduced from four) which impairs the view of children and small or infirm adults to fully see the liturgy.  Moreover, there has already been conversation that the free form steps, ascended and descended for lectoring, for example, are awkward and easier to stumble over due to the irregular shape.  Time will tell if this is just the newness, or actually an architectural defect.  However, in spite of Fr. Ring’s citing clutter in the Sanctuary as an excuse for his demolition, one should note the handrails on the wall behind the altar.  (The black horizontal lines which cut across the altar profile.)  These are handrails which follow a ramp up to the altar area, and the lighting causes shadows, almost as dark as the railings, to fall on the light wall, creating a hodge-podge of horizontal “cuts” across the field of view.  The presider chair (now elevated, while the Tabernacle is demoted) sits alone with those same lines and shadows creating distraction.  There are twice as many distracting lines on the left side, due to railings there on both sides of the ramp, and shadows from both.  The altar is a spoiler, but after the beautiful altar which the St. Januarians enjoyed previously, probably anything else would be a disappointment.  The prior altar, as best we know, has been demolished and pieces and parts plastered elsewhere, like on the ambo.  The replacement altar was from St. Andrew in Dundee and was literally falling apart and had to be reworked.  But it gave the Bishop a reason to come celebrate and consecrate a “new” altar, hardly something which happens often in the Diocese of Rochester.

3. The controversial ramp goes “up” behind the tabernacle.  Close behind this sacred space is a station for people to sanitize their hands.  Now it is unclear if Eucharistic ministers will also descend on the ramp, being out of sight of the congregation while carrying the Precious Blood.  This is a good opportunity to point out that the wall behind the Tabernacle, and the UCT wall both have a “fakeness” to them, like a movie set in a Western, where the storefronts are all propped up with a 2×4 brace.  There is a cubicle-quality cheapness (though not cheap) to such false dividers.  One can also see the seeming insignificance of the altar space as seen from the area of the church near the Tabernacle and its facade.  (The fan on the floor evokes a dissonant note too; perhaps A/C would have been a better investment?)  The scene is completed with a (white?) Sanctuary candle.

4. This picture gives a closer view of the altar and of the multiple bars and shadows that cut through the altar profile.  It is far more clutter and distraction, in some people’s estimation, than what Fr. Ring previously called clutter (which, sadly, included the Blessed Sacrament.)  Now people won’t have much to look at except the presider, but perhaps that was part of the purpose?  There is a sense of “congestion” in the available area for the altar.  As the Sanctuary begins to be used, what is becoming apparent is that there is less usable floor space than previously available.  Is that why the other two chairs, usually with the presider’s chair, have disappeared?  It isn’t just square footage, but how one can move around the space.  Can a priest step backward without stepping off the ramp?  Some believe that the ramp was a farce to try to prevent a Latin Mass from ever again being celebrated in this space.  Perhaps it seems far-fetched, but the hijackers of Vatican II have gone to greater lengths.  Part of the space reduction is the incursion by the choir and music area too.  Good news is that the organ is still there, and the pipes are behind the UCT.  But, as the instrument is positioned now, the organist doesn’t seem able to see the presider!

5.  Having a crucifix back in the Sanctuary can be a plus, but the planners found a smaller one than had been there, and the woods do not match well.  It seems that perhaps a smaller crucifix is used for scale because of the diminished Sanctuary space.

6. The statues of Mary and Joseph were taken away from St. Mary Rushville.  The Bishop continues to insist that St. Mary is still open, but there seems to be no hesitancy in letting the vultures descend on the bones.  Fr. Ring even expressed what seems a somewhat absurd opinion that having these statues in Naples would make the former St. Mary parishioners feel more comfortable there.  It belies a real lack of understanding of how people react in their spirits when they are continually subjected to what has been taken from them.  Or perhaps that is part of the intention?  Meanwhile, the statue of St. Januarius seems to have disappeared from the Sanctuary.

7. One of the few areas in which there was consensus was that the divider screen between the church and the parish hall needed repair or replacement.  People who gave were likely enticed by that being one of the promised renovations but it did not happen.  This photo shows the view into the parish hall, the state of the divider screen, and the tiny baptismal font in the middle of the aisle near the Paschal candle.  There is also no evidence that the Tabernacle has been secured, which also was important to do.  Instead of taking care of the most obvious needs, the Pastor’s decision was to spend on false walls, an unnecessary ramp, elevating the presider chair, lowering the Tabernacle, and for what purpose?  How much of this gives praise to the Lord, saves souls or serves people?

That brings up the final point which doesn’t show in any particular picture but is perhaps hinted at by all the pictures.  Why did Fr. Ring do this just before he left for St. Louis in Pittsford?  Is it just bad taste or did it have an element of retribution against a community that felt he had mis-handled the Fr. Emo sexual abuse situation, which held a parish forum and asked the Bishop to remove Fr. Ring, which had been silenced and suppressed during pastoral planning, and which has suffered as a step-child of St. Michael’s in Penn Yan for far too long?  You decide.

Meanwhile, it would be of interest for those who are perhaps too close to the current situation to hear from others with an independent view and willingness to share it.  Thank you.


$hepherds $hearing $heep: Part 9: Farmer Bob

August 14th, 2011, Promulgated by Diane Harris


In honor of all the Sheep who put their skin on the line, who complained about the mistreatment of God’s Sanctuary and Tabernacle, complained about being abused and silenced, and complained about being financially sheared. 

With care and concern for those too intimidated by Farmer Bob or Father Bob, for those who ran away from the fight, who were afraid to sign petitions or mandates or letters to the editor.

With prayers for those who are still so divided from Christian principles that they continue to ignore, revile or berate their brothers and sisters in Christ who have done what God has called them in conscience to do. 

 But especially for those few who stood courageously for the TRUTH, for righteousness, and for the future of the flock, even when others ran away or hid.  God bless your caring and your sacrifice on this day especially, when the Bishop of the Diocese of Rochester arrives in Naples, NY to “re-consecrate” the unnecessarily demolished / renovated Sanctuary at St. Jan’s for a photo-op triumphant display of violating the wishes of the majority of parishioners. May God have mercy on him, and on Father Robert Ring, and on the donors who enabled the travesty.

Zeal for Thy House Will Consume Me—-Part XV—-What Danny Wegman Said

July 30th, 2011, Promulgated by Diane Harris

As noted earlier, I skipped over a few parts of the story in order to get current but will be filling in the details in retrospect.  This is one I wish I had brought up sooner (if I’d had time) as I now note much speculation about what really happened with Danny Wegman.  I will share what I know, and also raise a few questions too.  But I think, overall, it will bring some clarification.

Bob Wegman lived on the west shore of Canandaigua Lake in the summers, and was a generous contributor to St. Januarius in Naples.   His widow, Peggy, continued to attend and be supportive.  Danny Wegman is situated further north but also on the west side, and although closer to Canandaigua sometimes also attended St. Jan’s.  His daughters, Colleen and Nicole were married there, and Danny Wegman contributed to refurbishment of the church for their double wedding.

This is by way of background to show that the Wegman Family did consider St. Januarius to be part of their faith experience, and that they were supportive.  In fiscal year ended June 30, 2009, St. Jan’s experienced a serious shortfall, and a Wegman donation of approximately $20,000 bailed out the parish, and by implication OLOL and Fr. Ring as well.  It must have taken some effort to secure such a sum, as Fr. Ring told me once that the Wegmans are a “house account” for the Bishop.  So during Partners in Faith in 2003 they didn’t received the typical solicitation as did the rest of us, but (I was told) they were separately solicited by DoR and therefore the half that would revert to a parish would not do so.  Other than conversation, I have no way to verify this, but it would not be surprising that a number of “deep pockets” in DoR don’t directly benefit their local parishes except through the Sunday collections.

Therefore, there must have been some high level machinations to even be permitted to go after the Wegmans to fund Fr. Ring’s projects at St. Januarius.  Fr. George Wiant apparently knew them and had contacts, but it seems pretty clear that DoR was on top of this all the way.

Since I started sending the Newsletter to all DoR parisihoners in Fall 2009, the Wegmans have been on the list, and therefore they received volumes on the concern about selling the organ, about the Sanctuary opposition, about the surveys, and even letters from parishioners.  Mostly, the parishoners felt ignored, and Fr. Ring and Fr. George went full speed ahead.  They solicited funds from parishioners and from summer visitors alike with a letter that said:

Dear Parishioners:

We have been offered a unique opportunity. Numerous times conversations have surfaced about renovating St. Januarius Church: to restore the simplicity that was so beautiful when the church was first dedicated, to make the altar more safe and accessible, while bringing the altar, tabernacle, baptistry and reconciliation room (confessional) more into conformity with the Vatican II Liturgy.

The Wegman family, in memory of Robert Wegman, has generously offered to fund this, though also wanting parishioners involved, raising part of the money. The approximate cost of the renovation will be $300,000. We are expected to raise $30,000 from our parish. The Wegman family will provide the remaining funds. Such an opportunity is unlike to come our way again.

Economically, this is a very difficult time for everyone. Yet at least some things, like the partition separating church and hall which is falling apart, must be addressed.  We now have a unique opportunity to address not only that, and to improving lighting; we can also accomplish renovation/restoration that could serve us very well long into the future.

Enclosed are some pictures of the renovated altar and baptistry. Will you try to be as generous as you can to help with this unique opportunity, which holds the promise of not only renewing our building, but also renewing our experience of praying the Eucharist, and our celebrating the sacraments together? Please return your pledge card by August 15th. Your pledge will be due Sept. 15th.

In advance, we thank you for your support and generosity.

In Christ,

Fr. Robert Ring & Fr. George Wiant

Please note several points in the letters sent by the Pastor and Fr. George.  The reference to original simplicity is apparently not shared by those few parishioners who were at St. Jan’s when the new church was dedicated.  Leaving that aside, Fr. Ring (with handouts earlier, and with this explict statement) seems to be clearly stating that St. Jan’s (the parish he has pastored for about 9 years at that point, has not been in compliance with Vatican II.  Strange, because that was the first time it seemed many people were hearing that complaint.  (Let’s not get into the Vatican II disputed statements at this point; worth a different post.)

Next, Fr. Ring and Fr. George are clearly saying they have $300,000 pledged by the Wegmans.  Remember the exact words:  “The Wegman family, in memory of Robert Wegman, has generously offered to fund this, though also wanting parishioners involved, raising part of the money.”   Ask yourself, is it any wonder that people receiving this letter would believe the Wegmans had agreed to fund, and even to cover overruns.

It isn’t clear why we never heard from the Wegmans, either to request to be off our mailing list, or to protest that Fr. Ring’s letter to parishoners didn’t accurately reflect their donation intent. 

Most (but not all) of the “Rest of the Story” is reflected in a chance encounter with Danny Wegman, reported to parishioners in a Special Edition Newsletter in March, 2011.  Here that Newsletter is reproduced in its entirety.  Click to make it larger and more readable.












This would have been a logical place to end the portion of the Zeal story that deals with Danny Wegman and the Wegman Foundation, if it truly were “the end.”  However, after more than a month of quiet (no reaction to the Special Edition Newsletter) it was reported back to me from those in attendance at two different Care of the Community meetings, that

1. Cris Wensel (Fr. Ring’s DRE and gatekeeper) reported that there had been a $300,000 commitment by Wegmans but that because of my meeting with him in the aisle of Wegmans that he had reduced his donation to $50,000.  That attributed comment would be patently false, as Mr. Wegman informed me that he had NOT promised the $300,000 but only the $50,000 and that is consistent with DoR reducing the scope of the project in January 2011.

2. It was also reported separately that the Wegmans had reduced their donation because someone from St. Jan’s (“a mandater”) had banged on Peggy Wegman’s door on her birthday demanding Wegmans not fund the project.  I have personally spoken to a mandater who says he did see Peggy Wegman walking on her birthday, said hello, did politely request that Wegmans not fund the work in their mutual parish that was opposed by so many.  He did not go to her home, let alone “bang on her door,”  or “demand.”  Such exaggeration and spin  is not untypical of other “stories” that get told in OLOL.

3. At yet another Care of the Community meeing, Cris Wensel stated that Danny Wegman had contributed another $50,000.

4. Then it was mentioned that Fr. Ring had secured the funding from “another source” and people worried that he’d put a mortgage on St. Jan’s or used the St. Patrick;s money which got folded into OLOL with the amalgamation, or the final spend-down of the St. Mary Rushville treasury.

5. At another point it was said that Mr. Wegman had relented and was giving the full amount.

 6. At another time it was said that a private donor had stepped in to make the rest of the donation.  Speculation was Fr. George Wiant or Danny Wegman “anonymously.” 

7. At another point it was said that  Danny Wegman had relented and was going to give the $300,000 after all.

Since so many OLOL stories do not seem to agree with each other, and minutes with specifics are unavailable, we can’t say what is true and what is not.  So we rely for the moment on what Jack Jones in his Naples Record arrticle reported: “Ring has since acknowledged that the Wegman gift was a donation of $50,000, but said that since that time the controversy over the project has led to Wegmans and another anonymous donor to make additional contributions that will cover the $300,000 cost.” 

How does one explain first the accusation that those who protested the sanctuary changes caused the contribution to drop, and then Fr. Ring’s later remark that the controversy led to Wegmans making additonal contributions?  It sounds like a contradiction.  Further, why the secrecy about an “anonymous donor” and is it really a donor or another financing method?  And since the diocese split the project, it would seem that all $300,000 wouldn’t just be spent on the sanctuary and lighting, so where is the rest of the money, especially for what had been most needed all along — the divider curtain in the back of the church?

I am the one who looked Danny Wegman in the eye, heard, restated and thus confirmed what he said to me.  I sent him a thank you for his good stewardship and I believe others did too.  If he changed his mind, it would be surprising but not impossible, but going from $50,000 to $300,000 seems unlikely for a good businessman, no matter how much wheedling Fr. Ring did.  And where are the financial statements showing the flow of funds?

If I’d published this part of the story after meeting Mr. Wegman “in the aisle” it would have ended with the 2-page special edition newsletter.  Now, with all the versions being spun, anything seems possible.  We may never know the truth, so reporting all the versions we’ve heard seems the fairest way to proceed.

Zeal for Thy House Will Consume Me — Part XVII–Wreck-ovation

July 26th, 2011, Promulgated by Diane Harris

As we draw toward the end of this saga, the results of Fr. Ring’s demolition project are beginning to show.  On August 14, the Bishop and he will come to St. Jan’s to “re-dedicate” the altar and sanctuary.  All the furnishings aren’t in place yet, but at least the plastic is down and one can get a look at it.  In time, parishioners will form their opinions.  Perhaps some who resisted it will accept it.  Perhaps others who vigorously defended the demolition will come to realize they trusted in vain. 

Why is DoR making such a big deal about a “re-dedication”?  I suspect it is because there are no “dedications,” that the diocese is one big parade of church closures, or sobbing grandmothers and wilted roses tied to doorknobs.  WOW!  A photo-op to refute the image!  But it is also like bragging about healing from a self-inflicted wound. 

The beautiful altar has disappeared and there is a table “altar” that is a hand-me-down from the now closed St. Andrew Church in Dundee.  We’ve heard that it had been falling apart (legs coming off) but it has apparently been fixed and patched to now be the St. Januarians’ new altar.  Whether the larger treasured altar is in basement storage or departed on a dump truck is not known.

Then there is what the Bishop most argued for — a ramp behind the altar.  Fr. Ring had complained of clutter and moved the tabernacle (CLUTTER!  OUR LORD?)  So now there are railings which cut across the plane line of the altar in a distracting way.  There is no clear need for the ramp except, perhaps, ensuring that it would be most difficult to ever again celebrate The Latin Mass in this space.

Oh, and somewhere in this new space we hope there’s an organ.  Maybe the pipes are hiding behind what the parishoners call “The Ugly Christmas Tree” or maybe not.  Fr. Ring wrote in last Sunday’s OLOL bulletin (yes, he is now pastor of St. Louis but doesn’t seem to be able to keep his hands off OLOL) that the statues of The Blessed Virgin Mary and of St. Joseph will be moved from Rushville to Naples.  It shows how out of touch he is with how people react.  He opines that it will make parishioners from the (now closed and defunct from treasury draining) St. Mary Church in Rushville “feel more at home” in Naples.  Absurd.  What it will more likely do is remind them how their own church was wantonly and unfairly closed (even though the Bishop never changed his pronouncement that it isn’t closed) and how St. Mary’s was dismembered by OLOL.  Great “homey-ness!”  What is even more absurd is the concept that statues can make people feel more at home!  If I wanted to be at home, I’d stay home.  What would make people feel better, I suspect, would simply be a faithful Mass in a loving community.  But that seems too much to ask.

What else might be picked up and inserted in the new Sanctuary?  Guess it will depend on how many garage sales are in Naples before the “re-dedication.”  Meanwhile, what is shown below are pictures of St. Jan’s before the demolition began, the “Eye-Candy” LaBella drawing which changed the whole appearance of the window lighting, but which wasn’t even in the project, and the current partially furnished view. 

The bright spot is from the skylight.  It looks like LaBella forgot to take into account that skylights create light going somewhere.  They should have been able to figure where.  But that might have been a distraction from their new entry into hydro-fracking.

St. Jan's Altar & Sanctuary Before Demolition

St. Januarius Altar & Sanctuary Pre-Demolition


LaBella's "Eye Candy" Architectural Rendering

St. Jan's Reconstructed Altar & Sanctuary

Feel free to “VOTE”  below with your comments whether you think $300,000 or thereabouts (still undisclosed and unaudited) was a fair investment for conversion of what WAS into what now IS…..thanks.

Zeal for Thy House Will Consume Me — Part XVI–Investigative Reporting

July 23rd, 2011, Promulgated by Diane Harris

No, you haven’t missed parts XIII, XIV and XV of this series.  They are still in work.  But to keep information fresh, let’s fast-forward to this week’s Naples Record and note the unusual interest a community newspaper has in its local Catholic church.   It was written by an investigative reporter, Jack Jones.  Since I am a member of Our Lady of the Lakes, OLOL, but not St. Jan’s, I was mostly contacted about whether or not I had really sued Fr. Ring for defamation (yes, I did, and a fuller story in posted in the letter to Andrew Cuomo, Shepherds Shearing Sheep, Part #8.) 

The reporter also asked me about numerical sources of information I’d published.  He must have been satisfied, as he used some of  it in his article.  But the remainder of the 4 column article is really input from the people of St. Jan’s, an outpouring of their thoughts and concerns.  Only one other person is mentioned in a quote in support of Fr. Ring, and that is the person he hired as project manager for the Sanctuary demolition (hardly an objective view.)  I will have much more to say in the intended Zeal posts XIII (How Rome got a failing mark under canon law), XIV (LaBella refused to answer; is getting into hydrofracking), and XV (What Danny Wegman said in the middle of the supermarket aisle).  Stay tuned.  But, for now, you might like to see what is being written in the environs of Naples.  You will have to click on the picture to make the text readable.




I was pleased, but not surprised, to find so many of the facts stated in the Newsletter “It Really Matters” validated by appearance in this report, and articulated by a variety of people, including that over 70% of the St. Jan’s parishioners did not want these changes, and including FINALLY corroborating that Danny Wegman had given only $50,000 when  Fr. Ring in his solicitation letters was claiming $300,000.  The reporter did an artful job of eliciting the denial by Fr. Ring, and then showing copy of the solicitation.  It was  wonderful to see a description of the reverence with which Catholics hold the Tabernacle, even though explained in more secular terms.    

Another untrue statement by Fr. Ring is his blaming canon law and building codes for his having to make the changes!  This is untrue.  And without good reasons to do what he has done, then the parishioners’ allegations as “retribution” become more credible.  Further, the article demonstrates the persistent lack of care for the individual, grouped together as ‘they’ [who] “just hear what they want to hear” and the whistling in the cemetery with the comment “Ring said he’s certain that church members – including many of his current crtitics – will endorse the changes.”  That is just one more way of ignoring people, who say what they mean and mean what they say.  I was sorry to see the reporter leave out the information about the forum of St. Jan’s parishioners who wrote to the Bishop demanding Fr. Ring’s removal (which was ignored, and then Fr. Ring was given another 6 years as pastor!)  I was also sorry to see that he didn’t mention how over 100 St. Januarians mandated a canon lawyer to try to prevent their amalgamation in OLOL.  But obviously there were space constraints, and everything couldn’t get told.

Personally, of course, I can’t help but note that Fr. Ring doesn’t see me as a parishioner of OLOL (which I am) and whose soul he as pastor was charged with saving, but as “adversary” which, of course, is a term in church-speak which means the devil.  It is a shame when people, especially in power, can’t dialogue and disagree without ad hominem attacks.  That is why I brought a defamation lawsuit, because I perceived I was being defamed.  And I would do it again, if necessary.  At least it resulted in his stopping for a while, and perhaps other people like mandaters were spared a little bit of the verbal abuse for a little while. 

The reporter writes of scurrilous … allegations between myself and Fr. Ring.  All I can say is similar to what Christ said in John 18:20-23 when He was before the high priest: 

Jesus answered him, “I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together; I have said nothing secretly. Why do you ask Me? Ask those who have heard me, what I said to them; they know what I said.” When He had said this, one of the officers standing by struck Jesus with his hand, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?” Jesus answered him, “If I have spoken wrongly, bear witness to the wrong; but if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike Me?”

To paraphrase, what I would say is: “I have spoken openly to the world.   I have said nothing in private that I didn’t put in Newsletters, lawsuit filings, affidavits for denunciation or on this blog.   I have presented the truth and Fr. Ring has not refuted a single statement I have made about him or about what he has done.  If what I have said is “scurrilous” testify to the wrong.”

[Emended for Clarification:  There are certain facts and truths about Fr. Ring which I have discussed only with advisors, such as attorneys or spiritual advisors, but under confidentiality, and which I have not published, nor  have  intention to publish, and none which could even remotely be considered “scurrilous”.  None of these was discussed with the reporter.] 

Thus, if  “scurrilous” is an appropriate word  for the “allegations between Harris and Ring” such allegations would seem to be in one direction,  from Fr. Ring in his interaction with the reporter, which serves to alert me that the language such as presented as claims in the defamation lawsuit may still be going on, again validating what has gone before.  For the record, I would have no trouble testifying under oath that I have made NO scurrilous comments verbally or in writing about Fr. Ring. 

Note the scurrilous definition: from the American Heritage Dictionary: 

scur·ri·lous  ADJECTIVE:

  1. Given to the use of vulgar, coarse, or abusive language; foul-mouthed.
  2. Expressed in vulgar, coarse, and abusive language.

In my perception, such claims are made for flock-control.   But, as Fr. Ring notes himself, attendance and contributions have fallen off in OLOL.  He avoids taking personal blame for the disaster OLOL has become.  He claims it as a reason to close churches.  But it wasn’t true at St. Mary’s ,which had more non-restricted funds than any of the OLOL parishes.  Was it just a target, like STA?  Whoops, getting off-subject.  More soon….




$hepherds $hearing $heep: Part 8: Case cont’d: “Abuse and/or Defamation”

May 29th, 2011, Promulgated by Diane Harris

This is part of the continuing saga recounted to Mr. Cuomo in the letter given to him in August 2010 when he was State Attorney General and running for Governor.  The following is the final part of the “Case of St. Mary’s Rushville” which began in Part 3 and was appended to his letter in its entirety.  (As a reminder, anything in blue was added after the letter was given to Mr. Cuomo, but is added for the sake of clarification to current readers.)  The pastor mentioned is Father Robert Ring.

Intimidation, Verbal Abuse and Defamation:  This has been typical of the pastor’s style, which is intimidating and sarcastic, controlling people from asking too much or getting too involved.  I realize this may seem far afield from the financial and NYS Religious Corporation Law, but I am sure you are aware that under Sarbanes Oxley (federal financial legislation which would be well-known to Mr. Cuomo) much attention has been given to the effect of an intimidating, hostile environment on the loss of quality in financial reporting, caused by reluctance to elevate or dispute relevant issues.  Therefore, I mention specifically just a few of the acts of hostility, experienced or witnessed. 

For example,

  • one gentleman who was on a committee with me said that Fr. Emo (see above and prior Zeal posts) had been convicted of sexual abuse in another case, but the pastor denied it.  That gentleman sent me an email to prove it and I copied it to the pastor as proof, who threatened that man with a lawsuit for “slander” [against himself, the pastor!]  The man left the committee and his parish (St. Jan’s)
  • In another situation, an elderly and very reliable parishioner who was one of the people who counted collections faithfully remarked that the headcount [reported by the usher] looked higher than she felt had been present that day.  The pastor heard from others about her remark, telephoned her and denigrated her, and also made a joking remark at her expense at another parish’s meeting, all causing the lady to no longer count.  So, a high quality, reliable financial counting person was replaced by more of the pastor’s personal selections.  Since then, I have personally seen a number of errors made, mis-crediting donations between St. Mary and St. Theresa. 
  • I too have been an object of the pastor’s sarcasm and denigration, and subjected to his intimidating tactics.  At one point, when I was parish council chair, I asked for and received data directly from him on financial status among parishes for the purpose of analyzing and posting on the parish forum.  Within hours of the posting, the pastor said he could “no longer trust” me, and dismissed me from Parish Council.  I still believe it was a ruse to remove opposition to the closing of St. Mary.
  • I witnessed the pastor’s accusing a woman in another parish of lying when I knew and I believe he knew she had not lied.  But she was bringing together a group of parishioners seeking better alternatives than the planning team was presenting.  Therefore, her credibility was damaged with another group of people, and she wasn’t present to defend herself.
  • The pastor held a meeting between parish councils and the planning team and invited input in November 2005.  Another council member and I provided 11 pages of planning input.  The following Sunday the pastor stood in the pulpit and denounced our input as a “pack of lies.”  That was untrue.  He wrote an apology he wanted us to send to the planning group.  We refused.
  • In violation of Catholic Church Canon Law, the pastor interfered with the rights of parishioners to meet and discuss the pastoral planning work, to form our opinions without pressure from him, and to do the best job possible for other parishioners.  Both the Concerned Parishioners of St. Mary and the Friends of St. Januarius were treated this way.
  • After presenting to the pastor a draft complaint to the Chancellor about the pastor’s behavior, he changed the locks, removed me from all ministries and threatened to do more.  He did not comment on the draft, which was transformed into a complaint to the Bishop in June 2006.
  • The pastor’s persistent hostility has modeled the same for his staff and for some of his parishioner supporters, so that to some inquiries on financial matters I have been met with email response such as “Cool your jets” and an outright refusal by the business manager to answer questions; in other cases hostile email and letters, some of a threatening nature, have been received with his apparent “blessing.”  It only shows the pressure within this not-for profit entity against elevating issues of concern, and illustrates the need not to allow the church to become the last bastion of permitted insult and abuse. 

Defamation Lawsuit Against The Pastor:  Finally, in 2007 after all efforts with the pastor and with the Chancellor and Bishop of the Rochester Diocese failed, I initiated a defamation lawsuit against the pastor (Monroe County Index No. 5797-07).  Long delays by the Diocese in even answering my complaint caused many events to expire under the statute of limitations but, nevertheless I pursued it as a per se defamation suit, against the pastor and against the Diocese for failure to supervise him. [Mr. Cuomo, as a lawyer, would know what “per se” means; i.e. that the defamation was so egregious that I would not have to prove injury to health or prove financial damages.]  The case was not heard, as the judge determined it did not rise to the level of “per se” and that I would need to prove financial or health damages, and dismissed the case without prejudice, giving me 6 months to appeal.  [An important point here, that again Mr. Cuomo as a lawyer would have understood, is that by the judge’s stating “without prejudice” the judge was NOT saying I hadn’t been defamed, only that I would need to have health or financial damage too.]   I did not appeal, as neither my finances nor my health were damaged.  I mention this in the interest of full disclosure.  Among my claims were that the pastor had slandered and libeled me, and I provided backup for all those claims, which is a matter of record. 

After I let the time for appeal expire (June 2008) thenthe diocese decided that it would assess St. Mary Rushville (another way to move money out of the Treasury, we believe) “charges” which they say were not covered by insurance for the Diocese’s and/or the pastor’s defense of my suit against them. (The Diocese had been included as a party for failure to properly supervise its employee, Fr. Bob Ring.)  The charge they levied against St. Mary was about $19,000 yet St. Mary was not even a party to the action.  St. Mary was neither plaintiff nor defendant, and had and has no ability to supervise or to discipline the pastor.  Eventually, on protest, the Diocese dropped the charge to about $14,000.  The 2009 and 2010 (ended June 30) financial report has not been issued yet, so we can’t verify what actually was charged.  But St. Mary had to pay for a personal lawsuit against the pastor, for his personal behavior, when the parish had no role, which of course seems unfair to most parishioners.  As we ask “why” it appears that such a tactic is at least partially intended (or at least has the result) to intimidate others from bringing lawsuits.  If such intimidation were to prevent a parent from bringing suit on behalf of a molested child, it would be a very wrong signal to send, to require hurting one’s own parish in order to protect oneself or family.

CONCLUSION:  All these abuses within one parish, with one pastor, over just a few years, experienced by a number of different people, show how those who know how to “manage” the law in the not-for-profit area of religious corporations can deeply affect the lives of individuals and communities.  Very few of these actions seem to be an outgrowth of the true not-for-profit purposes.  And it is believed if there were more state oversight over the financial and governance areas, the net result would even be good for the church, and give people comfort that they can be treated fairly and be safe.  Even appeals, by many parishes, all the way to Rome in accordance with approved Church process and Canon Law, seem to have fallen on deaf ears.  Please lead a reform of the NYS Religious Corporation Law.

Furthermore, in the process of researching such matters, I suggest that due to the small size and self-contained nature of these issues at St. Mary Rushville, over a prolonged period in OLOL and in the Diocese of Rochester, St. Mary would make an excellent further case study for reformation, and I personally pledge all possible cooperation to assist with your further analysis and consideration.


Diane C. Harris

The above ends the text of the mailing to Mr. Cuomo, and is only the tip of the iceberg of what went on in OLOL, and only on finance-related matters.  But finance is an important diagnostic of the state of openness, transparency, responsibility in any not-for-profit, which benefits from a plethora of  tax exemptions, at tax-payer expense. 

When I first posted the letter to Mr. Cuomo, some thought I wanted government interference in the Church.  I DO NOT!  What I want is for the Church management, and any not-for-profit, to adhere to the law, and for that law to be enforced.  I do not believe churches should be above reasonable and just civil law, nor should  the people who run them. 

Future posts on the $$$ thread will unwrap even more details on certain events, in those posts sticking  to the finance and finance related areas.

$hepherds $hearing $heep: Part 7: Case cont’d: “Financial Sloppiness or not?”

May 20th, 2011, Promulgated by Diane Harris

This is part of the continuing saga recounted to Mr. Cuomo in the letter given to him in August 2010 when he was State Attorney General and running for Governor.  The following is just part of the “Case of St. Mary’s Rushville” which begins in Part 3 and was appended to his letter.  As a reminder, anything in blue was added after the letter was given to Mr. Cuomo, but added for the sake of clarification to current readers.

Financial Mis-Allocations and Abuse:  St. Mary had savings of about $125,000 during the early stages of the pastoral planning period.  However, it was consistently assigned a disproportionate assessment for its membership in OLOL, beyond expense levels previously incurred as a stand-alone parish.  For example, it had less than 4 percent of the households in OLOL but carried 7% of the financial burden for staff, while still paying all its own heat, light, insurance, maintenance and other carrying costs. 

The Diocese also has a mandatory program called Catholic Ministry Appeal (CMA), referenced above, which is a required payment by parishes to the diocese.  If sufficient contributions for each parish are not received, the funds are simply removed from the parish’s savings account.  It only became clear in retrospect how the “tax” burdens imposed by OLOL administration, and also by Diocesan Administration, were setting St. Mary’s up for closure, “milking” funds from the corporate entity.  For perspective, the following were the diocesan CMA assessments in each of the years shown per household, compared to the “per household” CMA assessment for all the remaining OLOL parishes combined, without St. Mary.  There is no substantial difference between the financial ability of St. Mary parishioners and that of other OLOL parishioners.  See $hepherds $hearing $heep Part 1 for more detail on the CMA.

                  St. Mary Goal/household                    Remainder of OLOL Goal/household

2007                                 $94.06                                      33.39

2008                                  90.52                                      34.01

2009                                  109.47                                    35.64

2010                                    95.94                                      34.76

Moreover, St. Mary’s 7% allocation to cover OLOL expenses is also applied to the cost of maintaining the rectory in Penn Yan, though St. Mary must pay itself for the St. Mary buildings.  The pastor has allowed other individuals to live there, each man for approximately a one year period (one through most of 2005 and the other through much of 2009.)  It is believed that the former was also a vulnerable or impaired adult, whose staying in the rectory would be in violation of diocesan policy.  Possibly these men provided some work toward their room and board, but it did not accrue to the benefit of St. Mary which was burdened with 7% of the rectory expenses.  But, again, the finances are not transparent. 

Audit Unavailable:  I met with Fr. Daniel Condon, Chancellor of the Diocese of Rochester, in April 2007 to express a number of complaints against the pastor, including financial, liturgical and pastoral.  Among those complaints were issues of financial abuse and/or mismanagement.  I requested that the Diocesan auditors, The Bonadio Group, look into the situation, which I believe was done.  I had an opportunity to present issues to those auditors prior to their on-site work.  On December 9, 2007 the pastor spent about 15 minutes in the pulpit at the beginning of Mass reading excerpts from an “audit report” purported to be from Bonadio, and using the opportunity to deride my having caused the audit.  However, none of the excerpts addressed the issues which had been brought to the Chancellor’s or auditors’ attention.  After Mass, I asked the pastor for a copy of the report and he not only refused to make it available, but he accused me of “mental illness.”  Then he stormed into a group of parents waiting for their children in Religious Education asking them if they ‘hate’ him.  One father in attendance left, removed his family from the parish and has never come back. 

In spite of the 2007 audit, it seems there are still problems in the handling of funds in OLOL.  The report which I received from the OLOL Business Manager in January 2009 for my donations in 2008 for tax purposes was seriously erroneous, an understatement of nearly 22%, and missing 8 separate donations.  Quite frankly, it is typical of the sloppy financial accounting in OLOL and it took 7 weeks to get a reply acknowledging that I was correct.  There is no way for a parishioner to determine whether or not those donations were actually credited to St. Mary or to another church.

Additional Background:  This is a continuation of the Case Study sent to Mr. Cuomo, broken into bite-sized chunks.  More to come.  All together, we are aware of three men who lived on OLOL property during this pastorate.  The one who stayed occasionally at St. Mary’s, Bill, was described in $hepherds $hearing $heep Part 4.

The second person, Dennis, lived in the OLOL Rectory in Penn Yan for most of 2005.  Fr. Ring said he was interested in becoming a priest; however, he was not admitted to Becket Hall and finally left the rectory for the Evelyn Brandon Health Center and other care facilities.  We believe that his living in the rectory for such an extended period of time is in direct violation of Diocesan Policy, especially since his admission to care raises the question of an impaired adult, who is specifically prohibited from being housed even one night in a rectory under the Diocese’s “Safe Environment” policies, which Fr. Bob Ring even helped to formulate!  Fr. Ring said he had met Dennis during chaplaincy at Keuka College.

The third person also  spent about a year in the Penn Yan rectory and is the person referred to in the letter above, who resided there through much of 2009.  He claimed to have been sexually abused by a priest in the Diocese of Cleveland and there are media stories to this effect.  His name is Chris Kodger, a self-styled Taoist, and he can be found on Facebook or MySpace, telling much of his story.  Or Google Chris Kodger.  The reader will have to judge by reading those entries if this is a suitable resident for a rectory on the grounds of a Catholic School.  His picture is shown here since it is not confidential, and one wonders, since he was recently seen at St. Januarius, if he will also be seen in Pittsford.  The excerpts regarding rectory residents have been included at various times in the It Really Matters Newsletter, which is sent to Fr. Ring, who has never made any amendment to or correction to reporting regarding those visitors, even though the Newsletter regularly invites such correction. 

The issues were included in the Case Study to Mr. Cuomo because they involve questionable use of tax-exempt properties, uneven charging/crediting of member corporations (parishes), questionable employment policies, accounting, benefits and reimbursements, among other issues. 


$hepherds $hearing $heep–Part 6: Case cont’d: “Bleeding the Treasury”

May 15th, 2011, Promulgated by Diane Harris

This is part of the continuing saga recounted to Mr. Cuomo in the letter given to him in August 2010 when he was State Attorney General and running for Governor.  The following is just part of the “Case of St. Mary’s Rushville” which begins in Part 3 and was appended to his letter.  As a reminder, anything in blue was added after the letter was given to Mr. Cuomo, but added for the sake of clarification to current readers.

Bleeding the Treasury:  For a church to be closed, it is required that the bishop hear his presbyteral council and make a decree.  The Bishop says that St. Mary’s is still open, but the pastor has used his authority as a pastor to set Mass schedules so he has given none to St. Mary, which bypasses the Canon Law requiring consultation with the Priests’ Council.  Hence, St. Mary had Mass on a few Saturday mornings a month [this is no longer happening; there are no more Masses], for about 3-5 people, in order to claim it is still open.  But those Masses do not fulfill the parishioners’ “Sunday Obligation” hence they no longer go to or contribute to St. Mary.  Although the property is falling into disrepair, by keeping the parish “open” OLOL can still bleed off about $22,000 per year in the OLOL “Tax” and the Diocese can still take about $6000 per year for its mandatory Catholic Ministries Appeal (CMA; see below).  When the parishes complete amalgamation, anything left of St. Mary’s cash will be unknown.  On the surface it would become OLOL funds, but there is no transparency to where the cash goes from there and if there are payments to the diocese for lawsuits or anything else.  Without mandatory reporting of the liquidation (or suppression) of parishes there is no ability for parishioners to know where the funds flow.

Unfairness to Parishioners regarding its being a “Personal Parish.   St. Mary has always been called a parish.  Sometime during the planning process, there was an attempt to call it a “mission” of St. Theresa (but St. Mary is the older church and all the documents use “parish.”  Besides, if it were a mission, under Canon Law it could not have been arbitrarily assessed by the diocese.)  Then, at another point during planning, the territorial boundaries “disappeared” for St. Mary.  St. Theresa’s map at the diocese showed up encompassing the entire territory.  Under Canon Law, having no boundaries would make St. Mary a “personal parish” and the funds after closure would follow the parishioners (savings plus the liquidated value of the properties.)  We believe that keeping St. Mary’s (Rushville) “open” is so that nothing will be left when it closes, nothing to follow the 75% of parishioners who now attend St. Mary Canandaigua, and which parish should have a rightful claim on 75% of the (Rushville) patrimony.  This is simply one more illustration of the abuses which can take place in a not-for-profit religious corporation under the current law and its uneven enforcement.

As an afterthought, it seemed like you might want to see what a church with over $50,000 in cash, when it’s shut down and bled off, looks like after a year and a half of neglect.    No, it’s not one of the grand churches of artistic merit; but, it is a place where people have worshipped for over 100 years.   The following is one of the fruits of Fr. Robert Ring’s pastorate: 

Broken Window for over a year

           How does a Pastor let the Patrimony get into this shape?

Why isn’t the parish savings allowed to be used for repair?

Peeling Paint

Parish House Run Down

Critter hole in wall near Tabernacle

$hepherds $hearing $heep — Part 5: Case cont’d: “Planning Damage”

May 13th, 2011, Promulgated by Diane Harris

Reminder: blue text is update to the “Case Study: St. Mary Rushville”, appended to the letter to Mr. Cuomo.  See $hepherds $hearing $heep — Part 2 for the letter to Mr. Cuomo, and Parts 3&4 for the beginning of this “Case Study,” of St. Mary in Rushville, NY.

Planning Group was managed to the detriment of parishes for which the pastor was a Trustee:

  1. In August 2003 a new planning group was convened for further consolidation of parishes.  Parish councils (advisory to the pastor) were asked to name 2 members to the planning group for each parish.  The pastor then replaced 3 of the 4 named by the joint council of St. Mary / St. Theresa.  One from St. Mary was actively involved and removed with no notice.  The person with whom he was replaced would ultimately become one of the current Trustees against whom complaint is made (see Trustees section above).  When the other representative moved away, St. Mary ended up with only the one representative, the one appointed personally by the pastor, was not allowed to name a replacement, and thus had less influence and vote than otherwise it should have had. 
  2. Forums for discussion were held only at the two churches which were planned to definitely stay open, denying parishioners the right to input for their own parish, to hear and exchange with other parishioners.  Even if they tried to participate at the larger parishes, their voices were minimal by comparison.
  3. Two and a half years after the planning began, there finally was an analysis by the business manager of the financial picture of combining parishes, just minutes before a vote was to be taken.  Later it was seen that his data were erroneous, showing losses where there was actually positive income for configurations which the pastor did not favor.  Even when brought to his attention, it was never corrected, so members of all parish councils, some of whom were Trustees, were misled by seriously wrong financial analysis.  The auditors agreed when it was shown to them but they said this was outside the area for which they were hired.
  4. At the “final” planning meeting, St. Mary and St. Theresa expressed the unanimous will of their council members to close neither parish, but to rotate Masses between them as long as each was financially solvent.  The final report to the bishop lied about this conclusion and presented it as a “choosing” between the parishes, with one to be closed.  The bishop accepted that write-up even though it was untrue and disputed.
  5. The pastor had persistently promised council members that the savings would stay with each parish.  At the last meeting, the final plan presented had no such provision.  Funds which were collected for St. Januarius roof, for example, have met an ambiguous fate.
  6. For the final decision on whether to close St. Mary or St. Theresa, the pastor asked the Parish Council members to all agree in advance to accept whatever the recommendation would be of an outside consultant who would know “nothing” of the OLOL situation.  The council unwisely agreed.  Then the pastor used a priest friend of his [Fr. Timothy Niven]  who had once been under his supervision at St. Januarius, who knew well the OLOL situation, and against all objective data to the contrary (some data he received also was untrue), gave the recommendation that the pastor wanted, which was to close St. Mary.  St. Theresa had less than $10,000 in savings, and St. Mary had more than $100,000, adding to the perception that the church closures are not about priest shortages (there are plenty of priests available in OLOL) but about cash.  The result was announced in May 2009. 

At another time there will be far more to say on the pastoral planning debacle; but, for now, this is simply what was included in the letter to Andrew Cuomo, and thus limited principally to financial aspects.

$hepherds $hearing $heep — Part 4: Case cont’d: Trustees

May 10th, 2011, Promulgated by Diane Harris

Reminder: blue text is an update to the Case Study: St. Mary Rushville, appended to the letter to Mr. Cuomo.  See $hepherds $hearing $heep — Part 2 for the letter to Mr. Cuomo, and Part 3 for the beginning of this “Case Study,” with background on the parish of St. Mary Rushville, as well as information on the Partners in Faith Capital Campaign as it applied to St. Mary’s.  The “Case Study” continues:

Trustee Turnover:   St. Mary, as do other parishes, has five Trustees.  Three are diocesan hierarchy (one of those includes the pastor).  The two lay Trustees basically do not have an effective vote.  Nevertheless, in spite of the fact that Trustees must be “approved” by the bishop, the pastor changes Trustees himself as he wishes.  For example, I (the undersigned) was named Trustee in late 2004, midway through the fiscal year 2005, ending June 30, 2005, when it became obvious that there was no Trustee.  It was difficult to get information that was accurate from OLOL business management.  Specifically, I had concerns related to the period in the same fiscal year, but prior to my being named a Trustee; i.e. summer 2004.  The pastor had brought a man to St. Mary parish whom he said owed him money, and that he was going to have the man “work it off.”  My understanding was that there would be no charge to St. Mary.  

After I became a Trustee I remembered that conversation, and that later the business manager had told me the pastor made him write him (the pastor) checks that he could cash.  I witnessed some money then being given by the pastor to the man, who by then was staying overnight in the children’s classrooms with a sleeping bag and with alcohol found on premises.  The pastor ignored complaints.  Damage was also unnecessarily inflicted by the work that man was doing, so he stayed even longer (about five months in all) and the Parish House (rectory) was unavailable for usual parishioner use. 

Things began to come to a head when the man was injured by a chemical in the painting work he was doing (a paint remover absorbed through his skin), and the pastor had to drive him to the hospital.  Then when NYS Police came to the property for a child car seat demonstration, that man was very upset and said the police had a warrant for his arrest.  He called the pastor who came and quickly drove him away.  Then, I saw in the financial reports that money was being paid out, money the parish had not expected to pay and which had not even been presented to the Finance Council for review.  In any event, these were concerns I had as Trustee, and it is possible that my questions, which were not answered, also contributed to the pastor’s firing me as Trustee as further described below.

In mid-August 2005, the pastor put a notice in the church bulletin that he was convening an annual meeting with parishioners after Mass the following week.  (Some years no annual meeting with parishioners was held at all, without explanation.  The business manager told me that many churches in the Rochester Diocese do not hold annual meetings.)  I told the pastor that I needed to see the financial report, and that sufficient notice had not been given to be in compliance with NYS Religious Corporation Law.  I also informed him that, as Trustee, I would not sign to close St. Mary.  He seemed quite annoyed with me and, although he did delay the meeting, he also had an announcement read from the pulpit asking for a new Trustee.  That was the first I knew I’d been replaced.  I did not sign anything at all for the period I was supposedly Trustee; I don’t know if anyone else did. 

A year later, my replacement (Lori Jones) who apparently did everything she was asked to do also said she would not sign to close St. Mary.  Soon thereafter, the pastor asked the Finance Council Chair, through the business manager, for her also to be replaced as Trustee.  Her name later disappeared from the Trustee listing in the Diocesan Directory but she told me she had not been informed officially. 

Trustees not meeting Fiduciary Obligations:   It is obvious that signoff by Trustees of a church closing is a requirement to be a Trustee in OLOL, which would seem to have the potential to violate fiduciary obligations if Trustees are chosen for agreeing with the pastor on temporal issues, rather than voting their conscience and for the care of the people.  Moreover, the pastor is Trustee of the other 5 churches as well, and he induced a competition between St. Mary and St. Theresa (by establishing a “Secret Subcommittee” comprised of two members of St. Theresa, none from St. Mary, his Religious Ed Director (employee), and a friend of his from another OLOL parish.   After meeting for several months, they determined that St. Mary, not St. Theresa should close.  When I asked the pastor how he could do such a thing, and have no representation from St. Mary on such an important committee, he replied: “You can’t prove I knew anything about it.”

As Trustee of both incorporated parishes, it would seem that any pastor would be highly conflicted, as a vote for one to stay open must inevitably adversely impact the other.  The bishop too is in a similar position.  Moreover, the two new current lay Trustees, personally picked by the pastor, began contributing to St. Theresa (where they would find their new home after St. Mary closed) while St. Mary was still open and should have received the funds.  For all these reasons, I point out that the Trustee situation in the hierarchical church is subject to such violations of fiduciary obligation and conflicts of trusteeship, and also to pressure from the pastor to vote in solidarity with the other Trustees, that the very concept of trusteeship lacks credibility.  Without better controls, lay trusteeship is, in essence, a myth.

to be continued …..

$hepherds $hearing $heep – Part 3 “The Case of St. Mary”

May 7th, 2011, Promulgated by Diane Harris

This is Part 3 of $hepherds $hearing $heep, and the beginning of the second portion of the Andrew Cuomo letter, as promised, “The St. Mary Rushville Case Study”.  While Part 2 brought forth the point that the NYS Religious Corporation Law is not being uniformly applied or enforced, and that strengthening is needed, that letter  to Mr. Cuomo was written  on mostly a theoretical or legalistic basis.  Quite frankly, since it was addressed to Mr. Cuomo, there were references which had particular application to his knowledge and work (e.g. the Sarbanes Oxley regulation of corporations, and the price fix in milk that he had previously combatted) and there was an implicit understanding which he would have had on the difference between enforcement and “taking over an institution.”   So I apologize to anyone who might, in good faith, have been confused by reading the letter to Mr. Cuomo, which obviously  had a different original audience.  However, in the interest of not being accused of rephrasing or of avoiding confrontation, I had decided it was best simply to put it out there exactly as it went to Mr. Cuomo (and Mr. Palladino.)

Again, I was  faced with the same dilemma; whether to rewrite the Case Study (Part 3) which I sent to the candidates, or simply to clarify any confusions or provide defense as needed after the fact.  Again, I choose to present it exactly as it went to the candidates (typos and addresses excepted) plus a few  updates added as needed (in blue), where otherwise an erroneous impression would be created caused by the lapse of time.  

Also, at first, it seemed better to post the Case all at one time, while the prior post was still fresh in the previous readers’ minds.  I did that, and even apologized because it was so long for a blog post; but I had not seen a way to conveniently break it into “two pieces” without destroying the momentum.  However, after this newbie blogger got some advice, I decided to redo and spread the story out through what will eventually be throufgh Part 8.  Here we begin Part 3 of  “$hepherds…” with the history of St. Mary and the comments sent to Mr. Cuomo on Partners in Faith.  (If you did read the prior (very extensive) posting of Part 3, it will be all the same information, but spread over more parts.  So you need not re-read it just because it is now in multiple parts.)

Actual Case for Illustration

St. Mary in Rushville, NY

(With information limited where possible to matters related to NYS Law)


Background:  The Catholic Church in Rushville, NY began when the first Mass was celebrated on May 3, 1853.  St. Mary’s was incorporated as a parish on March 29, 1869.  Approximately 130 years later it joined with five other parishes under a Diocese of Rochester Directive to form a non-incorporated entity known as Our Lady of the Lakes Catholic Community (OLOL).  Ten years later, in September 2009, the pastor stopped scheduling Masses at St. Mary, bypassing the required decree of the Bishop, so it is effectively closed, but the Treasury continues to be drained.  The other entities in OLOL are St. Michael in Penn Yan, St. Januarius in Naples, St. Andrew in Dundee (now closed), St. Patrick in Prattsburgh, and St. Theresa in Stanley, NY.  St. Theresa, being the closest to St. Mary evolved over time as a “sister” parish, and a rectory was build in Stanley which up until about 10 years ago housed the priest who served Rushville and Stanley.  Neither the Rushville nor the Stanley rectory now has resident priests but they are served by priests from Penn Yan (from where a lone priest originally travelled by horseback to say Mass.).  The territories of the six OLOL parishes comprise over 700 square miles, with two full time priests and two retirees to assist, plus 4 ordained deacons.  The two full time priests live in Penn Yan.  The current pastor is Rev. Robert Ring, who coincidentally came to OLOL on September 11, 2001.  There was quite a bit of tension around his appointment especially at St. Januarius parish, where many parishioners believed and continue to believe he was responsible for the mishandling of a sexual abuse case against a Fr. Emo of St. Januarius, accused of molesting a vulnerable adult in the 1990’s.  The pastor has denied it was mishandled, and also has denied that he was responsible for the reassignment of Fr. Emo elsewhere, or to anywhere he continued to molest.  (The pastor was for many years the person in the Diocese of Rochester designated to receive the complaints of sexual abuse.)  In August 2003 there was a forum held at St. Januarius with parishioners demanding the removal of the pastor.  The diocese did not do so.  He was reappointed to a second 6 year term as pastor in 2007. 

While there are many complaints which could be detailed in too many pages, the following are most relevant to Trustee issues, financial issues, and general management of a not-for-profit corporation in NYS, as related to NYS Religious Corporation Law.  However, they are just a sampling.

A Diocesan Capital Campaign was neither spent on promised projects nor funds returned to donors:  In May 2003, the Diocese of Rochester launched a capital campaign drive, prior to the “pastoral planning” which would soon close parishes, and with the promise to return half of everything collected to the parish which raised the funds.  Those monies were raised on the promise that they would be used for identified projects.  Of the $43,723 collected for St. Mary, $21,811.50 was returned to the parish, and a pre-announced 25% was set aside for staffing.  Thus, the net amount remitted to St. Mary for the projects regarding which funds were raised was $16,358.62.  None of the projects promised were done.  One roofing/foyer problem was later charged at a cost of $5500, awarded against church policy which requires a second quote.  That specific project (except for possibly some minor painting) was not an approved project.  Nevertheless, it seems to have been deducted from the total residual remaining.  The balance in this capital account is now believed to be approximately $10,858, if the full $5500 were to be allowed.  Since St. Mary is to be closed, projects will remain undone and there is no visible action to return the restricted funds to the donors. 

….to be continued

Zeal for Thy House Will Consume Me — Part XII — Rome Bound

May 2nd, 2011, Promulgated by Diane Harris


The story of the St. Jan’s Sanctuary was interrupted for the public service announcement that the demolition had taken place (Part X) and we first posted archive pictures and a sad cartoon, not intending to raise discussion about what needed renovation or what one’s personal preferences are in church design, but to punctuate the long, arduous and unfair process the people of St. Jan’s have suffered through.  The pictures of the destruction were next posted as a meditation reminiscing on Psalm 74, among other relevant Scriptures (Part XI). 

Yes, in spite of parishioners’ strong desires and pleading for Fr. Robert Ring to wait at least until after Easter, he went ahead with the demolition beginning on the Monday of Holy Week, and completing the jack-hammering by Good Friday.  St. Jan’s parishioners had to celebrate Easter in the Parish Hall because of Fr. Ring’s refusal to wait even a week.  We again raised the question how any priest, who had shepherded a people for nearly a decade, could wreak such destruction in what was then 64 days prior to his departure (now 55, and counting) without even apparent respect for the desires of an incoming pastor (still unnamed).

In the Comments to Zeal Part X, we pointed out 16 problematic issues and tried to bring front and center the disrespect for the pain of a large majority of parishioners, and for which they have no mechanism to be heard. When the bishop’s reply contains half-truths and ignores facts, and when one isn’t even allowed to speak at a Care of the Community meeting, it says as much as the pictures do.   Remember — all this is happening in a parish in which attendance has dropped now 47% since Fr. Ring arrived on the scene, and in which even more people are likely to leave in anger and frustration.  There is a science to destroying churches and in getting the laity to aid and abet the plan —  a science which is well-honed in the Rochester Diocese.

The main issue on which we now focus is how the whole process in parish, diocese and even Rome is not responsive to parishioner input, fails to investigate the truth of complaints, and is negligent even in the process which has been given to the faithful to exercise their rights under Canon Law.  

I requested and received copies of what the petitioners submitted to Rome.  Rather than rehash much of what has already been said in the Zeal series, we will excerpt for the sake of some brevity, and leave out the names of the petitioners, because of the abuse suffered by earlier petitioners resisting amalgamation of parishes, abuse suffered at the hands of the Chancellor, Pastor, and OLOL Pastoral Council.

First Stop:  Apostolic Nuncio, Washington D. C.

For those not familiar with the process to Rome, we want to explain and share the experience, to hopefully help others, since the process is often shielded from eyes which have a genuine interest in the proceedings.  Here’s what we’ve learned.  The petitioners, after receiving a letter from Bishop Clark which left no room for hope, re-appealed to him as they are required to do before their appeal could be submitted to Rome.  They then had to wait until the Bishop either replied to their re-appeal (or the period for his response expired, in which case a negative response is presumed) before they could appeal to Rome.  

Nevertheless, because of the imminent and irreversible damage threatened to the St. Jan’s Sanctuary, the petitioners were permitted to request an intervention when Bishop Clark did not respond in the required time to the first (October 2010) appeal.  That is exactly what petitioners did in mid-November 2010, as permitted under Canon Law.  This submission was done by parishioners of St. Jan’s and not through a Canon Lawyer.  Because the people have a right to make their submission under Canon Law, there is a corresponding obligation on the part of the receiving party to respect and respond to those rights.  If the people themselves can’t be heard, then do they really have any rights supported by the Church? 

First, one simply doesn’t send a package to Rome.  It must go through the proper channels, and that means the Apostolic Nuncio in the U.S. who forwards the materials by diplomatic pouch to the proper Congregations in Rome.  It has been our experience that the Nuncio, Archbishop Pietro Sambi, and his office have been diligent in doing what they have responsibility to do in these circumstances, as best we are able to assess.  They receive the materials (documented through US Mail receipts) and they promptly acknowledge to the senders that the materials were received, and the Nuncio confirms that they are or will be sent to the addressees in Rome.  The correspondence is quite standard, and we don’t reproduce the correspondence with the Apostolic Nuncio, for that reason.  But for those intending to use such a route, we simply mention that the sealed copies to the proper dicastery in Rome are accompanied by a set of the same materials for the Nuncio’s information.

Cardinal Llovera

To Two Dicasteries (Congregations): Cardinal Llovera & Cardinal Piacenza

Cardinal Piacenza

It is our understanding that writing to Rome directly is futile, and correspondence must go through the Apostolic Nuncio.  Many of the laity have not seen such correspondence before, so we share excerpts in the spirit of helping all to become more informed on how the process works.

The petitioners believed that two dicasteries or congregations  in Rome had “competence” (i.e. jurisdiction) in these matters.  Their request for intervention was addressed to both dicasteries.  It is common practice when two dicasteries have competence that they will decide among themselves which should take over the case.  Below are excerpts from the first letter sent to Rome, mailed on November 15, 2010, asking for intervention, and which was accompanied by petitioners’ signatures.

The petitioners then gave details on many significant points contesting the renovation/demolition, which have already been recounted in earlier Zeal posts.  Appeal for timely intervention was made, lest irreversible damage occur.  There were 7 pages of content, with multiple exhibits indexed, and citations of relevant Canons for a number of the complaints.  (We don’t reproduce most of the complaint detail here, for the sake of brevity, and for the protection of petitioners.)  However, there is one section, #9, to which Rome’s attention was directed, and which conveys both questions of motivation and pleas for urgent response.  It was written before the announcement of Fr. Ring’s departure to St. Louis in Pittsford, but a departure that was not unexpected.  In retrospect, his pressing this project forward was even an indication that he was likely to be moved two years early, as it seems most doubtful that he would ever want to celebrate Mass in the Sanctuary he is advocating.

Setting aside the remainder of the input and commentary, the petitioners also proposed an alternative, expecting that people of good will would strive to find a resolution for the good of souls. 

The signed letter was accompanied by petitioner signatures, addresses and necessary information. 

The letter of re-appeal which had gone to Bishop Clark in November, and his answer in the negative in late December 2010, are both reproduced in Zeal Part X.  The year 2010 closed, with nearly seven weeks having passed since the request for urgent intervention, without having heard anything from either the Congregation for the Clergy or from the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, not even an acknowledgement of receipt of the submissions. 

Demolition was scheduled to begin the first week of January, 2011.

As a reminder, comments and corrections are most welcome.  May the Truth always prevail. 

After publishing this installment of Zeal,  there was yet another mailing of the entire package a second time, to both Dicasteries, through the Apostolic Nuncio’s office, because neither Dicastery had acknowledged receipt.  That second mailing went to the Nuncio on December 18, 2010, and he confirmed that he again forwarded to both Dicasteries in Rome.  The year 2010 ended with imminent destruction of the Sanctuary expected.

Your sister in Christ, Diane Harris

Zeal for Thy House Will Consume Me — Part X–Happy Easter

April 24th, 2011, Promulgated by Diane Harris

This is a brief interlude in telling the St. Jan’s Sanctuary Story, to show the “Happy Easter” present 

Fr. Robert Ring delivered this week to his parishioners

of nearly 10 years. 



St. Januarius, Naples NY two weeks ago











St. Januarius  in Naples, NY– Easter  Sunday 2011 (in cartoon)

Happy Easter from Fr. Robert Ring, Fr. George Wiant and Bishop Matthew Clark




Yes, you are understanding correctly.  The damage is done.  Father Ring, who has been pastor of the St. Januarius flock for nearly 10 years, abetted by Fr. George Wiant and Bishop Matthew Clark, has caused jackhammering of the St. Jan’s Sanctuary, even though knowing well  the resistance from a large majority (3 to 1) of parishioners; even though there is question about where the money is coming from; even though there is no liturgical reason to do this destruction.  

Fr. Ring has offered Mass from the St. Jan’s Sanctuary for nearly 10 years, yet he has pushed through this demolition at the last minute, so that 64 days before he leaves his flock has to celebrate Easter Sunday at a construction site.  He was asked to please wait until after Easter and he refused.  So, incredible as it seems, the jackhammers began on Monday of Holy Week and have completed the damage in time for Easter Sunday.  

Isn’t it surprising that a pastor and a bishop won’t wait for a new pastor to arrive, but rather will burden the new pastor with a Sanctuary in which neither of them is required to celebrate Mass, and with an injured and disgruntled flock to try to bring to healing?  And that is healing which Fr. Ring himself didn’t do over a decade!  What disregard and lack of trust they seem to manifest toward the next pastor! 

These actions culminate what appears to have been a very damaging pastorate; although, who knows?  There are still 64 days left for more destruction.  When we get the actual pictures, we’ll be sharing on this blogsite.  Meanwhile, please still pray for the people of St. Jan’s who have suffered so much, and for the people of St. Louis who may also be in danger.

Zeal for Thy House Will Consume Me–Part IX– ‘No’ Appeal

April 21st, 2011, Promulgated by Diane Harris

Zeal Part VIII ended with the petitioners of St. Januarius receiving an incomplete, dismissive letter from Bishop Clark approximately a month after their petition was filed with him. In accord with Canon Law, the petitioners had 10 (canonical) days to reply and ask him to reconsider, which they did within the allotted time in a letter dated November 23, 2010. Even though many might sense this effort is a waste, it is necessary to ask for his reconsideration before appeal of the Bishop’s decision can be made to Rome. This is the letter sent by parishioners to Bishop Clark:

On almost the last possible day to respond, Bishop Clark sent his refusal.  While it contained a bit more detail than his first refusal, it still did not address the key issues, and was glaring in what appeared to be his stubbornness and lack of concern for the wishes of the overwhelming majority of parishioners.  He wrote:

When both refusals of the Bishop are considered, it is clear that:

  • he blindly refuses to consider the accumulated data showing the desire of most parishioners, or even to admit that it exists,
  • he ignores arguments of practices at other DoR churches,
  • he refuses to address the statements that there are no liturgical requirements to do this project,
  • he never corrects the parishioners’ belief (based on Fr. Ring’s words) that the Wegmans were creating a family memorial (and to date neither he nor Fr. Ring have issued a correction.)  Only Danny Wegman has clarified the matter (more detail in future Zeal),
  • he fails to acknowledge the absurdity of a pastor being in a parish for nearly 10 years, losing nearly half its attendees, impacting morale through a failed pastoral planning process, and then wreaking destruction on a sanctuary in his final days,
  • he offers the lame excuse of handicapped accessibility (which does have application to the front doors) to what is about to become a smaller sanctuary area where it is doubtful that a wheelchair could navigate anyway. What do his words “negotiate the stairs” mean when there are no railings in the plans that were shown?  Why should people in wheelchairs be able to go up and down a ramp as EEM’s and risk spilling the Precious Blood?
  • he mentions “Acolytes?”  Who? Where? When? 
  • he mentions other parishioners in OLOL attending St. Jan’s (even though Fr. Ring moves many events away from St. Jans and to Penn Yan,) 
  • he writes of “cramped” space but proposes to move more chairs into the sanctuary space and move the Tabernacle out to the fringes.  How does that serve the people or, most of all, their God? 
  • he fails to address the local scandal of using approximately $300,000 for an ego-cementric project when there is so much need in the world. 

Some commentators on recent Zeal postings have suggested that Rome should be informed, and they are correct.  Much of the above list was among the very issues the parishioners would appeal  to Rome.  Nevertheless, it was first necessary to wait for the appeals process with the Bishop to be completed before “appeal” could be made.  The bishop’s second refusal was received in late December, 2010 with demolition still apparently scheduled to begin in early January.

Cardinal Llovera

However, there is one other type of approach, other than an appeal, and that is to ask for an intervention when irreversible damage is threatened, for example, as it was for St. Jan’s.  The Bishop’s refusal even to consider the facts or concerns sent the signal that there was no chance for his rational consideration of the complaints; so, in approximately mid-November, 2010, the St. Januarius parishioners did address their concerns to Rome.  They followed all the procedures, through the Papal Nuncio, to the proper Dicastery in Rome. 

Be prepared for disappointment when you read future Zeal posts.  If one thinks that the case recounted against Fr. Ring indicates lack of caring for the flock, and that the dismissive tone of Bishop Clark’s letter is indicting of lack of serving the people, one will be saddened further to learn in our next posting of the lack of response from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, whose Prefect is His Eminence, Antonio Cardinal Cañizares Llovera.

Zeal for Thy House Will Consume Me–Part VII–The Off-Key Shepherd

April 15th, 2011, Promulgated by Diane Harris

In Part VI, we described Fr. Robert Ring’s efforts to raise $30,000 from St. Jan’s parishioners, and the mis-attribution that such fund raising was required by the Wegmans (untrue) to supplement their donation (untrue) of $270,000 to $300,000 (untrue) for an altar/sanctuary memorial to Bob Wegman (untrue). However, at the time of the fund raising it would still be 7 months before parishioners would know the truth. In Part VI, we also described the definitive work of a parishioner group (which produced survey results consistent with a prior newsletter survey),  proving that the ratio of parishioners in opposition to the Sanctuary Renovation to those in favor was approximately 3:1 against. That careful parishioner survey work was also validated by an outside consultant.

Meanwhile through summer 2010 and into the fall, the “Concerned Parishioners” and the Newsletter It Really Matters continued efforts to expose the truth.  This Part VII summarizes some of what was written in the newsletter, and illustrates some of the work that might be taken on in a community when its shepherding fails, or is terribly misaligned to (i.e. out of tune with) the flock.  Hate the architecture or love it, but please at least respect it means so much to those who have worshipped there  and supported their church for so many years.

Here are just a very few of the articles and actions over summer 2010.  First, in June 2010, there was clarification in the Newsletter that what was being said misrepresented the USCCB’s “liturgical requirements.” That article in Vol. 5 #6 said:

                                                                                                                                                                                                One member of St. Jan’s, JH, took the initiative to interview parishioners about their feelings about the proposed Sanctuary demolition/renovation, and shared his results which we publicized in It Really Matters. We were also told that Fr. Bob Ring did not receive well this input.  He refused to consider the comments without the names of those who commented but, because of what had happened with the mis-use of the mandater list six months earlier, Fr. Ring was not trusted with those names. 


We also wrote about the basic flaw of cluster pastoral council decisions:

“The debacle of the Parish Council vote to change the sanctuary at St. Jan’s is a prime illustration of what is wrong at Parish Council, especially Parish Council for a Cluster.  A Parish Council is only advisory to a pastor anyway.  It’s not as if they have any power.  But those who take a seat at the table do have a responsibility, and that is not just to rubber stamp what the pastor wants.  He still has the power to do what he wants, but that doesn’t entitle parish council members to avoid doing their homework, listening, speaking the truth and realizing the responsibility they have to other parishioners.  Otherwise, when all is said and jack-hammered, the pastor can always say that no one on the rubber stamp council ever objected.  It might be true.  For the most part, they are his hand-picked “me-too-ers.”


Then we wrote about “The Real Tragedy” and how the misuse of funds to remove cement steps flies in the face of a true sense of priority, especially considering the plight of Catholic Schools:


Over the intervening months, many points of argument appeared, all to be ignored and the people to be “lorded over”  by the powers that be.  In concern for the scandal of such a waste, and for the greater need, we wrote:

All input from newsletters, surveys, petitions, and quiet / respectful parishioners beseeching for pastoral care were again ignored, as rights were trampled in another headlong thrust to spend other people’s money, to do unnecessary damage, to deeply divide community.  That has been the track record of the pastorate so far, and it was still going to be.  The only thing missing was Bishop Clark’s anointing of the irresponsible behaviors of a shepherd in effect singing off key, or at least in a different key than what most of his flock were baa-humbuging.  The anointing was yet to come.

In the next installment, we’ll revisit what Bishop Clark had to say, when implored by parishioners not to let this travesty occur.  And we will see the persistence of excuses, not reasons, for the damage being done to a House of God.

As of this writing, the jackhammers have  arrived, and the side “shrines” by a local artist have already been destroyed, dragged off for someone to use in his or her garden.  The organ is still there, covered.  We hope when the cover is taken off that it will still be there, and concrete-dust free and unaffected.  La Bella still doesn’t have a building permit, but it has a demolition permit, and perhaps that is what it is all about anyway. 

It calls us all to contemplate what kind of pastor, after nearly 10 years of his pastorate, does this to his own people 73 days before he leaves, destroying their Sanctuary and place to worship in time for Holy Week and Easter?  May God have mercy on his  soul. 

And may the next shepherd have a heart attuned to the flock, and a voice which they can trust and follow.