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    Brian Keaney

    Of parishes, priests and patrimonies

    by: Brian

    Fri Jan 18, 2008 at 11:02:13 AM EST

    Last night Bob Hanson, our former Executive Secretary and "official unofficial historian" (in the words of the Society president), gave one of his periodic lectures at the Historical Society.  As usual, it was very funny and told to a standing room only crowd - and punctuated by the occasional "wheezy laugh."  As this is the 250th anniversary of St. Paul's Church, he spoke on the history of that religious society.  

    Much of the lecture focused on the worst priest they ever had, a man named Rev. Montague.  After arriving in Dedham from Old North Church it quickly became clear that he was much more interested in the 135 acre Samuel Colburn patrimony than he was in the spiritual needs of his flock.  At the end he was even calling himself the "temporal rector," having apparently abandoned any concern for the next world so he could focus on this one.

    In much more recent history, when the Archdiocese of Boston was consolidating parishes several years ago, St. Susanna's was slated to merge with St. Mary's.  Parishioners there appealed, and they won a rare reprieve.  It was decided the parish would remain open until the end of the term of the current pastor, Fr. Steve Josoma.  They were the only parish to get such an arraignment, and Fr. Steve's term is up in March.  

    Brian :: Of parishes, priests and patrimonies
    Two weeks ago another blogger in San Fransisco heard of what happened and wrote about it on her blog:

    Just last week, a niece of mine expressed an anti-hierarchical opinion when talking about how her pastor in Dedham Mass had succeeeded in keepng their parish church open when threatened with closing. She believes that the Boston Archdiocese was threatening to close the parish because the pastor would say things the hierarchy didn't like, such as voicing his support for homosexual marriage from the pulpit. See, he wasn't a [what word did she use? slave, patsy, ?] She saw nothing wrong with her pastor, who is an ordained representative of the Catholic faith standing up and opposing official Church teaching, nothing at all. Apparently one can be a Catholic without believing in Catholic teaching, and not only that, one can feel obliged to stand up against the leaders of the Catholic Church if they teach doctrines that are contrary to current mores.

    It is true that Fr. Steve was an active and vocal opponent of the Constitutional amendment defining marriage as a man and a woman.  He even gave the maximum campaign contribution to Senator Marian Walsh and went to her election night party after she came out strongly against the amendment.  She also supported keeping St. Susanna's open.  I've never seen a priest publicly support a candidate - as opposed to an issue - before, but Fr. Steve did.  The only other campaign donation he has ever made was $100 to Jarrett Barios, an openly gay former State Senator from Cambridge.  Both contributions were made using his mother's address in Brighton, where I believe he is still registered to vote.

    That said, I don't think Fr. Steve's unorthodox opinions are the reason St. Susanna's was scheduled to close.  I took a lot of heat at the time for saying this, but I think it was chosen because it is simply a small parish.  In 2003, the last year for which I can find statistics, it had the 3rd lowest Mass attendance in our vicariate.  It is tough to separate our emotions from an issue so close to our hearts, but the numbers are what they are.  

    I also don't want this to seem as if I'm coming down on Fr. Steve - I'm absolutely not.  I've always liked him personally, and have since he gave me my First Communion.  In fact, he said one of my favorite Masses.  It was while I was a student at Oakdale and parents were building a new playground.  Fr. Steve came and said Mass in the auditorium so any Catholics working on the project would not have to leave to do their religious duty.

    I asked a parishioner if he had heard anything about what was going to happen, with Fr. Steve's term rapidly coming to a close.  He tells me that the parish is going to remain open, even if Fr. Steve gets reassigned.  I asked if there was a reason why, and his answer consisted of two words: Jack Connors.

    Connors is Chairman of the advertising agency Hill Holliday, a big philanthropist, and a St. Susanna's parishioner.  My friend didn't tell me in so many words, but I was lead to believe that he would stop being such a generous donor to the Archdiocese if his parish closed.  I don't know for sure what is going to happen, but I imagine that in another 250 years a future local historian will look back on this period and describe it as the most important religious happening in Dedham of our generation.

    Also in the religion department, a nun in Chicago writes NunBlog, and made reference to our town earlier this month as well.  The Pauline book store on Rt. 1 apparently cannot keep Priestblock 25487: A Memoir of Dachau on the shelves.  It tells the story of the special bunker set aside at a Nazi concentration camp for priests and seminarians.  The nuns who run it also spent Christmas morning singing on Cardinal Sean's TV Mass.  The photo is from his blog.

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    St. Susanna's (0.00 / 0)
    St. Susanna's has indeed been threatened with closure because of Father Josoma's activism.  However, not in the direct manner you might think.  Having a Pastor who advocates the latest trendy, left-wing political causes is a sure-fire way to destroy a church.  Father Josoma's friends in Beacon Hill and in social-liberal circles might applaud him, but such folks aren't exactly interested in going to church every Sunday.   And very few people who are interested in attending church are eager to be lectured on the moral and intellectual  glory of social-liberal politics.  

    Catholic churches that embrace catholic teaching on faith, life, family and marriage thrive throughout America and the world.  Those that do not suffer the same decay that Mainline Protestant and Episcopal churches do.

    St. Susanna's pews are empty because of its Sheppard.  And the Archdiocese is stuck footing much of the bill.

    Setting the record straight . . . . (0.00 / 0)
    I would just like to state a few simple facts about St Susanna's Parish and it's Sheppard, Fr. Steve Josoma.

        The Archdiocese had very specific criteria as to why they were going to close certain churches and it all had to do with positive cash flow.  This is well documented.

        It is also well documented that none of their reasoning was based on the massive law suites against the church at the time.  We now know that wasn't true.

        St Susanna's hasn't cost the Archdiocese a penny for several years.  The building and lot are paid for and the parish sustains it's own upkeep. So, for someone to write that the "Archdiocese has been footing the bill" is a blatant mis-truth.  

        Also, to state that "St Susanna's pews are empty because of its Sheppard's left wing political views" is absurd.  St Susanna's is thriving.  The pews are full every Saturday evening and Sunday morning because of it's Sheppard's well thought out and moving sermons.  

        As for the "left wing views".  Who are you people?  Do you go to church?  We're talking Christianity here!  Not gloom and doom!  You know, love thy neighbor.  Father Steve has never preached anything differently.  It's a very basic truth of Christianity.  It's too bad that most Christians and Churches don't follow this basic guideline.  If you're so wrapped up in the doctrine of the Church, when was the last time you perused the 10 Commandments?  It's very self explanatory.  

        In the future, it would be nice if people based their opinions on fact, not blind stubborness.


    [ Parent ]
    ? (0.00 / 0)
    Does it have the third lowest attendance rate or not?  

    Liberal Mainline Protestant and Episcopal churches are practically dying.  The trend is clear. Churches beware.

    If you want to preach that the meaning of marriage is subjective, and further water down its importance in our culture, go ahead.  But most folks know this is a bad idea.  The husband-wife union deserves special recognition in our culture.  This new definition of marriage as any two "partners" reinforces the idea that the husband-wife union is of no particular importance to our culture.  Well it is important!  It should be placed on the highest pedestal.  All children enter the world having a biological mother and father.  We should do all we can to encourage marital unions between them by placing great importance on this relationship.  We should not start watering down the meaning of marriage to any two "partners".  What's next any three partners?  

    The Catholic Church can screw up with the best of them.  But they are dead right on the marriage issue.  It is a pity that Father Josoma can't see this.  He should be defending his church here.  Instead he has turned his back on them on this important issue.  

    Who are "most people?" (0.00 / 0)
    Recent events suggest that "most people" do not, in fact, don't think marriage equality is a bad idea.  Those who tried twice to overturn the SJC's ruling learned that their fear of equal rights for gays and lesbians was not a shared "value."  And the promised-backlash against legislators who supported same-sex marriage never materialized.

    And I think your prediction of the demise of Protestant and Episcopal churches is greatly exaggerated.  Church attendance is declining for all denominations and, at least in this part of the country, the Catholic church has been leading the way in that decline.  You need only look at the Catholic church's receding influence in civil society to see the harm they've done themselves with their handling of priest sexual abuse cases.  When was the last time they made a public pronouncement on a major issue and had an impact?

    Never separate the life you lead from the words you speak.

    It ain't just a river in Egypt folks. (0.00 / 0)

    The Episcopal and Mainline protestant churches are in a death spiral. This is old news.  Google the Glenmary study for countless articles with statistical merit.  But this is just common knowledge by now.  Those two churches face a very bleak future.  They should not be emulated.

    Baptists, Pentacostalists and Evangelicals are absolutely thriving in America.  And their growth in the world's Southern Hemispheres from Africa to Asia is nothing short of breathtaking.  No one can possibly deny this.  Catholicism is not witnessing spectacular growth here, but its global growth is impressive nonetheless.

    Churches that have leaders advocating positions like abortion and gay marriage die.  Those that advocate the sanctity of human life and marriage thrive.   Of course, such positions reflect a larger attitude within a church, and are not purely indicative of a church's success or failure. But in general, socially liberal churches are shrinking rapidly.

    Thankfully,  young nuns and priests today (and those in training) are overwhelmingly committed to traditional Catholic teachings, unlike many of their baby-boomer peers.  Seminaries that have a history of embracing traditional catholic teachings are thriving, and those that lack that reputation are dying.   If Protestant Christianity is any indication, this new generation of priests and nuns represents great news for the future of the Catholic Church in America.  The old guard, caught up in the spirit of the sixties, lost their way and did grave damage to the Church.  Father Shanley would be among the most horrible example of the sexually "liberated" masquerading as priests, seducing post-pubescent boys (of which 80% of the case were. 1-2% was pedophilia and the rest post pubescent girls.).    But rather than turn these lustful fiends over to the law for defiling teenage boys, the church coddled them, and tried to help them with psychotherapy, until they were "cured."  

    If the scandal has taught me anything, it's that the Catholic Church better get back to the basics.  And thankfully it is.  Catholicism's future is bright because of it.  

    FYI.  I have never seen a poll that did not show strong support for a marriage amendment in Mass.  The Dems won't lose power over it  because the Republican leadership is too incompetent in this state.  But indeed, most folks don't like what happened last June.

    [ Parent ]


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