Archives for March 2018

NFPC This Week, #751: March 11 – March 17, 2018

Of Note this week:

There is a consensus among the majority of Catholic church leaders that the “exodus” of young people from the faith has reached the critical stage.  Here are two different perspectives on the subject of Catholics leaving the church:

Priests in the News:

Other National and Global News:

Priests Labor News:


Audio Visual:


Confidence – Do You Have Enough?

In Fr. Dennis Lewandowski’s search for new methods to motivate both himself and his parish staff, he found an article that prompted self-analysis.  Fr. Dennis commented: The article was about self-confidence. It started with a couple of stirring questions: How self-confident do you feel? Are you full of it, or do you wish you had more of it?

Fr. Dennis  provides a few guidelines to conduct a personal  assessment of your self confidence and self-motivation.  Use the link below to download Fr. Lewandowski’s article.

D Lewandowski for NFPC Newsletter -March 15 – 2018 (1)



Young people seen as urgent crisis at Notre Dame pre-synod conference

Katharine Argulo, Associate Director of Youth Ministry for the Archdiocese of Atlanta

A great deal of dialogue is being exchanged among Church leaders regarding ways to curtail the number of young Catholics leaving the faith they were baptized into.  Several church initiatives are underway to address the issue of “exiting” young Catholics:

In advance of the Pre-Synod meeting scheduled for late March in Rome, Notre Dame hosted a conference in early March entitled “Cultures of Formation: Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment. The goal of the conference was to “examine cultural influences shaping young people and how the church could respond or ‘create a culture’ in which it’s easier to be Catholic.”

One conference presenter, Katherine Angulo from the Atlanta Archdiocese, cited a need for “greater resources, including fair salaries, for those in youth and young adult ministry.”  Angulo continued: “The U.S. church does ‘okay’ with ministry for high school and college students, but does very little for young adults and middle school students.  That latter demographic is important, as the median age of a young person who leaves the church is now 13.”

A Pre-Synod meeting will be held in Rome from March 19-24, in preparation for the October Synod of Bishops “Young People, Faith and Vocational Discernment.”  Young adults from across the globe have been invited as delegates regardless of their religious affiliation.  A website was set-up allowing young people to voice their opinions on church matters through social media, primarily Facebook and Twitter. This pre-synod meeting is in keeping with Pope Francis’ wish that the October synod not be just a meeting among bishops, but one that will include young adult voices.  Results of the pre-synod will be available to the Bishops prior to the October gathering.

Click here to review article on the Notre Dame conference published in the National Catholic Reporter


Fr. Thomas Berg: “Welcoming the Wounded”

“To those who have been hurt by the Church, we must acknowledge their pain and be a witness to Christ’s tenderness,” Father Thomas Berg wrote in a recent article published in The Priest Magazine. Fr. Berg is a Priest in the Archdiocese of New York, and Vice-Rector of St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers.  He is also the author of “Hurting in the Church: A Way Forward for Wounded Catholics, which he wrote “as a guide to healing for those who have been hurt in the church, and an examination of conscience for the rest of us.”

The reasons why Catholics (especially young adults) become disaffected with their faith might be attributed to multiple, complicated issues, many of which have been well documented in the past including: discomfort with organized, institutional religion; loss of faith; the perception that faith is incompatible with our scientific culture; the clergy sex abuse scandal and traumatic life events.

Fr. Berg’s article however, calls attention to another reason Catholics leave the faith  – a hurtful experience in the church.  Fr. Berg commented:  “Personal experience leads me to believe that this portion of the Catholic population is much larger than we would care to imagine.” He continued: “the sad reality is that there has been plenty of hurt to go around in our parishes, schools, chancery offices and ministries.  And we need to acknowledge the ugly truth that the hurts – and the consequent disaffection with the church – are more frequent that we might want to admit. To recognize this and call a spade a spade is not to be judgmental; it’s just to be honest.”

There is no “quick-fix” technique to return disaffected Catholics to the faith. However, Fr. Berg suggests possible long-term solutions parish leadership and the laity can undertake to welcome our “wounded” sisters and brothers home.  Included in his suggestions is Pope Francis’ concept of our local churches acting as “field hospitals,” ready to heal the wounded.

Click here to review Fr. Berg’s full article in The Priest – published by Our Sunday Visitor


Dear regular Mass-goers: the seats at the end of the pew aren’t for you.

Jesuit Father Jack Bentz knows the drill: “I was raised Catholic. I know the strategy. The first-class seats are at the end of the pew.”

Fr. Bentz is the Campus Minister for St. Paul Catholic Student Center at Boise State University. Last year his work required extensive travel and stated he often found himself attending Sunday Mass at a different Parish each week. Fr. Bentz observed that regular Mass-goers who sit at the end of the pew might be undermining well-planned, official greetings designed to create a warm and welcoming parish environment. Greeters are available at the entrance; visitors are acknowledged from the pulpit; and some parishes present small gifts to newcomers, ranging from cups or pens engraved with the Parish name.  Fr. Bentz commented: “That was nice. I was being welcomed. But it was not working. Why? I think it is because I had to climb over people to get into a pew.”

Fr. Bentz continued by sharing his thoughts on the negative effect “end sitting” may have on people seeking a new church home:  “Every weekend, in every Catholic Church in the United States, new people arrive hungry for a community to call home…. If they cannot find a place to sit, they will not be back. And we will never have a chance to speak the saving Word to them, because, in spite of the official welcome, they understood this was not going to be their church. It was already taken by the guardians at the end of the pew.”

Click here to review full details in America – The Jesuit Review

Catholic leaders praise Stephen Hawking for his contribution to science and dialogue

Catholic leadership globally paid tribute to Stephen Hawking, theoretical physicist, cosmologist and author, following his death on Wednesday, March 14, 2018 at the age of 76.

Stephen Hawking was born on January 8, 1942 and educated at the University of Oxford and University of Cambridge. He was a lifetime member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, and well respected among numerous religious leaders for his contributions to the field of science.

Despite the debilitating effects of motor neurone disease (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease) Hawking continued his work in the scientific field and following the loss of his ability to speak, he communicated through a speech generating device.

To review tributes to Stephen Hawking, please click on these two links:

America Magazine

Catholic Herald

Priest who served Brooklyn parishes found murdered in Colombia

Father Dagoberto Noguera, 68, who served at a number of parishes in Brooklyn before his retirement, was murdered at his residence in Mamatoco, Columbia on March 10, 2018.

Fr. Noguera was born in Ecuador and educated in Colombia where he was ordained in 1985. He came to the Brooklyn Diocese in 1990 and was formally accepted as a priest of the diocese in 2002. He served at several Brooklyn parishes before retiring for medical reasons in 2014 and returning to Colombia.  His health situation caused him to rely on a wheelchair.

There are rumors circulating that his murder was committed by Venezuelan immigrants, to whom Fr. Noguera had served food.  Although law enforcement officials have not confirmed this rumor, two suspects were videotaped on surveillance cameras at a store purchasing items with a credit card stolen from Fr. Noguera.

Residents in Mamatoco remembered Fr. Noguera “as kind; always caring for others; and dedicated to charity work with people in need.”  A Memorial Mass will be celebrated for him on March 23, 2018 at St. Anthony of Padua-St. Alphonsus Church in Brooklyn.

Please select this link to review further details in Crux

Catholic schools add prayer to school walkout day over gun violence

Photo courtesy of Newsweek

Catholic students participating in the National School Walkout to raise awareness of gun violence will receive support from a number of Catholic institutions. Many dioceses across the country are encouraging their Catholic students to be a part of “the national voice” and commemorate the walkout with prayer, a prayer service or Mass.

Today’s protest was organized by “Empower Now” to coincide with the one-month anniversary of the school shooting on Ash Wednesday in Parkland, Florida.  Organizers are calling for students nationwide to walk out of their classes for seventeen minutes to honor the seventeen people massacred on February 14, 2018.

Cardinal Joseph Tobin, Archbishop of Newark, recorded a message for Newark students in which he commented:  “Your energy and your unselfish concern will be heard in the halls of our government. It’s true that we can ban all of the guns in the world and never finally fully achieve peace without a commitment of our hearts. But we do need legal protections, and we have to ask questions about the type of firearms and their proliferation in our country today. I’m glad you’re asking questions, and I’m glad you’re united, and I’m glad you are a people of faith.”

Click here to read full coverage in Crux.



Why are Catholic bishops backing unions at the Supreme Court?

Newark Cardinal Joseph Tobin, left, speaks during a labor and faith forum at Seton Hall University on March 6, 2018, in South Orange, N.J. Tobin was joined by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, far right, and explained the church’s support for unions. RNS photo by Jack Jenkins

The ’Splainer (as in “You’ve got some ’splaining to do”) is an occasional feature in which the RNS staff gives you everything you need to know about current events to hold your own at the water cooler.
(RNS) — The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in January sided with unions in a case before the Supreme Court, submitting an amicus brief in support of public-sector unions and their right to collect money from nonmembers for collective bargaining.The bishops’ involvement with Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees surprised some. But church leaders have since doubled down, taking part in a forum last week on labor and faith at Seton Hall University. Newark Cardinal Joseph Tobin, on stage with AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, explained the bishops’ interest in the case and reiterated the church’s enthusiastic support for unions.

“You should not be able to join a union shop and then turn it upside, any more than you should be able to join a church and then insist we stop meeting on Sunday mornings and instead gather for worship on Mondays during Monday night football,” he said. “And you should not be able to benefit from all the work that unions do to represent workers without paying your fair share.”

So where does this affinity between Catholic bishops and labor movements come from? Let us ’Splain …

How far back does Catholic support for labor unions go?

One of the earliest expressions of solidarity between the Catholic Church and modern labor movements came in 1887, when Cardinal James Gibbons of Baltimore defended a secretive pro-labor society known as the Knights of Labor in a letter to the Vatican. Church leaders had condemned various secret societies at the time, but Gibbons argued that the Knights — who claimed a number of Catholic members — were not an enemy of Catholicism and that church leaders should stand with working people. It worked: Gibbons persuaded his superiors not to condemn the American group.

Did that support for unions go all the way to the top?

Cardinal James Gibbons worked for union rights during his tenure as archbishop of Baltimore. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

The Knights declined as an organization soon after, but Gibbons’ arguments had an impact on Pope Leo XIII, who incorporated many of them in his 1891 encyclical “Rerum Novarum.” Leo railed against unrestricted capitalism and lifted up unions as an important form of “private society,” cementing the burgeoning spiritual alliance between labor groups and the church.

“The most important of all (private societies) are workingmen’s unions, for these virtually include all the rest,” he wrote.

The encyclical, which Tobin described as “the Magna Carta of Catholic social doctrine,” became a rallying cry throughout the 20th century for various unionizing campaigns and labor rallies.

OK, so there’s a pro-labor encyclical. What else has the church done to support unions?

The church remained involved in the lives of workers and sometimes even took on their plight: In the 1940s, some clerics in France became “worker-priests,” joining everyday workers on factory assembly lines. (Side note: This turned out to be a dicey move, as the pope later cracked down when the priests became involved in politics.)

Meanwhile, church leaders continued to voice support for unions. In his 1981 encyclical “Laborem Exercens,” St. John Paul II lauded organized labor organizations as “an indispensable element of social life” (although he cautioned they should not “play politics” or associate themselves too closely with political parties). Pope Benedict XVI also acknowledged the lengthy history of Catholic-labor relations in his own 2009 encyclical, “Caritas in Veritate.”

“The repeated calls issued within the Church’s social doctrine, beginning with Rerum Novarum, for the promotion of workers’ associations that can defend their rights must therefore be honoured today even more than in the past, as a prompt and far-sighted response to the urgent need for new forms of cooperation at the international level, as well as the local level,” he wrote.

Finally, Pope Francis carried on this tradition, telling a gathering of union delegates in 2017, “There is no good society without a good union.”

Why do the bishops care so much about the Janus case?

The precise issue in the case hasn’t been addressed by a full assembly of the bishops. But their brief argues that ruling against the unions would “constitutionalize” a “‘right-to-work’ position” — the phrase used to describe state-level laws that prohibit the practice of requiring all who benefit from a union contract to pay dues that fund their union representation. The brief points out that not only has no U.S. bishop ever publicly supported right-to-work laws, but that the group has also been “generally been very inimical” to the idea, and that some individual bishops or state conferences have even spoken out against them.

To wit, they note bishops opposed the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947 — the law that created right-to-work laws — and have supported its repeal.

To show their seriousness of purpose, the bishops’ brief goes on to argue that ruling against the unions would “represent another unfortunate decision of this Court that marginalizes the voice of the bishops.” They point to Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision that legalized abortion, and Obergefell v. Hodges, the ruling that legalized same-sex marriage, as other examples of “marginalizing” Catholic voices (the bishops opposed the high court decision in both cases).

What about Catholics who don’t like the bishops’ stance on labor?

They can be as vocal as the bishops on the issue, and on the Janus case in particular. Bishop Thomas John Paprocki of the Diocese of Springfield, Ill., issued a statementcritical of the bishop’s amicus brief in the case, writing, “While church teaching clearly supports freedom of association and the right to form and join a union, it does not mandate coercing people to join a union or pay dues against their will.”

While Paprocki went on to suggest his own neutrality on the subject, writer Ed Whelan, who is also Catholic, rejected the brief’s argument in a piece in the National Review. He did not deny the history of solidarity between Catholics and labor unions but questioned “how these principles apply to whether public-sector unions today should be able to extract agency fees from objecting nonmembers.”

Still, Whelan’s skepticism does not appear to be the prevailing viewpoint among Catholic leaders in the United States.

When Tobin was asked about this kind of pushback in a March 6 news conference, he looked flummoxed. After sharing a bewildered glance with Trumka, the AFL-CIO president, the cleric said: “I would want to talk to them, personally: I would want to say, ‘Tell me how you got there. How (do) you think the values of solidarity, of the nature of economic goods, and innate human dignity — do you think those have changed?’”

Pope Francis – Five Years After His Election

(Photo: Pixabay)

It was five years ago today (March 13, 2013) that Jorge Mario Bergoglio walked onto the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica as the newly-elected Pope Francis. After five ballots, Francis became the  leader of approximately 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide. Francis’ election as Pope was historical because he was the first Latin American, first Jesuit and the first to take the name of “Francis.”

From the onset, Pope Francis dispensed with tradition and perhaps set the tone for his pontificate in his first public action. Before extending his first blessing, he asked for prayers stating: “Now, I would like to give you a blessing, but first I want to ask you for a favor. Before the bishop blesses the people, I ask that you pray to the Lord so that he blesses me. This is the prayer of the people who are asking for the blessing of their bishop.”

In the past five years, Pope Francis’ leadership has had a profound impact on the Catholic Church and greatly influenced the secular world.  Many Catholics and Vatican observers are viewing his fifth anniversary as sort of a “Francis Report Card Day.”  Assessments or criticism of Pope Francis’ accomplishments, achievements or unfinished work often depend on who is doing the observing, i.e., “the eye of the beholder.”

John Allen, a long-time Vatican reporter/observer, noted: “Amid the rattle and hum of clashing world views and agenda, is there anything that can be said about Francis’ record after five years that’s truly objective? Perhaps it’s this: Love this maverick Pope or hate him, he’s undeniably relevant.”

“Francis at five years: Love him or hate him, this is one relevant pope”  Click here to review John Allen’s article in Crux. 

James Carroll, a regular journalist/contributor to the New Yorker Magazine, has written a commemorative article assessing Pope Francis’s leadership from the secular point of view.  Click here to review “The Transformative Promise of Pope Francis, Five Years On” (The New Yorker Magazine)