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Friday, October 17, 2014

Does Kansas City need another Catholic Church? 2

Four or five years ago it seemed that having an "Anglican Use" community as part of St. Therese Little Flower Parish could be a long-term mutually beneficial solution.  I was thinking that I could remain at St. Therese until retirement.  The Anglican Use community added resources to the struggling inner-city parish, and the parish provided space to worship, a link to the wider Catholic community, and assistance with pastoral programming.  We began some projects that assumed we would have a long-term home at St. Therese.

When I was thinking that I could remain at St. Therese long-term, I didn't realize was that St. Therese Parish and the Anglican Use community had a deep and basic conflict.  St. Therese Parish depends on attracting people who feel like they don't fit in a regular parish.  St. Therese Parish can be very warm and welcoming and some neighborhood parishes can be very cold.  But some of our key parishioners had a deep animosity toward the church hierarchy and Catholic dogma and discipline.  On the other hand, I and the other former Anglican converts who joined me at St. Therese had made an adult choice to enter the Catholic faith.  And to enter the full communion of the Church we had affirmed that we believe what the Catholic Church believes.  This was a rift that simply could not be bridged, and it continued to feed the suspicions of some parishioners that our presence and my pastoral leadership could not be trusted.  It became clear to me that I would not be able to remain at St. Therese long-term, and it also became clear that one person could not be pastor of both communities.

The Anglican Use community at St. Therese never discussed this.  Instead our discussion focused on our future.  Our study of Anglicanorum Coetibus and the mission of the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter convinced us that we needed to take charge of our own future and find a way to enter the Ordinariate.

Now that we are Our Lady of Hope Catholic Church we can embrace our Catholic identity in a way that would never have been possible at St. Therese Little Flower.  Converts make joyful Catholics, and that should make us good evangelists.  I am convinced that this is our fundamental mission, more important than anything else, that we put Christ first.  We are taking steps to put our money and our program where our mission is, and to keep from getting diverted into things that will take lots of energy but aren't directly related to our mission.

More to come!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Does Kansas City need a new Catholic Church?

Does Kansas City need a new Catholic Church? Only if the new one does something the others cannot do.

Just a couple of years ago it appeared that Kansas City might actually get two or three new Catholic Churches.  There was some excitement that Kansas City's two Traditional Anglican Communion parishes might enter the Catholic Church along with the whole TAC.  The bishops of the Traditional Anglican Communion had asked for a way that they and their churches could enter the full communion of the Catholic Church while retaining some of their Anglican traditions and retain some responsibility for their own governance.  "United, not absorbed" was the goal of Anglican reunion with Catholicism as the early 20th Century Malines Conversations had described it.  Pope Benedict offered Anglicanorum Coetibus. Based on that Apostolic Constitution, Ordinariates were established in Great Britain, the United States and Canada, and Australia.  There was a lot of excitement prior to the Coming Home conference sponsored by the Anglican Use Community at St. Therese Little Flower and a number of Anglican priests participated.  The former Anglicans at St. Therese believed that they could help facilitate the project of healing church divisions by sharing their experience in becoming Catholic.  They were open to the possibility that they could cease to exist as a separate community and that they themselves could be absorbed into one of the existing Anglican soon-to-be-Catholic parishes when they entered the Catholic Church. But by then, the original excitement of the TAC was fading.  Rome had made a very generous offer.  But most of the Anglican parishioners in the pew didn't want to be Catholic, and the TAC bishops apparently weren't terribly enthusiastic about actually entering the Catholic Church.  Several of the Anglican bishops and many of the Anglican priests did not meet the required educational standards for ordination in the Catholic Church, and several had marriage issues.  A few TAC Anglican parishes around the country entered the new Ordinariate, but none of the local ones did.  That meant the former Anglicans at St. Therese Little Flower had to mull over their own reason for being.  What did it mean for them to be "United, not Absorbed"?  What was their reason for being?  Did they have a permanent future at St. Therese?  How could they enter the Ordinariate when the parish they had joined would always be part of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph?

More soon!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

I'm not going to be able to catch you up on all the changes since I posted last.  Here are the basics:  after seven years at St. Therese, Bishop Finn allowed me to return to hospital chaplaincy.  So now I am full-time Catholic priest-chaplain at St. Mary's Medical Center in Blue Springs.  Sometime I might write a little bit about why I decided it was time to leave St. Therese.  For now I will just say I was burned out, and St. Therese needed a chance to find another way ahead.

Sometime soon I may also write a bit about hospital chaplaincy.  For now I will just say that much of my day is like sales - I make a lot of calls.  Most of the time response seems to range from mildly pleased to mildly displeased.  But on occasion there are people in situations in which I fulfill my vocation and make a difference.

The challenge in life right now is pastoring a new Catholic Church in Kansas City - Our Lady of Hope, a mission of the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter.  We were part of St. Therese Little Flower for over five years.  We didn't join the Ordinariate immediately because we didn't know how we could have one foot in a diocesan parish, and one foot in the Ordinariate.  Finally, after some study and prayer, it seemed clear that our future had to be in the Ordinariate.  Last January Msgr. Jeffrey Steenson received us as members.  When I left St. Therese, it seemed time to finally decide where we ought to be located if we are to have a mission to include people from through out the metro area.  So we are launching out on our own.

Beginning November 2, we will be located at Our Lady of Sorrows for Sunday Mass at 9:15.  I will write about that, too!

Monday, May 28, 2012

World War II Letters from Dad

These are letters Dad wrote in May 1942, 1943, 1944, and July 1945.  He was proud to serve his country and work hard with other men.  He couldn't tell his family very much about what was going on around him, and after the war he never talked very much about it.  His letters reveal how much he loved them and looked forward to coming back home.  When the 850th Engineers Aviation Battalion started having reunions, you could tell how much he valued them and the time they shared together.  I know very little about his time with the "Negro" 1864th Engineer Aviation Battalion.

Postmark May 22, 1942
Batry. A, 26th F.A. 9th Div.
Fort Bragg, North Carolina

Dear Dad,
It looks now like I won’t get home in June for the deer season. There are about 15 or 20 men who haven’t had furloughs yet ahead of me. Most of these were to have left this week but their furloughs have been canceled. We are due to leave for Virginia sometime before long; don’t know just when yet. It’s been put off so many times, I don’t think anyone knows just when we will leave. We’ll be up there for about 15 days. So it will be some time in July before I’ll even have a chance to put in for another furlough. I saw two deer this morning almost in camp. Both of them were does. 
I don’t know if I’ve written any of you or not, but I have some German prisoners here now. They were taken off a sub. somewhere off the coast. I don’t know if it’s a military secret or not. Haven’t seen anything in the papers about it. 
We’ve been put on a gas ration too. Are only allowed one gallon a day per truck, so we haven’t been riding very much. We’ve traveled just as much but do it on foot now. We can leave camp at eight in the morning and do fifteen miles before twelve o’clock. The call this a mechanized army but if you don’t have good feet you won’t last long. 
If it looks as if Stuart is going to be called, try to talk him into getting something before he is drafted. I wrote him a few days ago not to wait until the last few days before he starts looking around. I certainly hope he doesn’t have to go; but if he does he can do better than be drafted into a regular army outfit. 

Lt. Ernest P Davis, Jr.
850th Engr. Avn. Bn. (Stanstead Airdrome)
APO #517 New York, NY
27 May 1943

Dear Kathleen,
It took about 15 days for your and Momma's letters to reach me.  I don't know if its any faster or not but it does take less shipping space coming over and gives me enough room for what I need.
We are all learning to drive on the wrong side of the road and count English money.  Tell Dad I took the Battalion's money in to the town this week to get it changed.  One of the many bags the finance officer gave me was an Atlantic National Bank bag.  It was like seeing someone from home.  One of the Sergeants who waited on me worked in a bank in Atlanta and knew Uncle Billy.
I tried to send some flowers on Mothers Day but we couldn't use the telegraph office that day.
It's getting late; and my paper has just about run out so good night.
Ernest Jr.

850th Engineer Avitation Battalion
23 May 1944
Dear Mamma,
I don’t think it would be giving away any military secrets to say that we are on the firing range today.  Came out this morning but don’t commence firing until tomorrow.  There’s very little to do for the balance of the afternoon except sleep;  which Lt. Smith, my tent mate is doing, while I’m using his paper and envelopes.
It’s bright and sunny this afternoon.  Some of the men have taken their shirts off.  I’m sitting with my back against a stone wall looking out across an open field.  The rifles on the firing line are making quite a noise and Smith is snoring so it’s not as quiet as it might be.  Most of the men would rather be out here, even when they have to sleep on the ground, than in the camp and I know I would.
You should see our mess truck.  It’s arranged so the cook can cook right in the truck even in convoy.  The cabinets and cupboards are built into the side.  The three gasoline ranges have fit right across the front end.  We’ve raised the top so that a man is able to stand up without bumping his head.  Everything is very compact but we have no trouble feeding two hundred men.  One of the cooks told me at noon that he would rather cook in the truck than in the kitchens back in camp.
Received a letter from you yesterday which had taken about fifteen days to come across.  There was one last week which had been written since the one which I received yesterday.
I can think of nothing else for now so goodbye and love to all of you.
Ernest Jr.

At Sea
1864th Engineer Aviation Battalion
July 3, 1945

Dear Mamma,
It’s almost too hot to sleep tonight. If it were allowed I’d take a blanket out on deck and sleep there but since the ship has to be kept blacked out we have to stay below deck after dark.
I’m writing this in the ward room where it’s not much cooler but with the fans going it’s better than the top bunk in our compartment. 
We have picked up and dropped off mail once since we left the States. This will have to wait until we reach our final destination; which is still over a week away. I’ve never realized how much water there is on this side of the world. 
There has been little to do on board ship but eat and sleep for the past two weeks. Even though that gets tiresome it’s going to be hard to get back to work again. 
The first day or two out we had a bunch of sick Negroes. They are over it now and will be as glad as I will to get their feet on land again. 
Barbara had a lovely wedding I know. Wish I could have been there. Send me her address when you write again. 
Has anyone heard from Howard and James Clark lately? They should be getting home before long. Had a letter form an officer in the 850th not long ago and they were stationed near Nuremberg and had been assigned to the Occupational Air Force. So he didn’t think they would get home before next year anyway. 
Love to all,
Ernest Jr.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Light of the World: A Sacristy Conversation

The Light of the World: A Conversation with Clark Massey
           After noon Mass on Thursday Clark Massey of Simple House asked me, “Do you have any old candles?”  “Do we have candles!  Take a look at these” I replied and pulled open a drawer in the sacristy.  Clark started loading up with the stubs of altar candles and I asked him “What do you need them for?”  “For the homeless,” he replied.  “They use them for heat.”  “That’s right,” the man who was with him added.  “With a candle and a blanket I have woken up in the morning nice and warm with snow all around.  And I can heat up a can of soup, too!” I was amazed, realizing how little I know about how some of us live, and trying to imagine myself being thankful for the heat of a candle.  “Tell everybody they are blessed,” I said.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Hiking on my Ordination Anniversary

A Hiking Story
            Wednesday November 23 – the ninth anniversary of my ordination - was the third day of my hike.  The first day was foggy, the second day was rainy.  For two days I had passed colorfully named scenic view after scenic view, but could only see through the fog and rain for 100 yards or so. The third day – well.  All days start about the same.  It takes about an hour to get some breakfast – even if it is just some granola bars and hot chocolate – and get everything packed back up and ready to go.  It was nice starting downhill – but downhill means you-know-what, and on Wednesday it meant going down low enough to meet the highway and a park entrance.  Going back uphill was a two-hour trek up the east side of the Shenandoahs to the top of Mary’s Rock.  It seemed like a worthy goal for an ordination anniversary.  The rain was dripping off the trees and it seemed like it was going to rain again – which mean putting on my rain gear, and then taking it off when it didn’t really rain.  Rain gear does a good job of keeping the rain out, but it can also make it steamy “inside” especially when burning all that energy to climb as well as walk.  Climbing means fighting gravity as well as inertia.  I do better against inertia than gravity.
            Getting to the top was elusive.  It seemed like it must be just around the next bend or just behind the next rock.  I was almost relieved to get there several times before the rock in front of me was the last one.  Stepping around the rock from the east side to the west side, the wind and the view hit me at the same time.  It seemed like the wind was blowing at 40 – 50 miles an hour as it hit the side of the mountain and then was forced up and over the top, and I was at the top.  I could hardly stand up, and the cold wind that was beating against me was chilling me so fast that it scared me a little.  But the sun and the view out over the Shenandoah Valley was amazing.  Little farms with barns and silos covered the valley floor, with little clusters of houses in villages and bigger clusters in towns.
            Wednesday was a long day, hiking right along the crest of the ridge.  Every time the path ducked down on the east side of the ridge there was some relief from the wind.  Every time it passed along the very top or down the west side, the views were great, but wind!  I had to cover a lot of miles that day to get to the next shelter.  By 2:30 in the afternoon I was passing by Skyland Lodge – the place where Valerie, Margaret and her mother and I would share a late Thanksgiving on Friday.  After hiking for ten miles, I still had four miles to go and sunset comes at five o’clock.  In good terrain I can make two miles an hour.  I was tired, but told myself, “You can do this” as I passed the stables where the horses were already out in the pasture.
            The light was getting dim when I started smelling the smoke from someone’s wood fire.  That meant the shelter was pretty close.  As I turned off the side trail down to the shelter the sun had already set.  The view out over the Shenandoah Valley revealed the sparkling lights from a small town.  The shelter was empty, and even though there was a pile of wood that some previous hiker had gathered, the wind was too strong to make a fire.  The temperature was down close to freezing and the wind made it feel even colder, but I had enough layers to stay warm and get set-up for boiling some water for dinner with my alcohol stove.  There must have been a clear line-of-sight to a cell-tower down below because I got a good signal on my cell phone and called Valerie.
            A hundred yards further down the path, there was a small cabin – one of several that the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club make available.  Soon, a father and son came up the trail to check me out and invite me down to warm up by their fire.  It was a nice ending to a long day.  A family with three sons had rented the cabin for the Thanksgiving holidays and were roasting a chicken over the fire.  They had spent the day gathering firewood and now were enjoying the results of their adventures.  The well-chinked logs kept the wind and cold out.  The gas lantern made it bright and cheerful, pushing bedtime back later than it would normally be for me who would usually eat, clean up, and crawl into a warm sleeping bag no matter how early it might be.  It was nice to be able to peel off my layers and get warmed up and spend a little time with some people who just chanced to meet out in the woods.  But soon, even though it was only 8:00, my tired body told me it would need the next ten or eleven hours to recover for the next day’s hike.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Married Catholic Priests?

For some reason reporters like to ask married Catholic priests whether the Catholic Church should change the rules and to allow the ordination of more married Catholic men.  When I ask reporters why they don’t ask celibate Catholic priests what they think about it, they look at me funny, like it never occurred to them.
Maria Antonia asked me what I think about opening the Catholic priesthood to married men several different ways in an interview for Channel 9 News November 27.  She is a very good news reporter and interviewer, and I think she really wanted to know.  She asked the question a number of different ways, and I answered it a number of different ways.  The snippet that was chosen for broadcast is something I really said and really believe.  I do believe that the idea opening the priesthood to married men deserves deep thought.  But they didn’t broadcast my answer to the next question: If I could make the decision for the Catholic Church today, would I open the priesthood to married men?  No. 
As a married Catholic man I am very grateful that the Catholic Church deemed that it was appropriate to ordain me as a Catholic priest, but I would still be Catholic even if I were not ordained.  There are about a hundred or more former Episcopal priests as well as former Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian and other protestant ministers who have been ordained as Catholic priests and many of them are married.  In addition we have some Catholic priests who are widowers and have children and grandchildren; we have many Eastern Rite Catholic priests with wives and children, and we have many, many ordained deacons with wives and children.  So we are getting a lot of experience with married Catholic clergy.  We have gifts to offer, and limitations, too. 
When married and celibate priests gather, the question of changing the rules of celibacy hardly ever comes up.  A celibate priesthood has been a great gift to the church for 1500 years, and every time the church has gone through a period of spiritual renewal, the gift of celibacy has been renewed and the church has been reinvigorated.  We certainly do not want to introduce a change to this great gift, which the pope, most bishops and most current priests support and find life giving, unless we have done some deep conversation, study and prayer.
Does being married and having children make me a better priest?  I don’t know how to measure that.  It makes me different, but I cannot say that it makes me better.  I have never been a priest without being married and having children.  It is part of who I am, and I have no way of telling how I would be different if I were celibate.  There are many times when coming home to Valerie and the kids gives me a sense of balance in my life, especially when going through difficult times at church.  But it also works the other way.  I am sure there are times when I was not as available to Valerie and the kids as I could have been if I church needs and pressures had not intruded.  I find that if I have more than two or three evening meetings a week, family life really suffers.  Fr. Steve Cook, Pastor at St. Peter’s, told me that he spends six or seven nights a week with parishioners in their homes or at meetings at church.  There is simply no way I could match that.  His parish is blessed to have a celibate priest.  Does that mean that my parish suffers because St. Therese has a married one?  I don’t know.  It is possible.  Right now I’m the only priest they’ve got, and there’s no way to test whether I would be a better pastor for them if I were celibate.
Episcopalian Bishop Robert Folwell gave me some advice that I have tried to live by, even as a Catholic priest.  He said, “Put God first, your wife second, your children third, and the church after that.”  What would it mean if most Catholic priests were unavailable to their flocks because they need to have family time?  Catholic priests are “married” to the church in a way.  Some Catholic priests call their breviary their “wife.”  Their lives are very different from the one I have lived. It may be essential that Catholic priests be able to put the needs of his flock next after God.  It deserves much thought.
Would married Catholics find it easier to relate to a married priest when discussing their own family issues?  People have occasionally told me that.  But no priest, single or married, can ever say, “I know how you feel” or “I know what you are going through” even if we have experienced something similar. None of us knows what it is like for the other person until they tell us.  We do our best to meet people in their need and to be as helpful as we can, perhaps a little from our own family experience, but mostly from what we learn from the person herself or himself and from what we have learned from helping others, always dependent upon God’s help.  It is easy to forget that all priests have families: parents and siblings, cousins, nieces and nephews.  We are probably just as likely to have experience with divorce, to have relatives who are single and married, straight and gay.  Whatever our family status we try to assist the person in the way that is appropriate for them.
Would having more married priests help the Catholic Church, especially through the troubles the church is facing now?  No.  There is no evidence that a person’s marital status makes a person more or less likely to abuse a child.  The Catholic Church is one of the safest places a child can be, and even safer with the new safeguards instituted by Bishop Finn recently.  All priests, employees and volunteers that work with children are background checked, trained and re-trained.  The safety of children is of first importance.  If child abuse is suspected, we call the police first and then our ombudsman will investigate.  Other institutions – public schools, sports leagues, scouts – all have problems and work hard to be safer.  But the Catholic Church is held to a higher standard because we hold ourselves and call others to a higher standard.  When we fail or appear to fail it is doubly troubling and very public.
People who say we should have more married priests are trying to be helpful.  When there is a tragedy, people often say things with the best of intentions.  Perhaps they say things they have heard other people say, without really thinking deeply about it.  Those who have experienced a tragic loss can easily remember the things that were said by people who were trying to be kind.  Saying that God doesn’t give us more than we can bear or that God needed another angel may contain some truth, but it is not helpful to the person experiencing the tragedy.  Saying that married priests would help the Catholic Church is similar.  It is meant to be helpful.  There may be some truth in it.  But it is unrelated to the current circumstances.
Should the Roman Catholic Church start ordaining more married men?  I think we should ask our celibate priests what they think about it.  How does this gift of celibacy make them better priests?  We should also ask the Catholic faithful if they have to share a priest with his wife and children, and that their priest is no longer “married” to his flock.  It is an idea that deserves much study and deep thought.  The Catholic Church does not make decisions like this quickly, without deep thought, study and conversation.  Perhaps the best we can say is that our current married Catholic clergy who are deacons, former Episcopalian and protestant clergy, and Eastern Rite priests could help with that study, deep thought and conversation.