Sunday, February 2

A WaPost article on Anne Buening's first Sunday as a parish administrator

For the moment, Buening and her parishioners aren't focused on breaking barriers. Instead, they are busy trying to repair the spirit and the infrastructure of their church community after their pastor left last year following allegations of solicitation of a male prostitute.

.....She has her work cut out for her. The church, at the heart of the community of wooden shingle houses surrounded by chain-link fences, for the past nine months has been sick with its scandal. Buening's predecessor, a popular pastor known for community activism, was removed in March. He was sentenced in August to a year of supervised probation for filing a false report of a carjacking.

.....The pastoral council meeting minutes from November conveyed a sense of desperation: "It is time to start fixing what needs to be fixed. God is preparing us for something good -- something good and great can come out of this mess, and we can experience resurrection."

Where others might have seen a run-down parish, Buening saw an opportunity. As she drove around the parish neighborhood south of Baltimore, she said, "I liked its comfort -- it felt like the Midwest," where she grew up. "What I saw was a community that lives its faith."

At the 11 a.m. Mass yesterday, she was the first to speak after the organ stopped playing inside the gray, boxy, modern church, where the stained glass is made up of rectangular figures.

"This is my very first weekend here, and I want to thank everyone for your kind notes and warm hugs," she told the 100 or so churchgoers by way of introduction. "My commitment is to walk with you."

Without further preamble, she listed the parish's most pressing problems: The boilers are malfunctioning. The roof is leaky. The school is in debt. And the church financial records are in a shambles.

"It's your community, it's your parish, and you have the right to know," she said. "I can't do this alone. I need you. I need your help."

An American Prowler piece on Catholics and eulogies

In the wake of sex scandals whose devastating effects upon the faithful will likely ripple for decades, the Newark Archbishop took it upon himself to rearrange the proverbial chairs on the Titanic. In doing so, he exhibited a gift for the unfortunate phrase, as when he explained that his decision was motivated by a desire to cut down on the "growing abuse" of eulogies by parishioners.

Abuse is not a word that Catholic priests should throw around these days, particularly in New Jersey, where Rev. John Banko was convicted in December of molesting an altar boy. To use the word in reference to parishioners still wishing to bury their dead in the Church is shoddy semantics and abysmal public relations. Catholics in the New Jersey dioceses must feel as if something else is being taken away from them, as if trust were not enough.

Beyond its awful timing, the anti-eulogy initiative also illustrates the continuing confusion in roles between priests and laity in the wake of Vatican II. Eulogies slowly came about as a result of Vatican II, and have become a staple of funerals since. But if some in the Church now want to limit or abolish laity eulogies, why are they are not equally interested in reforming the role of laity in giving communion? Isn't that a much more obvious priestly function?

Giving a eulogy, by contrast, seems to be an act uniquely suited to the faithful, especially in the frequent and unavoidable cases where the priest does not know anything about the deceased. One does not hear any outcry about priests giving generic eulogies for people they have never met. Nor do we hear anything about the disastrous eulogies priests sometimes give, such as the one I had the misfortune of hearing for an aunt some years back. In a supremely haughty, almost angry manner, the priest dismissed any notion that my aunt had actually died a few days earlier because she had "died with Christ 70 years ago." To the family's grief in her loss, he thundered, "I beg to differ." Nice theology, terrible eulogy. And this from a priest who knew her, in the church she had attended for most of her adult life. You never saw so many angry Irishmen exit a funeral.

Circus was okay. Wasn't Ringling Brothers - Shriners. Not as many animals, not quite as polished - probably better, then. Joseph was tired -(note to self: next year, don't schedule circus during nap time)

and was primarily interested in the elephants which he described as going "night-night" when they lay down as part of the act.

So that was the afternoon, now it's dinner time, and later will be going over 60 remaining pages of single-spaced manuscript text so I can finally get it out of my life tomorrow - at least until the copy edits come back. Always a fun time.

But then I will be free, free, free - free to write two columns this week and start my next project - a volume in Loyola Press' Six Weeks With the Bible series, this one on the Passion and Resurrecction narratives in Matthew. (The one I did on the Parables of Jesus is coming out this fall).

We have lots o' commentaries on Matthew, and I plan on getting the Raymond Brown study, but if anyone has any other suggestions on helpful volumes that Loyola can add to my collection, please let me know. Time's a'wastin.

Today so far we have been to Mass, gone to get my battery changed out and Michael's oil changed (in our cars, of course, silly), eaten lunch, done the first of the two daily digging-out-of-crumbs from the floor, and now we' to the circus.



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