In the flurry of activity following the National Catholic Reporter's piece on Bishop Robert Finn, one of the longtime parishioners of Our Lady of Sorrows, who is now part of the Oratory finally established by Bishop Finn, wrote a long comment to a post on the subject on a neo-Catholic blog, but her comment was deleted due to excessive length. Indeed, her message was much too long for a blog comment. However, that message is worth reading for its own sake, and it was forwarded to me. I've obtained Martha's permission to post it here.
I originally had intended to simply share some excerpts from Martha's stream-of-consciousness email, but I think reproducing the whole thing, beginning to end, gives the reader a better sense of what it must have been like to be an ordinary pew Catholic the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese during the Sullivan and Boland eras, when the diocese, awash in "social engagement and lay empowerment" was run by those great functionaries, Beste and Noonan, who are championed by the Distorter. I haven't independently verified any of Martha's facts, and I can't say I agree with some of her opinions, e.g., that New Wine "is a good program." However, we see in her email a woman who (somehow?) didn't lose her faith as she saw the "Catholic identity" of this diocese being viciously attacked, its material patrimony discarded, and it being transformed into (if I can reuse a phrase from last week) a big-tent, non-judgmental social service agency. Enjoy the read:
Hello,This may be kinda long. I was going too do this yesterday, but life got in the way.If you have no interest in what I have to say in support of Bishop Finn, that is fine. Delete away. If you do not agree with me, that's ok too. I saw major holes and half/truths in the article. I'm not sure I will remember all I said - but I'll try.
If you want to read the article I am writing about go
It printed out to 18 pages on my printer.Ok first off, ..."'Perhaps nowhere in America has the transistion from a church focused on social engagement lay empowerment to one more concerned with Catholi identity and evangelization been more dramatic, or in some ways more wrenching, than in the Kansas City-St Joseph MO., diocese since the appointment of BIshop Robert Finn".
That is the opening line to the article by Dennis Coday. hmmmm wrenching? I'd say things in the diocese have been "wrenching" but long long before Bishop Finn came along.
In the late 80's parishes in the inner city of Kansas City were asked to make plans on combining into "clusters". The parishes would use the same priests, continue much of their individuality - but share ministries - religious ed for children, St Vincent's De Paul, merge for week day Holy Masses. The people and our two priests worked things out. Our 4 little parishes were doing well. Then the chancery said we had to make new plans because of the priest shortage not all of our parishes could remain open. We were going to have one priest to serve us. There were other "clusters" formed thoughout the innercity given the same instructions.
We had meetings and meetings. There were also meetings going on about consoilidation of the grade schools. Loads of tears, hard decisions and envolvment with all members and school parents. The decisions were presented to the chancery.
Bishop Sullivan was a very sick man by 1989. He had put his total trust into Sr Jean Beste, Sr Marion, Fr Pat Rush, George Noonan (and others) to make these decisions for him.
A large meeting was held at the former St John's Seminary for the leadership members of the churches and schools involved. ALL the churches concerned would be closed. The school committee had made their decisions - now the schools they wanted left open - could not stay open because the chancery team closed the churches attached to them. Of the churches they allowed to remain open, were to be renamed and each person from the various churches would be told where to attend - oh and your envelopes will arrive soon. The churches were closed after Christmas. The one school without a church finished out its year with an nonfunctioning church.
So, what about the stuff in the churches? Lots of altars, pews, lights, kitchens, books, vestments, you name it. Sr Jean and Sr Marion had an auction! Yes a farm auction complete with a food vendor outside. All items Blessed, nailed down were sold to the highest bidders. I only know of the Stations of the Cross from Holy Trinity going to a church for free. Some members took them down and took them to a church in Mexico were they had none. A lady bought a marble bapitsmal font to put into her yard for a birdbath! Another bought the wooden poor box to put by her door for a joke. A man bought the Altar of Missouri granite for his dining room. The stained glasses windows (which were the Joyful and Glorious mysteries of the Rosary) were sold not as a full 3 story window, but in sections - again to the highest bidder. St Jude in Oak Grove has some of the smaller windows from the choir loft. But they had to bid high. Even the marble on the sides of the walls was taken off and sold.
To top it off the auction was held on a SUNDAY! The Gospel reading for that day was the one where Jesus is in the Temple raging about the vendors and money changers. It wasn't the Gospel read that weekend in the surviving churches. We had a banner of "You have made my Father's house a den of thieves" across the lawn of the rectory next door. We protested, ladies walked back and forth in front of the church saying the rosary. Some people left the auction in disgust.
The KC Star and other weekly newpapers wrote about the closings and the auctions. Some churches from all over came on a chance to buy pews, the pipe organ or old vestments, old members came to get a piece of their former life at the church and people worshiping Satan came too. They admitted to the papers they were going to use the vestsments they bought in a Satanic rituals.
The sisters Jean and Marion were coming before the auctions to log in items. They got to St Stanislaus (a Polish church) and the members had cleaned it out. Items went back to families' homes, to priests and nursing homes. The sisters then rushed to Holy Trinity only to find members doing the same things. Trunk loads of hymn books were taken to ship to Fr Glenn Maux (spelling here sorry Fr) mission in Hati. The nuns ordered the items to be taken back into the church. Some were going to the surviving church who needed them. The sister had to unload the truck themselves.
Some of the churches closed were in bad finanical shape, but the ones that had money were willing to share and work together in our plans for fewer priests in the innercity. The church we were told to attend the roof leaked, the choir loft was unstable for people to get into, had large debt and just needed tons of repairs to the church and the rectory. So, our parish with the fixed roof, full kitchen and hall (which the other did not have - nor a bathroom) everything in decent shape was closed in favor of the other church.
This is the chancery staff that stayed in place with Bishop Boland after Bishop Sullivan retired. Bishop Sullivan came to hear confessions at the surviving church, the people had been lied to and disregarded in the whole multiyear process. Most people did not blame the Bishop for the decision, they blamed his choice of leadership and total trust in them. He was brought to tears many times.
While the inner city churches were focusing on a plan to save themselves and their communities. The diocese took over Our Lady of Sorrows from the Franciscans. They could no longer meet their monthly expenses, even as frugal as the order is. The ceiling leaked, the stained glass windows need repair, the pipe organ was unplayable, broken pews, crumbling plaster you name it was happening. Membership was way down. So in June of 1987 Fr Alexander Sinclair was assigned to Our Lady of Sorrows. Fr Sinclair began what he does at every parish he is assigned to, goes out into the neighborhood. The neighborhood has changed a great deal from when the parish was build in the 20's on that spot. Hallmark cards corporate headquarters surrounds the church, in fact they take care of the grounds. The hospitals, Truman (former General) and Children's Mercy have grown and taken many homes. Fr Sinclair went to the hotels just blocks away and struck a deal with them to allow the church van (which came from Holy Trinity) to pick up people to come to Mass, he began a youth group (the juvenile center is just a block or two away), began RCIA.
Then the Holy Father John Paul II allowed the 1962 indult Mass. People asked Bishop Sullivan for a Latin Mass in the diocese. Finally he agreed and put the Latin Mass at Our Lady of Sorrows in 1989. The Latin Mass people came, increased numbers, brought their checkbooks and talents. Sections of the roof began to get repaired, plans could be made for future repairs. The Hallmark and sounding businesses came to daily Masses. Fr Sinclair is a very social kind of priest. He began having an annual Fall Festival (OctoberFest). Food, drinks, carnival games for the kids (prizes donated by Hallmark), A St Joseph Day Table and Pasta meal. Our Lady of Sorrows became more alive each year. The OctoberFest continues to this day, giving all profits to charity.
Next priest Fr Carney brought his "fans" from his prior parish, more Latin Mass people came. The Pontifical Choir of Kansas City was kicked out of the Cathredral by Fr Pat Rush, because the Cathredral wanted to use piano, drums, guitars etc at the main 11am Mass - not the huge pipe organ and full voiced choir. So the choir came to Our Lady of Sorrows, they paid for and repaired the pipe organ, brought their fans from the Cathredral and sang for free. The Former Fatima Choir also made its home base Our Lady of Sorrows and provided music for the Latin Masses (for free) - and alternated Midnight Mass with the Pontifical choir. The parish grew and grew.
Fr Tom Wiederholt came and resumed the RCIA that Fr Carney disbanded, held more social events and involved himself more with the Latin Community. He continued to attrack members and repair the church. Now OLS no longer has a full time Pastor. We are sharing Fr James Shea from Our Lady of Perpetual Help - Redemptorist Fathers. When Bishop Boland announced his retirement, he stated he wanted to live at Our Lady of Sorrows rectory, which left no room for a priest. The is the first time in all of the more than 100 years OLS does not have a full time Pastor. I never see Bishop Boland at Mass, nor does he say any daily Masses. I see him drive into the garage and hear him upstairs when we are in the hall below for choir practice. Now the parish is back to it's 1920's glory, No leaks, no broken pews and money in the bank.
Our Lady of Sorrows and St Patrick's Oratory
Bishop Finn and the former Bishops have received loads of letters from the Latin Mass Community asking for their own church, their own priest (instead of sub priests to say the Latin Mass) for years. Also, people have written wanting the Latin Mass go away and get with the times.
Bishop Finn decided to give the Latin Mass a church and a priest. Yes, the church is Old St Pat's and 8th & Cherry. The building is in pretty bad shape. Needs new pews, Latin Mass Altar, communion rail, new heating system, window repair, tuckpointing, new floor, organ and hymn books - and I am sure a bunch more. The priest is Fr Denis Buchholz from the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest -
Old St Pat's has not been a traditional Parish since the 50's it has been a "branch" of the Cathredral which is called an "Oratory". St Pat's had a daily Mass and one Sunday Mass. The priests, musicians and repairs were from the Cathredral (just a few blocks south and west @ 12th & Broadway). Bishops Helmsing, Cody, Sullivan, Boland and now Finn have been the "Pastors" of Old St Pat's. This in nothing new. The author makes it out to sound like the Bishop is a King taking possession. Yes, he told the Latin Mass Community "I am your Pastor" yes, I was there. But, no matter who would belong to Old St Pat's - he would be their pastor. It is called Old St Pat's because another St Patrick's was established north of the river some years ago.
To pull the Latin Community from Our Lady of Sorrows, was a decision he made, yes. But it is one that Bishops Sullivan and Boland have been asked by ROME to make for years. Bishop Finn is being obedient to the requests of both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. Why didn't the author mention this? I thought that Bishops were supposed to be obeient to Rome - as we are supposed to be to them?
The Latin Mass Community saved Our Lady of Sorrows along with Fr Sinclair of becoming another innercity church biting the dust. It you count up all the $ the Latin Mass Community has donated, the hours and hours of volunteer work on repairs since 1989 - they have contributed well over the $250,000 the Bishop is asking from OLS. The Latin Community since this past October has their own set of envelopes for St Patrick's Oratory, but they pay OLS rent to use the church for Masses, buy their own hosts, easter and other candles. They are not freeloading off OLS.
Our Lady of Sorrows has $1.5 million on deposit (savings account) with the diocese. In the hole or very little in 1987 to $1.5 million now. This parish has the MOST money of any parish in the diocese. Even if they gave the money requested to St Pat's they STILL would be the parish with the most - except for the parishes having huge campaigns for building projects. The church charges non-members to use the church for wedding $1200. Two weddings a weekend. All year except New year's eve and other holy days. Yes, people even are allowed to have marriages during Lent. Members have a certain $ amount to conrtibute in their envelopes to use their own parish for a wedding. The total money is envelopes, outside donations, weddings, interest and wills. They earned about $270,000 in interest since 1990 (per office manager's report a recent parish wide meeting).
Old St Pat's is the oldest Catholic church in the area. It has huge historical value. The diocese over the years has done just enough for it to be used limited and the roof not to fall in. To learn more about St Partick's Oratory go to this site:
New Wine, Adult Education
The New Wine program is like a laity program like many orders have for lay people - Oblates are ones that comes to mind. With the priest shortage, it is necessary to use lay people for some things. One priest can't do it all. It is a good program. But it hasn't been updated or reviewed since it began.
Bishop Finn is looking at the entire program HIMSELF. New Wine is a multiyear program. He wants to be sure of all the adult religious education in New Wine, RCIA are in line with Rome and be sure of the content himself. He may make changes, he may come up with an all new program. This program has been through 2 Bishops' tenure, to look over the programs does not seem out of line for a new Bishop.
Children's religious ed
I am a certified catechist for the diocese. The diocese pushes certain texts and publications, just like they do hymn books (gather). When I was at Our Lady of Peace (former St Stephen's) we chose not to use the texts the diocese wanted and meeting with our priest we selected another set. When it came time for First Confession and First Holy Communion - our kids understood more than the kids being taught by a nun all year with a nun for a principal using the diocese reccomended texts. The priest told us the difference was remarkable. The two year program for confirmation that begins @ 14/15 is a joke. My oldest son learned nothing, other than the lady conducting the class had a thing for one of the teens in the class! Great. I conducted the class for my middle son with another lady and a priest. A world of difference! And we received special permission to make it a one year program from Bishop Boland.
Bishop Finn is seeing what is happening in the school and parish level with the children as well.Shouldn't he make himself aware of what is going on in his diocese, rather that depend on the former staff who have done as they please?
The Catholic Key to the News
First off the Key is NOT a private publication. It is the organ of the Bishop to provide written communication to the people of the diocese. Parishes share what is happening with them, events, announcements etc. Each Bishop has been in control of the KEY. This is not new. Mr DeZutter is an employee of the KEY. Bishop Finn is responsible for the content of the KEY. Bishops Sullivan and Boland had off hands relationship (I guess). The comment Mr DeZutter made about the Bishop at his birthday party with his silly birthday garb - now wouldn't you think the Bishop was joking when he said "You're not going to put this picture in the Key are you?" Mr DeZutter tells it like the Bishop is censoring. Oh please.
When the Kansas City Star changes owners or Editiors doesn't it change? Wouldn't any boss of a publication want their stamp/flavor on the work? I used to work for the Federal Government. Every adminstration, things changed. That is the way it is when you get a new big boss.
The author and some of the people quoted act like there will not longer be a layman activity in the diocese. Did the Bishop bring in about 50 priests? Are the schools going to be filled with nuns? I didn't notice any difference in still needing lay persons to do many things in the parishes and schools. There will still be religious education for non catholic school kids, confirmation for teens, RCIA for adults, the poor to clothe and feed (St James Supper Club), floors to scrub, music to be played and sung for Masses (still some of us do it for FREE), youth groups on and on. I do not see the need going away or the Bishop doing away with the lay programs.
The staff who left - I was hoping that Bishop Boland was going to clean house years ago. sadly he didn't and the same ol same ol happened again.
More inner city churches closed. Churches who were told in 1990 that they were safe and wouldn't have to go through the pain as the others. Many people in the next round were refugees from the 1990 closings. Did you know there were no auctions the next time? hmmmm. My husband wrote a letter to Pope John Paul II in Polish to tell him about the auctions, the blessed items going to the highest bidder. He didn't cry about our churches being closed but about the auction and how we were all treated by our diocese. We did sent a copy in Polish to the chancery later. We have no idea if the Holy Father interveened or if they translated the letter. But nontheless - there were no auctions.
Fr Richard Carney, said the new Bishop "came with an agenda". Fr Carney used to be the Chancellor and was a priest at OLS for a while. He never said the CREED at Mass. He told me that "we are all Catholics here - we know why were are here, we don't need to say the creed". I found that very weird.
I agree that Bishop Finn has an agenda. And he should. Anyone who is taking over a job such as his has to have an agenda, a plan. He was here as co-adjunctor for visiting all the parishes he could, he lived in a parish in the city. People talked to him, gave him letters personally, had him over for dinner. He had a good idea of what was going on in the diocese before he was formally installed as Bishop.
There is another lay program in the city that began with the churches that are all now closed - it was called the Kansas City Organizing Project. They train people to become Community Leaders, to challenge the local govenment for change. This developed into the Church Community Organization. I was on the board of KCOP and a member of CCO. Sr Jean Beste was also on the board. She thought the people being upset over the closings in 1990 was silly. They should get over it. When you lose your home and are lied to - well that's kinda tough. The CCO lost almost all it churches in 1990, they went through some hard times and have come back very strong. The CCO, handled gang problems with the police and city council, worked with Jackson County to design and work on the 1/4 cent drug tax to combat drug dealers, close houses, educate youth, jail time and rehab time, getting stop signs, sewers fixed, curbs all those things people in neighborhoods in the city need. The CCO sends people out for community leadership training for a week. I got to go to a sisters convent outside Los Gatos in CA. CCO isn't just Catholic churches anymore, many other churches and community groups joined in to be a voice for the people in the neighborhoods.
I have always been a politcally and commmunity involved person. I firmly believe in challenging those in positions of power. To challenge is not to butcher as the author did of Bishop Finn. To challenge is to ask, why are you doing this or that, what made you come to your decision, what is your vision - not to tear down that person, but to find the answers you seek and see that they carry them out. You can give suggestions and comments.
This article was full of half truths, misquotes and huge omissions. If the author had given the history of what has happened, about the Holy Fathers' requests, the real story behind Our Lady of Sorrows/St Patricks Oratory - it would have been a better piece.
With what he did people are still asking why did the Bishop do this? What are the reasons behind this? What is his vision? How dare the Bishop take control of the Key! Our Lady of Sorrows will be left pennyless!
More questions and more misinformation is now out than before.
I don't know if I have all I had before. But, this is what ya get.Thanks for reading my long long response.