Monday, June 26, 2017

More On St Timothy's Fort Worth And St John Vianney Cleburne

Regarding yesterday's post, my regular correspondent commented
St Timothy's Ft Worth had over [60] people received when it entered the OCSP--- a large group by Ordinariate standards. The fact that their former rector was transferred to another community a year ago and has just been replaced this month, and even then only "pro tem," along with the move from a parish church to this small venue, suggests to me that the game plan is to unite St Timothy's under their former rector when his group---St John Vianney, Cleburne---builds their own church. The property has already been acquired, so this goal could be realised relatively soon.
I replied that this plan seems speculative, and plans for St John Vianney seem off in the indefinite future. My correspondent replied,
Hard to say if the St Timothy's parishioners are in on the plan; there was a notice on their website for at least six months to the effect that they would be getting a new priest in January 2017. It remained there into March. They used to post the weekly bulletin on the website but have not done so since moving to the Diocesan Center. There has been nothing on the website about Fr Kennedy's appointment. I think that the group has shrunk because those who have eyes can see that Houston is phasing them out, and have moved to St John Vianney or to a diocesan parish.
This is a further indication of the desultory and opportunistic nature of the OCSP. It isn't managing growth; instead, it's dodging indications of decline and looking for ways to merge shrinking communities without quite saying that's what it's doing.

Shifting the focus to St John Vianney, my correspondent points out

St John Vianney is one of two OCSP groups currently meeting in a school auditorium. Here is the "cafetorium" of Marti Elementary School set up for Sunday mass. An article in the Ordinariate Observer noted that 110 people attended a confirmation there in Fr Hough III's time so that gives you some idea of the capacity.

Attendance in the photo seems more like 50-60, heavily skewed to older age groups, and if one added the St Timothy group, you'd probably still have empty seats. It would be interesting to see details of the St John Vianney construction plans.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Chapel Veils

My regular correspondent sent me another photo of the chapel interior where St Timothy Fort Worth meets, this time during a DW mass:

Several of the women are wearing chapel veils, which bears out accounts I've had from time to time that chapel veils are common in the Texas communities. Msgr Charles Pope gives a pretty comprehensive discussion of the subject here. In brief, there is currently no Church policy on the subject, and head covering for women is completely voluntary.

On the other hand, this post at the Catholic Answers Forum begins to reflect my own views:

From the days when mastadons roamed the earth (ie pre-conciliar times) this male recalls women normally wearing hats in church. Whether a dressy hat or a beret, it didn't matter. Chapel veils (not mantillas) were generally considered an "emergency measure" and many women kept one in their purse "just in case."

I recall that, in grade school, the nuns always had a supply of simple chapel veils at hand for the girls who didn't have a hat for First Friday or other occasions. Those who could afford it would pay 25 cents. Those who could not got it free. The important thing was a head covering, not the money.

I've always liked the tradition of a head covering for women, and I still do (even though I do not voluntarily attend the OF). At the same, though, I don't have a problem with women going bare-headed, even to the EF.

These days, there seems to be this mantilla-cult that has emerged, and I just don't get it. If the women are of Spanish descent, it's fine because they know how to wear it. OTOH, those who are not, do not: they generally wrap themselves up in the thing, just about like a burka. EF or OF, I do have a problem with that.

The lady in the center of the photo above strikes me as an adherent of the veil-as-burka school, and beyond that, I continue to view photos snapped during mass as tacky. Indeed, I would say that the phtographer, perhaps a church lady of the sort we've seen before, focused on the burka-lady receiving the sacrament as something especially holy.

All I can say is that this is a very small group of a size reflecting the small venues we've been seeing here. A drop-in could well get a sense of ostentatious exclusivity, feel uncomfortable, and not return. Now, maybe I've got the wrong impression, and in that case, this small group will grow and thrive.

Er, how long have they been in that small chapel? How's the building fund coming along?

Saturday, June 24, 2017

St George Republic, MO

My regular correspondent comments,

This is the chapel in the former retreat centre which is now the Seraiah family's home. There are three services a week here, one followed by a Bible study. Fr Seraiah is also responsible for two diocesan parishes in the area and occasionally services are held jointly with them. When the group started meeting here last summer it was "Bring your own chair" so progress has been made in upgrading the worship space; the long term plan is to build a church on the property. Fr Seraiah's background is evangelical Protestant and while his theology seems soundly, and conservatively, Catholic I do not see much in his approach that is Anglican. I'm not quite sure why he wants to be in Ordinariate rather than diocesan ministry (he spent the first four years after his ordination as a diocesan priest in Iowa). On the other hand, the local lay leadership was very anxious to find an OCSP priest who would relocate, and unlike some Fr Seraiah has been prepared to do that many times in his ministry.
It seems to me that the Seraiah saga is illustrative of the desultory and opportunistic development of the OCSP -- he was hired by the ACA St Aidan's Des Moines parish on the assumption that it would go into the OCSP, but it backtracked. At that point, he was ordained a married Catholic priest in effect to rescue him from that circumstance. Eventually he has been able to take over a very minimal startup effort on a part-time basis.

So far, it looks like there's nothing unusual in the highly provisional arrangements we see, nor the very low attendance.

Friday, June 23, 2017

St Barnabas Omaha, NE

Here is a view of the interior from this past Corpus Christi Sunday:

My regular correspondent notes,

The congregation does not seem large, if this Sunday was typical; however the community must have considerable resources. [Correction: the parish always owned its property, a matter that was resolved in litigation.] A new organ was installed; extensive repairs and upgrades to the church are continuing;; a new rectory has just been purchased, and I believe the parish has another building which will provide an apartment for the music director, and possibly the sexton. Fr Catania has been resident and assisting at a local diocesan parish but will be taking on full-time ministry at St Barnabas next month. An existing Catholic school is relocating next door to the church. The website has been completely overhauled and there is a general air of energy and enterprise about the place which is a refreshing change from some other communities we've looked at. St Barnabas is not yet a full parish but Fr Catania is working on that.

Pastors like Fr Catania and Fr Stainbrook who came directly from TEC rather than a continuing body seem to bring a different mentality to their new parish responsibilities. They expect to grow and to be connected to the local diocese as well as the Ordinariate. I think too many of the others are content to continue as a tiny outpost of orthodoxy in an unappreciative world

I would say that with the steadily shrinking job market in TEC, for a male priest to have had any sort of sustained career there -- especially in light of increasing demand for women, openly same-sex-attracted, and even transgender candidates -- means they've got to be especially well qualified, and this will carry over into the OCSP. "Continuers", seminarians who weren't ordained in TEC, or those who had more marginal careers, will perform pretty much the same in the OCSP, with some exceptions.

While the interior of St Barnabas is clearly much nicer than the great majority of OCSP communities, it's worth noting that the nave looks less than half full, with many empty pews. This is consistent with my memory of TEC, where on many Sundays, we had to lean across two rows of pews to exchange the peace.

At its best, the OCSP is cloning TEC, but more frequently it's cloning "continuers". I think Bp Lopes has to rethink some basics here. One thing I notice about our successful diocesan parish -- which has been this way for many generations -- is that a diocesan vocations director is in residence there, and promising seminarians spend summer internships there. Associates rotate into other parishes and transmit their experiences and abilities more widely that way.

It seems to me that Bp Lopes needs to pay more attention to personnel issues while closing the least successful communities and relying on the most capable priests to move around and build on success.

UPDATE: A visitor informs me that there was a major bequest to the parish in late 2015, which accounts for the spending that's taken place. However, as reflected in the photo, attendance has steadily declined as well.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Our Lady Of Good Counsel Jacksonville, NC

We know very little about this group, other than what was reported here in this post. Although Fr Waun is a retired Navy chaplain, my regular correspondent has found that he continues as a civilian Catholic chaplain at the Marine Corps Air Station New River, next to Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville.

As previously reported, the church is a storefront. My regular correspondent hasn't located a photo of the interior, but says, "the property (3000 sq ft) is divided up into at least 6 suites, so the available space must be similar to the photo below. Other current tenants include a fitness studio."

Storefront chapels aren't unusual for "continuing" parishes, but this sort of thing doesn't seem especially compatible with ad orientem or DW mass. As reported a year ago, what we actually find there is OF and guitar. My correspondent adds that the founding group

contained several members of the Porterfield family. Kevin Porterfield set up the website, etc and was heavily involved in programming but perhaps he lost interest at a point. In the fall of 2015 he started teaching middle school so perhaps he has less volunteer time. Or perhaps as a teacher he has discovered the wisdom of avoiding personal social media. Nothing has been updated for about two years on the OLGC website; the FB page is a stub.
We might reasonably assume that ordination in the OCSP qualified Fr Waun to serve as a civilian contractor Catholic chaplain, which nicely supplements his Navy pension. The apparent lack of activity in the Our Lady of Good Counsel group suggests it is not Fr Waun's first priority.

The other Catholic church in Jacksonville, NC is the Infant of Prague Church. Certainly the interior we see here is at least as nice as those in the biggest OCSP parishes -- notices of choir practice on the parish website suggest some effort goes into a music program, and drop-ins might find something better than a guitar-and-tambourine mass. So your choice is between guitar and OF in the storefront and OF with stained glass and better music at Infant of Prague.

If you found yourself in Jacksonville, NC on a Sunday, which mass would you choose? Assuming Fr Waun were still holding mass in the storefront, of course.

What problem are we trying to solve?

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Basement Groups

We've already looked at the Pasadena group-in-formation that meets in a dreary basement chapel. My regular correspondent has sent me views of two others. Here's St Anselm Greenville, SC

Here's Our Lady of Walsingham Maple Ridge, BC (my correspondent says it's not nearly this full on a normal Sunday):

Several things strike me. The first is that both venues are nicer than Pasadena, although the reredos and icon in Greenville are offset by the cinder block walls. However, they're both basement chapels. Beyond that, their maximum capacity is in the neighborhood of two dozen, though they apparently don't fill the space most of the time.

Why are these people doing this -- or expressed another way, what problem are these people trying to solve? During 2012, we saw the original Anglicanorum coetibus model of groups being received into the OCSP and the Church. The assumption was that, as new Catholics, they were going to move ahead, locate a permanent venue, grow as parishes, establish good music programs, and so forth. St Albans Rochester, currently down and awaiting a reboot, is an example. By and large, this model hasn't developed as expected, but I wonder if this isn't still what some people in basement groups have in mind if asked what they expect to accomplish.

Once the target market for Anglicanorum coetibus was expanded to include those baptized Catholic but not confirmed, the canonical membership of groups became more ambiguous, and beyond that, it appears that a substantial proportion (though very small in absolute numbers) of fully initiated Catholics also participates in basement groups.

So as far as I can see, people attracted to basement groups-in-formation fall into three categories:

  1. The "continuing Anglican" target market of angry Anglicans who want the 1928 BCP and male clergy
  2. Catholics not fully initiated who are somehow drawn to a group for other reasons
  3. Fully initiated Catholics looking for reverent celebration that they feel they can't find in the diocese.
The problem I see in all these cases is that the record we have over more than five years is that these groups have in fact not grown. My regular correspondent frequently notes that Our Lady of the Atonement had acquired property and begun construction on its church and school within five years of its founding. No OCSP group in formation has accomplished anything like this, and none appears likely to do so.

One peculiar feature of the St John Fisher Orlando group is that it appears to have many Catholics already eligible to receive the sacraments -- my regular correspondent sent me this photo of Bp Lopes celebrating mass there last October:

The photo was sent to resolve the question of what constitutes the altar in that chapel -- apparently it's the window sill -- but it also suggests the OCSP has departed from the 2012 model whereby the groups of Anglicans are received as Catholics in a well-publicized ceremony. Instead, it looks like the St John Fisher group is already Catholic.

But if this is the case, Bp Lopes is doing them (who are his flock) no favors.

  • They're celebrating mass in tiny groups, separate from the life of the Church
  • They're cutting themselves off from parish activities like Bible study, weekday mass, and adoration
  • Such small groups can't realistically support a music program
  • Meeting in basement chapels fosters a pusillanimous atmosphere that probably inhibits stewardship
  • Since the groups do not have a record of growth, they will never be able to expand their activities.
I've come to recognize that the flip-flop-and-halter-top, Breaking Bread, guitar-and-tambourine OF mass is a stereotype, and a little enterprise and willingness to explore can allow many diocesan Catholics to find reverent and spiritually rewarding celebration without the need to form little groups based largely on wishful thinking.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Why A Second Orlando Community?

My regular correspondent sent me a link to this announcement of a new OCSP community meeting at Nemours Children's Hospital Chapel in Orlando. A check of Google maps shows this is 24.6 miles from the Incarnation parish. The link makes it very clear that this is an OCSP community:
A new Catholic community is now going to be worshipping at Nemours Children’s Hospital Chapel. The new group is a community of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter: a special type of diocese, completely Catholic in every way, for Roman Catholics who were previously Anglican. Any Roman Catholic may participate in Mass at an Ordinariate parish or community.
(Note, though, how the announcement talks down to the reader. We left our previous diocesan parish in part because the associate talked down so much in a happy-birthday-Jesus kind of way. Looks like this is happening here. What about Roman Catholics who are of average intelligence and maturity? Is Houston aware of, or indeed, originating, this kind of stuff?)

Unfortunately, I think we know why there's a second community forming in Orlando, notwithstanding the existing one can't fill its pews on Christmas. I think it's fairly plain that this is a make-work project like the one in Pasadena (or the failed one in Tampa) to bring in yet another marginal candidate for ordination, when it's not even clear where they can serve when they're ordained. In the Pasadena and Tampa cases, we're looking at individuals with a track record in other denominations of trying and failing to establish and grow small groups -- yet Houston seems to think it's a good idea to keep doing the same thing and expect different results.

Here's the interior of the Nemours chapel, a very nice one, though clearly it's intended as a bright and optimistic place where families can pray for children in distress, not necessarily a place for solemn ad orientem worship. (Does that lectern qualify as an altar at all? Do they turn it around on its casters for DW mass?) But of course, this particular project is to benefit clergy, not people. Bp Lopes, you have a problem with perception here.

Tomorrow I'll look at a couple of groups meeting in basement chapels and offer some thoughts on what may be behind this sort of fecklessness.