Thursday, June 4, 2015

A Conservative Approach with a Focus on Catholic Education

The Catholic grade school and high school I graduated from in 1966 closed its doors in 1967.  Through consolidation, the grade school has survived to this day, but it is in a town thirteen miles away.  The nearest Catholic high school, however, is something like fifty miles away.  I understand that the practice of the faith in this small Iowa town has waned, and while we had a full-time pastor and often a full-time assistant pastor back in the day, I understand that now the pastor is shared with a neighboring town.  My thoughts today are dominated by these problems, which, of course, are not uncommon today across the country.

If you read my blog post last week, you know that my current diocese, the Lincoln, Nebraska, diocese, is thriving.  Catholic education is accessible (and affordable) and religious vocations are at a high level.  The reason, I believe, is the unwavering financial support of the people of the diocese over the years.  Seeing the importance of Catholic education in both the life of a parish and in religious vocations, the Catholic bishops of our diocese have instituted funding programs early on that have been very successful.  As a result, one of these bishops founded an order of teaching Sisters and another founded a seminary college.  All three of the bishops we’ve had since I moved here in 1977 also saw the importance of a thriving Newman Center on the campus of the University of Nebraska.  It’s amazing how many of our priests and nuns came through the university and found their vocation via this holy and active Newman Center.  Last month, a beautiful new Newman Center opened on the campus.  The need was recognized because Sunday Mass attendance by the students was so high, and Bible study group meetings and other activities so numerous, that the old smaller church, with two priests assigned full-time, simply could not accommodate the need any longer. 

There is an important lesson here, I think.  One might ask the question:  “Why is this happening in this diocese?”  Aside from holy and faith-filled bishops that had the foresight early on to stave off financial problems by placing a high priority on the funding programs, we’ve had a fundamental conservative approach to our faith.  The diocese has a reputation nationwide of being one of the most conservative dioceses going.  I’m not an expert in this kind of analysis.  I’m really just an ordinary parishioner who has made personal observations over the years, both in this diocese and in the diocese of my youth.  It seems a conservative approach, with a focus on Catholic education, is what works.

And this is another reason why I’m writing this weekly blog.  I was thinking today of writing this post on the topic of the Precepts of the Church, thinking that many Catholic may not know what they are or even that they exist.  But then I thought of the larger problem, and I couldn’t resist writing about that instead.  Maybe it will be the Precepts of the Church next week.

My prayer for today:  Lord, send us your Holy Spirit and your legions of angels to renew the face of the Earth today so that support for Catholic education and religious vocations will pick up nationwide.  Aw, heck, Lord, let me change that to “worldwide.”  In Jesus’ name I pray.  Amen. 

The photo below is of the sanctuary of the chapel of the St. Gregory the Great seminary in Seward, Nebraska, in the Diocese of Lincoln.

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