Pentecost continues…the Holy Spirit is still sent in abundance to the Church and to all creation…Pentecost goes on…It was not a “one-time-only event.”…
The Holy Spirit remains energetically active in these acres of the Lord’s vineyard we call the Archdiocese of New York.
This week after Pentecost is a fitting time to let you know of some promising new pastoral initiatives that demonstrate that the third Person of the Most Blessed Trinity is not on vacation!
Adult Faith Formation: Thank God for our Catholic grade schools, high schools and colleges. Thank God for our religious education programs for our children.
However, education in our Catholic faith is a lifelong endeavor, not limited to our young people.
That’s why the archdiocese has the Institute of Religious Studies (IRS). It does good work. We need to strengthen it and expand it. Everywhere we go, especially in the current process of strategic pastoral planning, Making All Things New, our people tell us, “We need help in understanding our faith better.”
I have asked Father Brian McWeeney, a seasoned pastor with a doctorate in adult catechesis, to shepherd the strengthening and expansion of our already good IRS (and we might even get a more benign title!).
• we want sessions offered in every vicariate;
• we want to use technology and distance learning better;
• we want to offer more courses in Spanish;
• we will keep our present categories to certify our catechists and teachers, and to offer the master’s degree in religious studies, but we also want to begin informative shorter sessions and programs for the wider Catholic audience in current issues that you ask us about.
Youth Ministry: You tell us that we’re losing our teenagers. Yes, we have sterling initiatives, and wonderful Catholic high schools, but we need more. In the many “listening sessions” preparing for our pastoral plan, Making All Things New, Bishop Sullivan and his team heard our pastors and parish leaders over and over again urge us to provide archdiocesan leadership in reaching our youth.
I have asked a young pastor, with a splendid track record in working with youth, Father Joseph Espaillat, to begin forming an archdiocesan initiative to reach our young people—the future (and present!)—of our beloved Church. By the new year he will begin this work full time.
Vocations to the Priesthood: Father Luke Sweeney has been working very hard recruiting men for our seminary. Up till now, he has also been serving as assistant director of our college seminary. As you know, our St. John Neumann College seminary program will merge with the college seminary program at Immaculate Conception Seminary in the Diocese of Brooklyn, where the college seminarians from the Diocese of Rockville Centre also are formed. Thus, Father Sweeney now can give his undistracted attention to seminary recruitment. I have asked Father Espaillat to work with him as well. Their offices will be at what is now St. John Neumann College Seminary on the campus of our renowned St. Joseph’s Seminary, Dunwoodie, Yonkers.
Archives: Speaking of that beautiful building that up until now housed our college seminary, it will now serve as the Archives of our historic archdiocese. I have appointed Father Michael Morris, professor of Church history at St. Joseph’s Seminary and a doctoral candidate, to be co-archivist of the archdiocese, along with Sister Marguerita Smith. He will begin a professionally supervised transfer of our archives to the new setting, and transform the new site into an attractive, welcoming center for research, displays, and historic exhibits, worthy of a collection among the most priceless in Catholic America.
The Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen Center for Thought and Culture: Our Lady of Loretto Center in the Bowery is now empty and underutilized. This expansive structure provides meeting rooms, a theater, offices, exhibit areas and even some housing. Part of this huge building can be sold, and the earnings can be used to renovate the remaining areas for promising ventures:
• a theater for lectures, presentations, concerts and dramatic plays of Catholic interest;
• offices for Catholic apostolates;
• exhibit areas for art and displays;
• ongoing educational efforts;
• housing for those involved in Church projects, such as our FOCUS missionaries, and even a corps of young teachers and catechists for our schools and religious education programs.
I have asked Msgr. Michael Hull to coordinate this promising venture, working closely with Msgr. Don Sakano and Father Jonathan Morris, both at the Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral.
Catholic Student Center at Columbia University: The devoted Polish Dominicans, who have served at Notre Dame parish and Catholic students at Columbia University, will be returning home, with our deep appreciation. New priests of the archdiocese will be assigned to the parish. I have asked Father Daniel O’Reilly, who already coordinates all of our campus ministry for non-Catholic universities and colleges, to become director of the Catholic student apostolate at Columbia University, with the mandate to make it a model for the nation.
Vicars: With their input and assistance, a revised job description for vicars has been developed. Vicars will be much more visible in the parishes of their vicariates and will work more closely with the Priest Personnel office in recommending assignments to me. I am deeply grateful for our vicars’ willingness to do even more than they have already been doing so as to better provide for the needs of our clergy, religious, and faithful.
Priest Personnel Issues: I have asked our Presbyteral Council to initiate a thorough study of all our policies regarding assignments and allied issues of priestly life and ministry. A group of representatives from the council, our vicars and our current priest personnel board will review such matters as terms for pastors and parochial vicars; procedures and protocol for assignments; how better to consult our parishioners in assessing parish needs and the effectiveness of pastors; better use of our senior priests and international clergy; and transformation of some of our rectories for communal living among our priests.
Retired Priests and Priests Needing Special Care: Thank God we have excellent facilities in our Cardinal John O’Connor Retirement Residence, and Our Lady of Consolation Assisted Living Facility. We are actively working to expand, improve and maybe even move Consolation Residence, and to continue reviewing the services we provide our priests who require nursing care.
Evangelization: Many other dioceses report amazing success with a program called “Catholics Coming Home,” a robust, creative pastoral initiative to reclaim our Catholics who have drifted away or even left the Church. Next Advent or Lent should find us hosting this promising evangelization effort.
More to come… stay tuned!