Tuesday, September 25, 2007

More from the Big Tent

Forgive the slow posting of recent days, but a sinus infection can do wonders... to mess with one's brain.

Here's a quick roundup:
  • Well, it's September and school's back... even for bishops. The annual "New Bishop School" -- organized by the Congregation for Bishops as an aid to prelates named over the last year -- is in session this week in Rome, with several top-tier veterans of episcopal ministry called in from around the world to serve as visiting lecturers. And just like most school sessions the world over, the program began with a speech from the top teacher. Receiving the flock of new shepherds on Saturday, the Pope told them that their office "demands" that serve in a particular way as "animators of prayer in society." "Prayer teaches love and opens the heart to pastoral charity," B16 said, "welcoming all" who cross a bishop's path. Quoting the "pastoral rule" of St Gregory the Great, the papal talk -- one which dealt with prayer alone -- noted that "in a singular way," a shepherd "must be able to lift himself [away from] all other things for prayer and contemplation." With "each" of priests, the pontiff said, a bishop isn't simply to be always close by in prayer, but "always ready to welcome, to listen, to nourish and to encourage." While the aesthete-Pope is known for his appreciation of all things old and ritual, aside from a brief reference to it, Benedict didn't address the public prayer that is the liturgy... he even shirked an opportunity to plug his motu proprio.
  • Once upon a (leaner) time in the River City, so committed was its bishop to priestly formation that he quartered his seminarians with him; founded in 1832, St Charles Borromeo Seminary had its first location in the home of then-Bishop Francis Patrick Kenrick, who named himself its first rector and professor. These days, the sem and the Archiepiscopal Mansion lie a half-mile apart on opposite sides of City Avenue, but in between stands St Joseph's University... where the sitting president has adopted the Kenrick approach. Despite the ample on-campus residence for the Jesuit community that's operated "Hawk Hill" for over 150 years, Fr Tim Lannon recently began his second year in a university-owned apartment complex for upperclassmen. As one of his neighbors told the local paper of record, "Everyone thinks I'm kidding when I say I live across the hall from the president of the university." For his part, the head of the 7,700-student institution said that "the kids are terrific. They're so uplifting," and he appreciates their invites to parties and hangouts. The archdiocese may be observing the bicentennial of its erection this year, but 2008 also marks the 275th anniversary of Old St Joseph's -- the Jesuit foundation that, in the beginning, held the distinction of being the one of the few public places in the British Empire where Mass could be celebrated openly without fear of reprisal. The dual milestones will be marked by a conference on Philadelphia's Catholic history at the university scheduled for early next year. (Full disclosure: as some might remember, this author spoke at a Hawk Hill event earlier in the year and was paid nicely for it.... However, I've been saying that "The Hawk will never die" -- and getting hell for it from Villanova fans -- for years prior to that.)
  • In other "turning down the house" news, during the convocation of his once and future presbyterate last week, incoming Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh announced his plans to decline the Steel City's episcopal residence. A bequest to the diocese which his predecessors have called home for the better part of the last century, the future of the opulent domicile in an upscale section of the city is still to be decided. Underscoring his wish to be open and available to his future priests, Zubik will make his home in a suite at St Paul's Seminary, where he had lived during his prior run as an official in his native curia. With just over two days to go before his Friday installation and as the local frenzy -- which, among other things, has overshadowed even the 75th anniversary of the town's much-loved football team -- over his return ramps up, what's been dubbed "Zubikmania" has even spread to one of the homecoming prelate's favorite dining haunts; the exterior of an Isaly's Deli in the North Hills is reportedly covered with a painted rendition of Zubik's coat of arms and a message blaring "Welcome home!"..... (Inside, it seems they haven't forgotten to keep the green peppers off his breakfast omelette, either.) The tickets to Friday's liturgy may be coveted, with the parking situation slated to cause headaches, but the web traffic should make for smooth watching of the rites via livestream; no less than four Pittsburgh outlets will broadcast the Mass on their homepages, two of which are killing their regular programming to televise it. While odds on an impromptu rendition of the "Steeler Polka" are currently at even money, late word says that the Polish classic "Serdeczna Matko" is very much on the program.
  • Friday's pilgrimage to the city of the Three Rivers kicks off an unprecedented confluence of events for the US hierarchy. Sure, the traveling circuit's used to one mega-installation every year or so... but possession-takings by three senior prelates in four days is very new territory, a leap that's caused no small amount of episcopal calendar panic on these shores. From Pittsburgh, the traveling delegation of 40 high-hats will bulk up over the course of the weekend as it heads to Baltimore for Archbishop Edwin O'Brien's inauguration as the Premier See's 15th head; over 70 bishops -- including eight cardinals -- are slated to headline Monday's Mass in the "New Cathedral" of Mary Our Queen. Hours later, it's off to Birmingham, where Bishop Robert Baker's rollout the following day will, at long last, end the longest vacancy of a Stateside diocese since the early 19th century. As the Alabama diocese of 90,000-plus has never had an emeritus prelate all its own, Bishop David Foley recently handed in the keys to the diocesan's house and settled into his new digs: a simple one-bedroom apartment. EWTN will televise and stream the latter two liturgies of the Installation Trifecta; check schedule for details.
  • And, lastly, in yet another reflection of the national situation post-2002 (i.e. over $2.5 billion in settlements paid), Cardinal Adam Maida of Detroit informed his priests last week that the archdiocese will spin-off its parishes as individual non-profit entities in civil law, ending its "corporation sole" status. "According to church law and theology each parish and diocese has its own unique set of rights and responsibilities," Maida said in his letter to the clergy. "Creating non-profit parish corporations is the simplest and most effective way of ensuring that the rights of parishes regarding church property are respected not only in church law, but also in civil law." While an attached Q&A form from the Motor City chancery said that "parish incorporation allows for direct involvement of the laity and a proper ordering of the rights and responsibilities of parishes and the diocese," it also noted that the Holy See has been prodding the dioceses of the United States to move away from corporation sole status since 1911. Even now, however, it remains the predominant form of civil identity for American Catholicism's institutional structures. As the 1.5 million-member Detroit church continues to await word on the appointment of a successor to the 77 year-old cardinal, the reorganization is scheduled to be completed before the end of the calendar year. Whether said successor-to-be was consulted is, of course, unknown... for the time being.