Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Pope of "Rome"

It might currently be home to just 550,000 Catholics, but today's installation in St Louis is more significant than most given the Gateway City's historic place of leadership on the Stateside church scene.

Founded in 1826, the initial borders of the Midwest's mother-diocese extended to the Rocky Mountains, and only on subsequent carve-ups of the vast turf were new sees birthed at Chicago and Milwaukee, in Montana, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Bob Carlson's native Minneapolis.

Almost fifty dioceses now dot the space... and along the way, its first archbishop reigned for half a century, three of his successors gave the term "St Louis Cardinal" meaning off the ballfield, while the last two also became redbirds, just somewhere else.

The prior incumbent's leanings on liturgy and law showed that, in our time, the post can still command a national profile. But it wasn't Raymond Burke's orthodoxy that earned the place the moniker "Rome of the West."

Few, if any, know this better than the native scribe now covering her fourth St Louis shepherd... and on Installation Eve, the ninth archbishop sat for the Patricia Rice interview:
[Carlson] talked about placing women in important church roles. As Saginaw bishop he had a woman chancellor, Nancy Werner; and Trudy McCafferty was one of his two spiritual directors. Both are lay women. McCafferty works with about 25 bishops, he said. He also has two sisters who have input into his life.

A key issue for many St. Louis parishioners and for some of the St. Louis priests preparing to walk in the vigil procession tonight is when he might announce pastors for several parishes now led by temporary pastoral administrators. Under church law during the first 12 months of an interim between bishops, the administrator may not appoint pastors. That has left a few parishes in limbo.

Carlson said he will “soon” name as pastor many priests serving parishes in temporary assignments as parish administrators. He has two conditions. The priest must have already served as a pastor in a previous parish and the interim administrator Bishop Robert Hermann and the Archdiocese’s priests’ personal board must have agreed on the man’s parish appointment. He indicated that he need not interview each priest before the announcement as a permanent pastor.

One source said announcements could come by Sunday; Carlson declined to state a date.

In Saginaw, Carlson served as his own very successful vocations director but he will not take on those duties in St. Louis, he said. Monsignor Ed Rice (no relation to this reporter) has been doing an excellent job leading the St. Louis Archdiocese Vocations office, and he will not replace him, Carlson said. The two men already have been talking about how to encourage more St. Louis men to become priests, Carlson said.

Carlson credited the Holy Spirit, not himself, with bringing so many Michigan men to the seminary in his previous posts. One key way to get more priests is to encourage Catholic parents to talk seriously to their young children about a variety of vocations including married life and the priesthood, he said.
...and there's video:

The new arrival likewise talked with the wire:

"It really doesn't matter what the culture thinks or what the media thinks; that's my job," Carlson said a day before assuming leadership of St. Louis' Roman Catholic archdiocese....

Carlson said Tuesday he believes private communication is crucial when ministering on issues such as whether someone should receive Holy Communion. He said he tries to help people understand why the church believes as it does.

"Whether a person is a politician, or a doctor, or a candlestick maker or a farmer -- whoever that person is -- and they come to me as their pastor, or I feel a need to go to them, what we do, we do in private," Carlson said.

Carlson, 64, most recently served as the bishop of the Saginaw, Mich., diocese. He was bishop in Sioux Falls, S.D., from 1994 to 2005.

Sister Mary Judith O'Brien, who is vice chancellor of the Saginaw diocese, said Carlson gathers a variety of opinions before making decisions.

"It seems to me Archbishop Carlson has a wonderful way of opening a dialogue," she said. "I have not known him to be a publicly confrontational person."

O'Brien praised Carlson's commitment to Catholic schools and to seeking out quality candidates for the priesthood. Carlson said he hopes to continue such work in St. Louis and also wants to institute "bishop's breakfasts."

The monthly breakfasts, begun in Saginaw by Carlson's predecessor, include everyone "from the public relations person at Dow Chemical to the fellow who owned the local car dealership," whether or not they were Catholic, Carlson said.

"If you're going to be a pastor, and if you've got the civic community doing their part and you've got the business community doing theirs, then the church -- if you will -- has to be the soul," he said.