November 11, 2023 Column Father De Celles

Elections. “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town.” [Mt. 10:14]. Virginians, especially parents, children, and unborn babies, suffered a devasting loss last Tuesday. And there were other big losses around the country, particularly in Ohio. But the Lord reminds us not to dally and fret over our “losses” in proclaiming the Gospel. We get up, shake off the loss, and go on to the next task of proclaiming the Gospel. 

We always need to remember that we—individually, as a parish, or as the Church—are not the savior: that job belongs to Jesus alone. He is King of Kings and has already won the war, though the skirmishes with the Devil continue until He comes again in glory. Our job is to proclaim the Gospel as best we can, live a holy life, love God and our neighbor, and hold tightly to Jesus, the Trinity, Mary, and all the saints and angels. And to our Catholic faith, hope and charity. Discouragement does not come from God, but from our weakness or the Devil. Jesus is our hope. 

So… let us pray for one another, for our fellow Virginians, and the folks around the country, especially Ohio, particularly parents, children and the unborn. And, holding on to hope in Christ, get back to work for Him. 

Pray for the Dead. Remember that the whole month of November is dedicated to praying for the Holy Souls in Purgatory. So I encourage you to do so, especially by praying the Rosary, offering Holy Hours, or attending an extra Mass or two during the weekdays. Or at least adding to your regular prayers, the simple prayer, “Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord. And may perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace. Amen.”

Needed: Plant Manager. We have been searching for a new plant manager since April. Parishioner Anthony Hansen has filled in on a part-time interim basis, working with Mary Butler in the office. (Thanks to both of them). Anthony has done an excellent job, but he does not want to take this on permanently. 

Ideally, a plant manager would have experience in facilities management, or perhaps construction. But I think the most important thing I’m looking for is someone who is a good communicator, organized and can work with and manage people, including staff and vendors. They should be comfortable working around machinery and maintenance, but don’t need to be expert. They need to be able manage and coordinate, not necessarily to lift and hammer. 

Ideally, the position would be full-time, but I’ve concluded that a part-time person can handle this if we delegate some routine tasks to subordinates and vendors. The position would require being on-call for emergencies, but this would involve mainly, again, hands-on coordination of staff and vendors. 

Finally, ideally, I’d like to fill this position with a parishioner, or at least a Catholic who would feel comfortable working with our priests, staff, and parishioners. 

This is a very important position in our parish, and I need to fill it soon. I ask your prayers that I can do so. If you or someone you know is interested in this position, please contact Mary Butler in the office. 

Synodality: The Way Forward to Failure? Last week I read this interview in ultraliberal America Magazine given by Cardinal Pierre, the Pope’s Nuncio to the US. I was confused by some of his comments, and contemplated how best to respond. Then I read this excellent commentary at The Pillar, by Brendan Hodge:

“In an interview last week, Cardinal Christophe Pierre …focused on a 2007 meeting of South and Latin America’s bishops in the city of Aparecida, Brazil…. There, ‘the bishops developed a kind of dynamic of working together and looking for solutions together, to evangelize better, which is what the synod [on synodality] is all about. Nothing else: Better evangelization….

“That 2007 Aparecida conference produced a document which the future Pope Francis helped to draft. And for his part, Pierre told America that a better understanding of Aparecida, its document, and its effect in the Church across South and Central American could help the U.S. bishops to address declining rates of faith in their country. 

“But if the Aparecida approach is the model — it seems worth asking whether it’s worked.…[H]as a phase change in evangelization resulted in a Church more alive, more evangelical, and more fruitful in South and Central America than in the United States?  

“…The Vatican publishes an annual statistical report called the Annuarium statisticum ecclesia…. The Vatican data shows very stable levels of Catholic affiliation …for Central and South America as a whole from 1980 to 2019…In the same time period, the United States also shows a very stable…

“But those figures don’t tell the whole story…. [Other] data suggests a significant and continuing decline in Catholic practice, both in the U.S. and throughout Central and South America. 

“….Since the 2007 Aparecida conference, the number of baptisms per thousand Catholics has dropped another 33% in Central and South America, while in the US the number has declined by 38%….Brazil, where the Aparecida conference actually took place, has seen its number of baptisms per thousand Catholics drop to levels below that of the U.S., with just seven baptisms per thousand Catholics in 2019 as compared to 8.9 in the US.

“In 2019 the U.S. and Mexico were tied, with 1.8 marriages per thousand Catholics. For Central and South America as a whole, the number was 1.2 in that year. In Argentina it was only 0.8.

“…While the Catholic Church considers baptized Catholics to remain Catholic throughout their lives, … [survey data from the World Values Survey] focus on self-identification, asking respondents, ‘Do you belong to a religion or religious denomination? If yes, which one?’

“…The U.S. and Mexico both show stable to upward trends over the five waves of the survey, from 1995 to 2022. Argentina is somewhat down, from 76% in the 1995-1998 wave, to 69% in the 2017-2022 one. Brazil shows the most dramatic change. In the 1995 to 1998 wave of the survey, 70% of respondents in Brazil described themselves as Catholic. In the most recent wave, only 46% described themselves as Catholic.

“…In the most recent wave, the highest rate among Catholics in the four countries examined was in Mexico, where 47% of Catholics said they went to Mass at least once a week. The lowest rate was in Argentina, where only 19% of Catholic respondents reported going to Mass at least once a week. The U.S. fell in the middle with 35% of respondents saying they went to mass at least weekly…The percentage of total Brazilian respondents who said they went to Mass weekly dropped from 28% in 2007 …to 21% in the most recent wave of the survey….

“Whatever effects the evangelization developed through the synodal process of Aparecida may have had, it does not seem to have resulted in the countries of Central and South America being more successful at retaining members than is the Church in the U.S.”