Pastor’s Perspective – October 30, 2022

* Why I Am Voting “No” on Proposal 3

At Mass, we played an excerpt of my video, “A Message from Our Pastor” that is now posted on our St. Regis YouTube channel or can be accessed through our stregis.org website. I have not done this for any other ballot proposal in the past, but I believe quite strongly that our spiritual well-being is at stake here in Michigan with respect to this vote on Proposal 3. I invite, even strongly encourage, you to view the video as part of your decision-making process in regard to Proposal 3. Also, please remember that we are supporting a day of prayer and penance on Tuesdays, from now through Election Day. Take a few extra moments to lift Michigan up in prayer and to pray for all who will be voting. Offer a fast on Tuesday in some form for the well-being of Michigan. Thank you.

*All Saints and All Souls

All Saints Day, a Holy Day, is this Tuesday. Because Monday night is Halloween, we will not have a Mass Monday, October 31. All Saints’ Masses are at 8:30 a.m. (all school) and 7:00 p.m.

The Feast of All Souls, though not a Holy Day, is also a special celebration. Please join us for the 7:00 p.m. Mass. Because this is an important communal celebration for the entire parish, there will be no other Mass that day. The usual morning Mass that Wednesday is cancelled. During the All Souls Day Mass we remember all who have died during the past twelve months, especially those whose funerals we celebrated through St. Regis Parish. As you enter the Gathering Area, if you have the name of someone you wish us to remember, who has died during the past year, please go to the Information Desk and to add the name and pronunciation. Then take a flower in memory of that person and bring the flower forward when their name is called. Thank you.

*    Pope Francis and the Synod of Bishops on “Synodality in the Church”

I have previously mentioned a bit about this upcoming Synod and that the U.S. Bishops have put together a summary of the results of their listening sessions in preparation for that Synod. It can be read online at usccb.org/synod. I have also put a link to it on our stregis.org website under “News Briefs.” Interestingly, Pope Francis recently announced that he will hold the Synod in 2023 as planned, but then there will be a year of continued reflection after the Synod and a further gathering in 2024 to finalize the results of the Synod, extending the process for an extra year. It is very clear that Pope Francis feels that the future shape of the Church depends on how fully it can embrace a more truly communally discerning structure at all levels. He sees this as one of the key insights of the Second Vatican Council, which was held sixty years ago. Only if we (the Church at all levels) find a way to listen to how God’s grace is at work in all of us, even those who are not necessarily living the way we would like, will we be able to truly bring the living “good news” (Gospel) of Jesus to the world today. Too often we act as though the Church is this ancient structure, unable to change in any significant way. But what if the first two thousand years of our Church’s history is just our infancy?  Pope Francis is inviting us to take the long view.

The U.S. Bishops “National Synthesis” is divided into five parts: “Introduction, Enduring Wounds, Enhancing Communion and Participation, Ongoing Formation for Mission, and Engaging Discernment.” I found it striking that the Bishops recognized the need to name the wounds present in our Church right off the bat. So often the Church is defensive and either tries to hide its failings or chalk them up to a “few bad actors” or even blame “the culture” for all the problems. Not with this summary. They listened and heard the deep wounds that are present in the Church. Moreover, the summary states that many of these wounds “have been inflicted not only by individual members of the Church, but often by the institution.” In other words, the whole Church needs to take an honest look at itself and ways it has failed the People of God and failed in its mission to serve the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The most prominent wound continues to be the hurt and pain caused by the sexual abuse of minors and the way the Church hierarchy tried for so long to hide the reality. This in turn frays the relationship between people and priest, priest and bishop, Church and civil society: “The sin and crime of sexual abuse has eroded not only trust in the hierarchy and the moral integrity of the Church, but also created a culture of fear that keeps people from entering into relationship with one another and thus from experiencing the sense of belonging and connectedness for which they yearn.” I can remember vividly the weekend in 2002 when a number of priests were removed from ministry in the Archdiocese, named publicly, and listed as having credible allegations of sexual abuse of a minor directed toward them. Not only was the number shocking (over twenty on that day), I knew several of them (continued on page 4)

well and would have sworn there was no way they would have done such a thing. I was wrong. In the months and years following, as people came forward to report past abuse and the diocese released the names of both diocesan and religious order priests who served in the Archdiocese of Detroit at any time from 1950 to the present and who had a credible allegation of abuse directed against them, the numbers climbed to over 80 (approximately 1 of every 40 priests). Because religious orders are independent from the diocese, the Archdiocese lists the names of these religious order priests, but it is not privy to what happened to them. Of the 47 who were Archdiocesan priests, 22 have died, 7 have been dismissed from the clerical state (so-called “laicized”), and 14 have been permanently removed from public ministry. Names and statistics can be accessed on the aod.org website under protect.aod.org/. The latter website also has resources for how to report abuse to both the Church and to civil authorities or to request assistance if someone has been a victim of clerical abuse.

A second significant but much more immediate wound has been the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on parish communities. As one region summarized, the pandemic “has led to the fraying of our communities in some ways, accelerating a trend towards disengagement and intensifying the isolation and loneliness of many, youth and the elderly in particular. A large number of the faithful have not yet returned to worship.” Each year all the parishes of the Archdiocese take what is called an “October count” of the number of worshippers at all the weekend Masses on two consecutive weekends in the fall. [Ours is being done this weekend and next.] This allows for an interesting (though a bit rough and limited) historical comparison over the years. At St. Regis, very clearly the October count went significantly down in 2020, had a small uptick in 2021 and seems to be at about the same level for 2022, roughly 60% of the numbers at Mass in person as there were prior to the pandemic. This hurts not just the life and energy of the Worship, it contributes to a lethargy in terms of making Sunday Eucharist central to a family’s life, reduces active commitment to volunteer ministries, makes more tenuous one’s identification as committed to the parish, and reduces the numbers who are actively supporting the parish financially.

The third wound mentioned by the National Summary was the deep divisions experienced within the Church that reflect the polarization within the culture around us. Some regions more than others mention the pre-Vatican II Latin liturgy versus the current updated liturgy as an important divisive wound (though very few actually celebrate the old form), and others point to the way that cultural divisions get publicly played out among the U.S. bishops themselves, even to the point where some seem to be antagonistic to Pope Francis. A number of regions pointed out how scandalous it is when such bishops are perceived to not be in unity with the Pope.

The final significant wound that the report mentions is the feeling of “marginalization” among many members of the Church in regard to acceptance by or full participation in the Church. This in turn intensifies the feeling among a number of Catholics, especially the youth, that the Church is hypocritical in terms of failing to act in justice within its own communities. We preach a good game, but fall far short in practice. The summary divides those experiencing marginalization into two broad groups. I think the report is worth quoting more fully here: “The first includes those marginalized who are made vulnerable by their lack of social and or economic power, such as immigrant communities; ethnic minorities; those who are undocumented; the unborn and their mothers; people who are experiencing poverty, homelessness, or incarceration; those people who have disabilities or mental health issues; and people suffering from various addictions. Included also in this group are women, whose voices are frequently marginalized in the decision-making processes of the Church. The second group includes those who are marginalized because circumstances in their own lives are experienced as impediments to full participation in the life of the Church. Among these are members of the LGBTQ+ community, persons who have been divorced, or those who have remarried without a declaration of nullity, as well as individuals who have civilly married, but who never married in the Church.”

Importantly, the last “wound” was reported in all the Regional Syntheses (16 in total), and therefore part of the experience throughout the country, not just in certain areas. Clearly there is no easy fix to mending such wounds, but it is also clear that we have to find a way forward that opens up decision-making, respects differences, and engages those who have become disconnected from the Church. These are the challenges the next three sections of the National Summary address. More next time.

Fr. Buersmeyer

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