Checking up on the Francis effect

This story appears in the The Field Hospital feature series. View the full series.

by Peter Feuerherd

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Editor's note: "The Field Hospital" blog series covers life in U.S. and Canadian Catholic parishes. The title comes from Pope Francis' words: "I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. …"

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Field Hospital reader Albert Baca wants to know if parishes would consider assisting the disabled manage the money they receive from Social Security.

Baca, from Huber Heights, Ohio, has been assisting a disabled adult grandson, who lives independently. Baca is getting on in age and wonders what will happen to his grandson when he passes.

He serves as his grandson's representative payee for his supplemental security income (SSI).

"My grandson can do everything but successfully manage money. I also manage the money he earns from a three-hour-a-day part-time job," writes Baca.

Baca's proposal: "I think it would be a great service to parishioners if the local parish would find volunteers among its congregation to be a rep payee to help the elderly and the disabled manage their money. All that would be required is to establish a rep payee checking account in the volunteer's name as the representative payee. The rep payee would create a simple budget for money management purposes and then write checks to pay bills."

The only other requirement for being a rep payee, noted Baca, is to submit an annual report telling the Social Security Administration how the Social Security money was spent for the client's benefit.

He has approached his local Catholic parish and a local non-denominational church for assistance in this project and they are reluctant. "Neither liked the idea of managing other people's money," he wrote.

Baca still thinks it's a good idea, and he is sure others face similar issues. Any parish social service volunteers willing to agree?

The first Blue Mass for police officers was held in the Birmingham diocese. These are routine throughout the country. But what makes the Birmingham, Ala., Mass unique is its sponsor, the diocese's Office of Black Catholic Ministry, whose director sees it as a potential vehicle for reconciliation and support between African American Catholics and officers.

California business leader Bill Simon points out what makes great parishes, and the key is inspired leadership that inspires lay people to engage in service and spirituality. In a survey of pastors, he notes how many -- unsolicited -- talked up a "Francis effect" on how they run their parishes. Also see how Simon's new book on parish leadership is sparking discussion about how the church can reach those who are unconnected.

Our Lady of Guadalupe returns to southern California. Her return is cheered.

Forget social media. The cure for loneliness and lack of connection can be found among the flesh-and-blood people in your neighborhood parish.

Parishioners in the Pontiac, Mich., area, come together to celebrate Pope Francis' calls to mercy and mission.

Closed Philadelphia churches are a source of housing in a rapidly gentrifying city.

The Toledo diocese warns parishioners to avoid a newly-opened monastery, questioning its Catholic and Orthodox bonafides.

Looking for the Francis effect: Noticed any changes? Where is it happening in your diocese and parish? Where is it not? Send the Field Hospital your reflections to

[Peter Feuerherd is a correspondent for NCR's Field Hospital series on parish life and a professor of journalism at St. John's University, New York.]

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