The Field Hospital: Covering parish life

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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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A parish in the Archdiocese of Baltimore is led by a laywoman with the title of parish life director. Article here points out a developing trend and its impact on the wider church.

See previous story as Iowa diocese plans a giant parish consolidation. The blame is placed on the low number of priests.

Is the problem lack of priests or lack of imagination? Are there other ways to structure parishes?

Similar issues emerging in the Diocese of Belleville, Ill.

Concerned that your parish is lukewarm and in decline? A model for a cure might be found in African American Catholic parishes, says a Catholic journalist.

But an African-American priest scholar argues that the Catholic church is not so welcoming to the black American spiritual experience:

Bill Droel offers advice for urban parishes: one, the criterion for being a pastor should be assertive leadership, not overt piety. And churches should market themselves as Protestant congregations do, seeking out nearby residents as well as commuters seeking spiritual sustenance. Good perspective on urban life: we hear frequently about dioceses wringing their hands about demographic changes, but that is talk based in 1960s realities. Today the trend, in many places, is for urban areas to flourish. The problem is that newcomers to cities are not flocking to churches. That is an evangelization issue, not a socio-economic one. 

But surely there are urban centers left out of the revival of U.S. cities. A Byzantine-rite parish outside Flint, Mich., reconnects with its roots by assisting the beleaguered people of that water-poisoned city.

[Peter Feuerherd is a professor of communications and journalism at St. John's University in New York and contributor to NCR's Field Hospital blog.]

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