Editor's note: "The Field Hospital" is NCRonline's newest blog series, covering life in Catholic parishes across the United States. The title comes from the words of Pope Francis: "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. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds. ... And you have to start from the ground up."
"The Field Hospital" blog will run twice weekly on NCRonline.org along with feature stories and news reports about parish life in the U.S. If you have a story suggestion, send it to Dan Morris Young (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Peter Feuerherd (email@example.com).
Here’s an example of a mega issue in U.S. Catholic life manifesting itself on a parish level. Some 100 parishioners at St. Roch’s Church on New York’s Staten Island -- a part of the Archdiocese of New York -- demonstrated last weekend in support of their beleaguered pastor, Fr. James Garisto. Seems like some at the nearby St. Adalbert’s Church, slated to merge with St. Roch’s, object to the pastor’s efforts at including Latino parishioners. Garisto is now on sick leave but says he plans on returning to ministry. Assimilation of Latinos into American Catholic life remains perhaps the U.S. church’s greatest pastoral challenge.
The Diocese of Cleveland, known most recently for a wave of church closings, dedicated a new church building for St. Agnes-Our Lady of Fatima Parish on the city’s East Side. It is said to be the first new Catholic church built in that part of town in 60 years. The congregation is largely African-American.
Eucharistic ministers in Lutz, Fla., are offering Sunday communion services at assisted living facilities there. What’s unusual is that the services are held on Sunday. The ministers say it’s a way for residents to feel a part of the Christian Sabbath, even when they are unable to attend Mass.
Parishioners at Our Lady of Refuge Church in the Bronx, N.Y., inspired by Pope Francis, are going door-to-door, inviting residents in the borough’s Fordham section to attend Mass. The story is reported in Catholic New York.
The long-term impact of church closings and mergers in the Diocese of Albany is reported on by the local daily. The end result? Not so bad, as church attendance has stabilized and services improve in older towns such as Troy.
[Regular Catholic press contributor Peter Feuerherd writes from Queens, N.Y.]