Indiana Catholics register voters on the margins

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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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We are living in what has been called the "Hispanic moment" in the church. Here are some suggestions from America magazine for what parishes need in order to serve this population better.

A music minister in a Rhode Island parish is fired after it's found out he is in a same-sex marriage. Both defenders of the music leader and the local bishop cite Pope Francis. Confusion abounds.

State police in Michigan are investigating possible embezzlement at two parishes. Meanwhile, the Diocese of Kalamazoo has suspended the pastor at both churches.

This brings up the larger issue: What are parishes and dioceses doing to stem embezzlement? Charles Zech of Villanova University argues that Catholic parish leaders aren't any more prone to theft than those in business and government, but that lax controls give them more opportunity to steal.

In Detroit, the archdiocese sponsors a Mass of pardon. Among the sins: Catholics who promote racism and ignore the poor. Also included is the sin of sexual abuse of children.

The Diocese of Pittsburgh organizes a series of 350 meetings to discuss with parishioners an upcoming consolidation. That's a lot of name tags!

Evangelization is the key word in many parishes and dioceses, at a time when surveys and empty pews indicate that the church continues to lose adherents. In the Baltimore archdiocese, the focus is on welcoming in parishes, even those who may not be Catholic.

St. Sabina's Church in Chicago celebrates its centennial, and its prophetic -- and news media friendly – pastor, Fr. Michael Pfleger, comes in for praise. Pfleger is known for his public stances against racism and violence. Another Windy City institution, theologian and historian Martin Marty, says the role of pastor and prophet is not an easy one but Pfleger has made a substantial impact.

Parishes in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend in Indiana are registering "marginalized" voters. The goal is to reach those in poverty or experiencing language and other barriers and provide them a voice. The effort is non-partisan.

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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