Refugees, immigrants wanted for Canada's Catholic churches

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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Wanted: more refugees and immigrants for Canada's Catholic parishes. In particular Toronto has emerged as one of the most ethnically diverse North American cities, and the church has prospered as a result.

In this summer of "Pokémon Go," Catholic parishes have not been immune. The players are invading churches and parish properties. Some see it as a problem, others see opportunity for evangelization, reaching a generation that often doesn't go near churches.

Here's an emerging pattern: diocese plans to cut the number of parishes; a series of consultations are held, usually under the name of a high-sounding program, and parishioners get suspicious. It's happening all over the Northeast and the Midwest. The latest: the Indianapolis archdiocese.

Another issue about parish mergers and consolidations. Crain's Business describes how the Chicago archdiocese's wealthier parishes will be affected by the merger program underway there. The short answer, when you cut through the verbiage: not very much. The most hardship could be the merging of wedding liturgies. My college students have a phrase for this: first-world problem. Wealthier parishes in such merger plans just seem to keep on going, with few hitches, separating their parishioners from any real contact with the issues faced by Catholics on the other side of the tracks.

Roughly half the Catholics in the U.S. under 35 are Latino. The Shreveport, La., diocese, has hired a youth minister to address this particular group with the help of the Catholic Extension Society.

Pilgrims walk up to 50 miles to participate in a celebration of immigrants at the Los Angeles Cathedral.

Some Republicans, including their humble candidate this election cycle, want preachers to be free to endorse candidates from the pulpit without endangering tax-exempt status for churches. Catholics wonder: If allowed, is that a good idea? Would you go to the Church of Hillary or the Church of the Donald?

The vision of the church as field hospital is regularly engaged in the context of parish life and how it can address social issues. Perhaps the metaphor is most striking in this context: a national conference addresses how the church responds to domestic violence.

[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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