UPDATE on SF parish banning altar girls: “A lot of the people who are upset are not parishioners”

A follow-up on this story from last week, from SF Gate:  The Rev. Joseph Illo, pastor at Star of the Sea Church since August, said he believes there is an “intrinsic connection” between the priesthood and serving at the altar — and because women can’t be priests, it makes sense to have only altar boys. “Maybe the most [Read More...]

What happened when a priest invited 500 young people in his parish to talk about the church?

Read on, via National Catholic Reporter:  Less than 10 percent of the 500 invited showed up. The low attendance was discouraging. It told me that the church is irrelevant to their lives. They do not even care enough about church to come and tell us why they don’t want to come. For them, the church [Read More...]

New York parish serving the deaf slated to close

Details: The choir members filed up to the altar in robes the color of the red roses of Saint Elizabeth, the patron saint of their beloved church. They arrayed themselves on two risers and looked to the choir director for a cue. Then they raised their hands in unison and began to sign. “Jesus,” they [Read More...]

“How to Build an Awesome Altar Serving Program in 10 Easy Steps”

People who visit The Bench regularly know that I never tire of gushing about my parish’s altar servers. We have about 140 of them, boys and girls, aged 9-22.  As I’ve posted pictures and sung their praises, readers have asked repeatedly, “How do you do it? What’s the secret?” Well, after much prodding, the moderator [Read More...]

“What is a parish?”: a homily for September 15, 2013

Today, traditionally the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, is also my parish’s feast day. Late yesterday, the parish administrator said, “You wanna throw together a few words for the 11:30 Mass?”  Okay, I said.  Here they are.  Yesterday, as I do every month, I met with families to schedule baptisms. And I’m always surprised [Read More...]

A prayer for Joe Funaro

Msgr. Funaro, seated, with the parish clergy, just before Midnight Mass 2012.  My pastor emeritus, Msgr. Joseph Funaro, is gravely ill.  Please whisper a prayer for him and all who love him. He mentored me through diaconate formation, and helped make me the deacon I am today. Across the years, he has been a gracious [Read More...]


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