From death to life: joining a parish gives meaning to men on death row

From CNS: Some of the newest members of Holy Family Parish will never attend Mass at their church. They will never talk with fellow parishioners over coffee and doughnuts after Mass, join the church choir or volunteer for a mission trip. They are inmates on death row at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville. Some [Read More...]

The challenge of Pittsburgh: one priest to run four parishes

He’s be assisted by a parochial vicar and three deacons. From The Pittsburgh Catholic:  On the door of Father Stephen Kresak’s refrigerator in the rectory of Corpus Christi Parish in McKeesport is a decorative magnet that a parishioner gave him. He keeps it where he will see it each morning as a reminder that “I [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...]

Who’s the boss: priests take classes to learn management skills

From The New York Times:   They came for prayer and fellowship, naturally. They gave confession to other priests, too. But mostly they came for lectures. Lectures on employment law. And on best practices in hiring and firing. And accounting and auditing. It was five days with hardly any theology. Beginning Jan. 5, during the cold [Read More...]

The “consumer mentality” of American parishes: Want fries with that?

An episcopal priest, Fr. Tim Schenck, has some interesting observations on his blog, and I think they apply to Catholic parishes, as well: My only living predecessor as rector at St. John’s (they all stay 30 years) has a theory about free-standing altars. He says the unintended consequence when they pulled them out from the [Read More...]

New Orleans archbishop orders school calendars changed to keep Sundays free

Details:  After months of nudging Catholics to reclaim Sunday as a day to attend Mass and spend time with family, New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond is mandating that Catholic schools clear their calendars that day each week. Aymond began asking schools last year to tweak practice schedules and reschedule social events so harried families could [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...]


Well, it’s over. Msgr. Joseph Funaro, my pastor emeritus, has been to sent to his rest. The funeral Mass this morning was beautiful. On a glorious summer Saturday, the church in Forest Hills was packed: two bishops, a couple dozen priests, throngs of friends and family, a small army of altar servers.  Music ranged from [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...]

After Sandy, parish unites to save a couple’s wedding

I don’t know about you, but I could use a little good news about now.  Check this out, from the Trenton Monitor: Take one bride and groom whose plans for their special day intersected with the wrath of Hurricane Sandy, mix with a parish united in the desire to see them wed by candlelight despite [Read More...]