Is Francis Talking to Me?

Emily Stimpson reports on a visit to an inner city parish in Pittsburgh. A church that can seat 700 has 70 at Mass, and the church is about to close due to lack of support, vandalism and inner city blight. What can be done?

After Mass, a small group of elderly people stopped us to chat. We paid a compliment or two and Chris mentioned he’d tried visiting before. The parishioners just nodded their heads.

“Can’t keep it open anymore,” one older gentleman told us. “It’s the kids. We just spent $35,000 fixing the stained glass. They keep breaking the windows. It’s the same in the school. It’s closed now, but we can’t board the windows up fast enough. And the pipes and gutters, they’ve taken all them too.”

“Copper,” another woman added, by way of explanation.

Right then, the priest, who was making his way back up the aisle, stopped to chat with our little group. The conversation repeated itself—“Such a beautiful Church.” “Such a bad neighborhood.”

“Sounds like you’ve cut your work cut out for you,” said Chris, adding some momentary variety to the dialogue. “You’ll have to get out and evangelize those boys.”

This is the problem: we’ve got to maintain the church we’ve got, evangelize the people in the pew, build up the stagnant, cold and indifferent Catholics. That’s an overwhelming task in itself, AND we’re supposed to reach out and evangelize the drug addicts, vandals, criminals and gang members?

And this is supposed to be the priest’s job? What we need is radical conversion of the Catholics in the pew first. Then, just then we might have the army of Christians necessary to evangelize the world around us.


  • Chris

    Yes. For the most part the laity need to be bringing the people to the Priest.

  • defiant12314

    yeah, Father if I ever have any free time after working, sleeping, eating, trying to fit the gym in and household tasks.

    Perhaps if you Priests let us into Church OUTSIDE Mass times, spent more than half an hour on Saturday in the confessional then we’d be holier right? As it is a working man can’t get into Church during the week because its only open half and hour before Mass and ten minutes afterwoods (I thought a good thanksgiving took 15 minutes right?), finding a Priest to hear your confession during the week is a laughable notion and Daily Mass is said at a time when a working man will be……….. at work.

    Perhaps if you Priests got off your backsides and were (shock!) Priests then we’d be in a better situation than we are now. I don’t mean this as a personal insult Father, I know that you’re a very busy man what with a wife and kids to take care of, but in my experience your average Latin Rite Priest is only seen on Sunday / The Saturday Vigil Mass and not after then.

    • frdlongenecker

      Thanks for speaking bluntly. I hope you don’t mind if I do. Why don’t you get off your backside and stop complaining. You want to see a priest for confession? Call him up and make an appointment. You want to go to daily mass at a time when you can make it? Why not get to know the priest and ask if he’ll set up a mass time that is good for you and while your at it, offer to turn up fifteen minutes early and help him unlock and set up.

      What you don’t see is that the priest has probably already done all that you suggest, but nobody turns up for an early morning mass, and nobody helps to set up or take down. He’s tried keeping the church unlocked, but the insurance men say he has to lock it down and keep it alarmed. When it has been unlocked vandals have made a mess, but none of the laypeople are willing to serve on a clean up schedule, neither are they willing to give sacrificially enough for him to employ professional cleaners.

      Maybe he’s tired and fed up because every initiative he’s tried to reform and build up the parish has been met with indifference, yawns and people who want to do the absolute minimum. So he’s decided to give them what they want: the absolute minimum.

      Put yourself in his shoes. He’s worked hard. Tried to keep the faith and been met with nothing but complaints, indifference, lack of generosity and criticism. It’s a wonder he’s still in the job at all.

      • defiant12314

        I’m speaking in general terms Father and you know it, I live declan langs territory which as you know isn’t exactly a model of orthodoxy.

        To be fair to my PP he does say the Old Mass five times a month, he does have First Friday adoration albeit during business hours, However he’s not exactly a lion in the pulpit, he thinks that a girl as MC is absolutely fine and dandy and hasn’t exactly done his utmost to shut up the heretical liberal ladies that dissent, dissent, dissent.

        if I was PP I’d deny them Holy Communion until they recanted their heresy, get the girls out of the Sanctuary entirely, get the laity involved in 24 hour adoration, communal Rosary thrice daily spend at LEAST 2 hours in the confessional every day and preach the Truth with force from the Pulpit. Unfortunately neither Othordox dioceses nor Traditional movements (at least in the western hemisphere) want anything to do with a young man whose father ran off with the agency nurse.

        • frdlongenecker

          OK. I don’t know who you are, but knowing your diocese–I lived in Chippenham for five years–I sympathize.

      • Chesire11

        Perhaps the way to reach the indifferent Catholics in the pews is to reach beyond them to evangelize the non-Catholic community. For too many years, the Church in the west has been content to remain in a defensive crouch, safeguarding a dwindling flock. If the apostles had been as defensive and timid as the Church is today, it would have endured as little more than a local curiosity rather than grown to encompass the world.

        • johnnyc

          Exactly. I’m still not quite sure what the ‘new evangelization’ is all about but it apparently does not include evangelizing protestants. Where I live we are surrounded by them so we still need to be able to defend the Faith. But one thing to remember…when you defend the Faith you are also proclaiming the fullness of Truth and the whole Gospel of the One True Church.

          “Let’s worry less about offending others,” Hain said. “Let’s worry more about practicing our faith.”

      • MarySloka

        I sure miss your homilies Father!

    • Augustine

      When I yearned for daily Mass, I evaluated when it would be more convenient to me and then checked out to find which parishes offered Masses then. It turned out that in order to attend daily Mass I have to go to three different parishes besides mine. For confession, besides my parish, the local cathedral also offers this sacrament daily, so I’m never too far from absolution of my sins.

      If you really want to take part in the sacrifice of the Mass daily, you need to be flexible, even if your schedule isn’t.


  • DeaconJohnMBresnahan

    Going back in years when there were huge numbers of converts to The Faith it usually wasn’t just the priest who attracted them. It was also, and in great part, the Catholic woman next door who brought soup to the house-bound elderly woman nearby or the Catholic man who did charitable work for the St. Vincent de Paul Society or the Catholic teen-ager who shoveled the snow away from the front door of a physically disabled couple –then brought groceries to them.

  • FW Ken

    I’m old enough to remember Houston’s Episcopal Church of the Redeemer, which sounds a lot like this Catholic parish. One lady prayed for the parish for several years and they got a protest who failed do badly at all the do-gooder stuff that he turned to God and led a remarkable renewal. It eventually died out, but did a lot of good while it lasted.