Friday, May 25, 2007


The Midwest has St. Joan of Arc in Minneapolis. Out here in the Northeast, there's St. Andrew in Syracuse, NY. Syracuse was the childhood stomping grounds of my dad (1933-1981). My dad was a Methodist, converting two years after marrying my mom. I doubt he ever touched St. Andrew's, even when it was normal. Of course, upon marriage, my parents made Rhode Island home. Even still, the only two churches we've stepped foot in within the Syracuse Diocese are Sacred Heart (now a minor basilica - my cousin Kathy was married there) and Immaculate Heart of Mary in nearby Liverpool. Note that I haven't been in Syracuse since 1982 - almost a year after my father's death.

Anyhoo - Gerald has the goods on St. Andrew's. It started ok, but its evolution isn't pretty. Dig this...

First, let's look at their "mission statement" - nothing beats a good self-definition now:
- To proclaim and Celebrate the Good News of Jesus and share his teachings. (Good)
- To love, support and strengthen each other. (Good)
- To develop our liturgical celebrations in the spirit of Vatican II. (Ruh Roh! This don't sound pretty!)
- To meet the human and spiritual needs of this community and beyond through active ministry and service. (Good, within limits)
- To commit to just peacemaking. (Here's the so-called "social justice" at work!)

Now for a little history...

Time as a traditional parish (You mean "normal", don't you? This, btw, was from the parish's founding in 1952, up to 1963.)
The parish bulletins of those early years were filled with the announcements from the Holy Name Society, Altar and Rosary Society, Legion of Mary, and an adult and children’s choirs. Sunday 9 o’clock Mass was the children’s Mass where Fr. Harrison came down from the altar, stepped outside the altar railing and spoke directly to the children sitting as a group in the front of the church. (They got away with that kind of stuff back then? I'm shocked!) Special religious observances like 40 Hours Devotion, Novena to the Sacred Heart, Stations of the Cross, Benediction, Spiritual Bouquets, and Plenary Indulgences were also part of the parish vocabulary. Social activities included dances, spaghetti suppers, card parties, and a Bowling League of eight teams that met at the Southside Bowling Alley.

With the exception of the priest giving the kiddie homily from outside of the rails, that seems pretty normal to me - at least for then. But now, buckle up because the ride is chocked full of turbulence!

Vatican II changes St. Andrew’s
In the fall of 1963, as the new pastor, Msgr. Daniel Lawler, took his post, revolutionary events were taking place in the wider world. The dramatic decisions of the Second Vatican Council were coming out; Catholics were stunned. They couldn’t believe the changes that were now predicted. Some found it traumatic that the Catholic Church they knew -- with the Latin liturgy, priest facing the altar, and bells rung at consecration -- was going away. Others, equally stunned, found joy in the realization that indeed as Pope John XXIII had predicted, a window into the church was opened and the cobwebs were being swept away.

Little did they know that Vatican II never canned Latin, ad orientem, or Sanctus bells. And as for the cobwebs (those who really knew better), they weren't "swept away", they were "driven away", lock, stock, and barrel. Read on...

A time of firsts
Changes to the Mass came quickly. After a vote of the parish, the first Mass facing the people was offered on January 1, 1965; the first sung Mass in English took place November 7, 1965, followed by the use of English, at first only outside of the Canon of the Mass. Lectors became a regular part the Mass. (I have no problem with lay lectors, provided they read the approved texts of the first two readings and leave the Gospel to the priest or deacon.)
The first homily ever given by a layperson at St. Andrew’s occurred on September 25, 1966 when Robert Landers spoke about the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD), a religious education program in the American Church. Landers’s assignment fit with Vatican II’s call for the laity to enter into “partnership with the priest in the sacred things of God.” (Yeah, but V2 never called for twisting things around, nor watering them down.)
At a time of dramatic change in the church and also in the understanding of human psychology and education, there was a desire for new information which the books provided. During this time, the parish added the National Catholic (Distorter, er,) Reporter to its newspaper handouts of The Catholic Sun and The Sunday Visitor.
Prayer of the Faithful was added to the Mass in 1967 as were folk Masses and neighborhood Masses in the home. (Prayer of the Faithful, good; Folk Masses, bad!)
Monthly children’s liturgies were held downstairs in the parish hall simultaneously with “adult” liturgies upstairs. Many creative approaches to worship were tried in the downstairs setting that were later adapted to full parish liturgies upstairs. (Sure! Screw up the kids, then try to get their parents to think it's ok to screw them up too!)
Numerous magnificent liturgical banners designed and produced by Mary Spadaro enhanced the liturgies. She set a standard that others followed for many years. (Isn't that defacing property?)
The number of the children in the parish declined during the 1970’s (Gee, I wonder why!!!)

More than a neighborhood parish
As early as 1968 the parish began its shift from a neighborhood parish. Today more than 70% of the parishioners live outside the parish boundaries. The impetus that started the trend was the fact that people who moved outside the parish continued to come back to St. Andrew’s.
Fr. (Joe) Kane was presiding over significant changes. He has described himself as “neither liberal or conservative, but open.” He was open to new ideas, to leadership from the laity and was willing to institute new practices about which many of his fellow priests teased and criticized him. (He was probably criticized and teased because his brother priests knew better, that some of these practices were not good for the church, nor for the Church.)
But Joe’s openness got him in trouble with some of his parishioners too. The enthusiastic adoption of reforms from (the so-called Spirit of) Vatican II was difficult for many. A pastor who was sharing power with the parish and letting the congregation know from the pulpit that he didn’t have all the answers was too much for some. Slowly, parishioners began to leave for other parishes. Over the next 30 years there was a steady stream of people who left in protest for one reason or another. (Sounds to me like too many righteous got pissed off.)
A dual collection for the wounded in South and North Vietnam was one of the first political controversies that caused people to leave. But at the same time, the parish started to attract new members from all over the county because of these very controversial issues, its commitment of the reforms of (the Spirit of) Vatican II and leadership by the laity. (Out goes the good air, in goes the bad!) Today the parish has members from Homer to North Syracuse and from Cazenovia to Westvale. St. Andrew’s started with about 200 families, rose in the 1960’s to 400 families and gradually dropped back to 200 families by the 1980. Today, there are 175 households on the parish registry, 72% of whom are from outside the parish boundaries.
An elected Parish Council in 1976 strengthened the role of the laity in decisions of the parish. Four committees on education, finance, liturgy and community/social action were formed. (Ah yes, a committee of clueless people telling the pastor what to do! Now I wonder who wears the pants in that "parish family"!)
Communion in the hand began on the Feast of Christ the King in November 1977. By 1978 with one priest and the need to depend on frequent visiting priests, Sunday Masses went from three to two, at 8:45 and 10:45 a.m. (Lower attendance rates were the factor, I suppose - more people pissed off.)
That same year a Human Development Committee was formed and grew into today’s Justice and Peace Committee. (And their job is?)
In January 1981 the parish began a serious discussion on whether to remodel the church. Parishioners, in a series of lively meetings, considered a plan to put the altar on the side of the church and change the orientation of the pews. By 1983, a compromise solution allowed the altar table moved forward toward the congregation and the removal of the altar railing. (Another move in the misconceived "Spirit of V2" - and what the sam hell is it with altars being moved on top of the people? Why don't you just put the freakin' altar halfway up the aisle and do table dances? Better still, let's not give them ideas.)
By the 1980’s the parish went through another demographical change. Children from the dozens of large families in the parish had grown up and moved away and were not replaced in equal numbers. (Smart. They didn't miss much.)
Change in the liturgy was another issue on which parishioners disagreed. Folk Masses, the move of the organ from the choir loft to the sanctuary, and inclusive language all sparked controversy. (Yup - sparked controversy. Vatican II never called for these things, which explains the controversy.)

Now for the biggest bomb of all...

Gay/Lesbian Mass initiated
Another new ministry, one Fr. Kane says he is most proud of, was opening the parish to the Catholic Gay and Lesbian community for Sunday Mass twice a month starting in 1994. (My big question is this: is this "ministry" leaning more toward Courage, which is good, or more toward Dignity, which is bad?)
Fr. Kane donated the stained glass window above the altar. The center point that draws in different lines is symbolic of how the diverse people of the parish meet at this place of worship and also someday perhaps in what Teilhard De Chardin called the “omega point.” (Oh puh-freakin'-leese with this so-called diversity crap!)
Finally, a loyal band of parishioners has, during these past 50 years, gathered around the altar for daily Mass. Today a new band gathers for weekly contemplative meditation instead of daily Mass. (What next? No Sunday Mass?)

Horrid. And Bishop Moynihan puts up with this kind of crap?


Anita Moore said...

Oh my God. They did away with daily Mass, in favor of "weekly contemplative meditation"???? "Weekly contemplative meditation" is a substitute for the re-presentation of the Sacrifice of Calvary?

I have to say, though, the parish mission statement is pretty tame compared to the one they proposed at my parish (which I haven't heard any more about since they solicited comments about it).

Dad29 said...

The long, long, dive into the bowels of.....