Category Archives: Culture

Catholic education: where is it going and why?

The Catholic school system in the US has been in a very desperate shape for years: acute and chronic money problems, lack of good, solidly trained Catholic teachers and administrators, a coherent vision of Catholic education as it interfaces with the charism of the religious order/diocese operating the school, building & grounds in near of repair, low endowments, etc. Then there is the assessment of what is purported to constitute a Catholic school: poor formation in the faith, the arts & humanites and science suffer, good use of current technologies, and engagement with people who do things differently, engagement with the vulnerable and culture of life, etc. Many, many Catholic schools don’t offer the Sacrifice of the Mass on a weekly basis for the students; and very few of them that I am familiar with offer reliable guidance and formation of the faculty and parents. In my book, if the bishop rarely shows up and the pastor visits the school only when there is crisis. then the problem is more acute.

Don’t get me wrong: I am a product of a lot years Catholic education and wouldn’t trade it for anything. I love my time in the Catholic schools I attended but I can see the gaping holes in education and experience. I also believe that the Church needs excellent schools and formation programs.

Five exceptions to this critical view may be the five schools in the Diocese of Bridgeport recently named “Blue Ribbon” by the US Dept of Ed. But for these success stories in Catholic Education there are thousands of others pointing to major problems.

Today, there is an article in Time that speaks to a corrective of what is noted above. The dynamic Mr. Ekicsen is asking the right questions and seeking reasonable solutions. The bishop of Patterson made an excellent choice in hiring Eriksen and I pray his project thrives. It will –the saints are behind him. Read about the Eriksen initiative…

I think of a few things that are contributing to a renewal of Catholic eduation in the US: 1) Luigi Giussani’s The Risk of Education; 2) the Ed Conference; 3) UND’s ACE program; and 4) Dwight Longenecker’s booklet The Risk of Faith; 5) Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. This is not an exhaustive list by any stretch of reality because I know there are plenty of more good programs/schools out there so please forward the names to me.

Nobel committee members are crazy

The Norwegian based Nobel Peace Prize awarded the 2009 prize to the 44th US President, Barack Obama. For what? They cite “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.” (I think it would better if the English should read: among peoples, but who am I?) How would they know what his diplomatic policies and strategies are since the deadline was February 1, barely two weeks after Obama took office? What exactly has he done to merit such a prize? Why is this liberal body of culture makers so enthusiastic at President Obama?

But what about the USA? What about dreadful policies that rage against human dignity including the unborn, the elderly, sensible health care and legal reform, at home and abroad? What about strengthening political, ethical and economic cooperation between/among the Federal government and the states? What about Obama’s administration pushing US policy of abortion legislation and other “reproductive healthcare” policies in other countries while holding money and food over the heads of poor nations? What about the Obama administration’s pursuing Belmont Abbey College’s rejection of contraception as health care in their benefits package? I sincerely and with full voice disagree with the peace award going at all to Obama, never mind so early in Obama’s term as president with so little on the record to sink your teeth into. What type of peace are is the Nobel Foundation acknowledging and holding up as exemplary? The moral decay of this country, and in others, is becoming increasingly toxic and the Nobel is awarding Obama a prize for peace!?! Talk about a loss of credibility for a venerable institution such as the Nobel Prize for Peace.

Franciscans cultivate possibilities for change for addicts

Some of our brothers and sisters have found themselves in a downward spiral that could end in premature death if a fundamental change doesn’t happen: getting & remaining clean. It’s easy to pontificate about the necessity to get and stay clean “or else,” perhaps even trying brow-beat someone into change hoping to trigger a desire to live more healthily. None this works. The simple thing is to allow God’s grace to work and to have a clean environment to live and work, to provide competent professional help and to make opportunities available for substantive change to happen. One more ingredient in my book that’s essential and a non-negotiable is the spiritual. Prayer, spiritual direction and fidelity to the witness of the Church goes to the root level of human desires and happiness given us by Divine Providence. But we have to admit that unless a drug addict wants to change her life no amount clever argument or cute programing is going to matter. If a person doesn’t take his human heart (his desires) seriously, including his need of happiness, then there is little we who aren’t captured by addiction can do.

The Franciscan Friars and Sisters of the Atonement have opened their friary, St Christopher’s Inn, in Garrison, New York for drug habilitation for the homeless. The Franciscans have developed a culture of life for those who are vulnerable and weak and hoping to live differently.
Last Sunday (August 16) the NY Times ran an article about the work of a farm sponsored by the friars and sisters along with the laity who collaborate to make change possible. The setting is an organic farm where the slow yet determined life of plants provide the metaphor for conversion: ground prepared, seeds planted, soil and plants watered, hoed, weeded and hoping for a harvest.
Please read the article and watch the video clip provided therein.

Catholic Underground NYC is coming soon: Sept 5th

CU.jpg
is coming back for a new season beginning
on September 5th

7:30-10:30 p.m. at the Our Lady of Good Counsel Church
230 East 90th Street

Eucharistic adoration with Evening Prayer, worship, confession and
free music follows in the church hall

For more info see the Underground

The Madeleine turns 100

The Madeleine.jpgUtah’s Catholics are celebrating a 100 years of the Catholic cathedral’s presence in a state long known as a haven for Mormons. The mother church of the diocese, The Cathedral of the Madeleine, is 100 years old. While history shows us that Franciscan missionaries preached and celebrated Mass as early as 1776, this celebration concretizes a presence in a house of prayer that has celebrated the sacraments unto salvation.

Catholics on the East coast of the USA or perhaps anywhere else other than Utah will wonder why I am bringing this story more attention. Isn’t the Madeleine’s anniversary a local festivity? Yes and no. Certainly the Catholics of the Diocese of Salt Lake City are remembering the graces and challenges of living their Christian faith there which obviously includes a witness to Christ. Well, it is obvious to me that every claim to witnessing to Christ is not of equal importance if we don’t point to Jesus as the origin of our happiness, the fact of being the Bread of Life and being THE way, the truth and the life. But all of us ought to be celebrating the fact that Christ has made Himself known to His people there. The theology and practice of the Catholic Church is know deeply that what affects Utah’s Catholic community affects us; being Catholic means that we are part of a Church, therefore a companionship of people announcing the the Presence of Salvation today. The Church thinks this is so with the presence of the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine for the Faith who unites all of us with the Holy Father. That is, the beauty of the Catholic faith is its true universality.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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