The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin   Editorial
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Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin
October 18, 2002 Issue

Similar situations

Catholic Church in England and the United States have parallels
in what is happening

By Tony Staley
Compass Editor

The Catholic Church in England and the United States is dealing with simular situations, we learned on a two-week visit.

The clergy shortage we're experiencing in the U.S. also exists in England. For example, Fr. David Condron, the pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Kineton -- eight miles southeast of Stratford-on-Avon -- is responsible for three parishes.

At the Mass we attended, he pleaded for boys and girls in the parish to become Mass servers, rather than relying on the deacon. Previously, the pastor said, he had not allowed girl altar servers because he did not want to drive the boys away. But he's rethought that policy -- probably because there were no boys to drive away. He also noted that most people do not come to Mass every Sunday because of the press of other obligations.

After Mass, we asked Fr. Condron how other faith traditions were doing. He said he wasn't sure about the neighboring Anglican church, but the Methodist church across the street attracted mainly a few older people -- in contrast to St. Francis, which had people of all ages, including many young families.

One other item of note: St. Francis Parish charges 10 pence (about 16¢) for its parish bulletin.

In London, we stayed at St. Edward's House, a retreat house and headquarters of the Society of St. John the Evangelist -- the oldest Anglican religious order for men. The order was founded in 1866 at Oxford by Richard Meux Benson and also has a monastery in Cambridge, Mass. Its members include both priests and brothers who take life vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.

Sadly, the order is down to only seven members -- most of whom are retired and living elsewhere. But the superior, Fr. Peter Huckle, SSJE, who assumed office last March, is hopeful for the future. He said the order has given his plans the go-ahead.

We met four of the seven members and found the community to be hospitable, which is a charism specified in their rule.

The order seems very Catholic. That's not surprising given that it was founded in the birthplace of the Oxford movement -- which sought to restore Catholic practices to the Anglican church. They start each day at 7 a.m. with Morning Prayer, followed by Mass, and close the day at 6:30 with Evening Prayer. Members wear habits and silence is observed during meals (except Sundays and feast days) and from 9 p.m. to 9 a.m. As in the pre-Vatican II Catholic Mass, the priest keeps his index finger and thumb together from the consecration until cleansing his hands and the vessels after communion. And, Fr. Huckle told us, at least one of the older members prays the rosary on car trips.

And in several Catholic and Anglican churches, worshippers used a moveable pad about 24-by-6-by-4-inches as a kneeler (it also doubled as a seat cushion).

Despite our differences, we have our similarities.

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