Dec. 1-7, 2005
A Full Slate
By Connie Cissell/ SUN editor
SUN photo(s) Connie Cissell
Diocesan Pastoral Council Meets and Receives Updates from Offices A report by the newly-appointed diocesan director of the Office of Youth Ministry, Bob Walters, kicked off business at the November meeting of the Diocesan Pastoral Council (DPC) on Nov. 19. Walters told the group that he had spent much of the past couple of months traveling the diocese to meet with pastors, youth ministers and religious educators. He has been assessing the needs of the youth ministry programs to see that they are all “headed in the same direction and headed to the same destination.”
Walters said that 162 participants from the Syracuse Diocese traveled to Atlanta for the National Catholic Youth Conference a few weeks ago. He began his position in time to travel to the event and get to know youth ministers involved. The trip brought 19,000 teens together.
During his presentation at the DPC meeting, Walters explained the “4Fs” of youth ministry: fun, friends, food and faith. He spoke of winning the youth over, building them up and then sending them off to serve. Walters said relationships with young people are built one-on-one. Successful youth programs, both Catholic and Protestant, feature fun activities that the youngsters can invite their friends to, they offer food and a chance to hear testimony or faith sharing opportunities. When a young person hears someone they like and respect speak about their faith journey it leaves an impression and may make a real difference for that youngster, Walters explained. One of the first assessment tools Walters relied on when he came on as director was a survey taken by the DPC back in April. The survey focused on youth ministry needs within parishes. The top three priorities springing from the data was support from pastors, parents and parishes, coordination of diocesan, regional and parish area events, and also communication from the diocesan level and among youth ministers. Walters thanked the DPC for their input and for the opportunity to serve.
Diocesan Director of Catholic Charities, Dennis Manning, spoke about the enormous generosity of the people of the diocese regarding the tsunami and also Hurricane Katrina. Nearly 1.5 million dollars was collected to provide relief to those in the affected areas. “One diocese in Mississippi lost over 20 churches,” Manning said. He said he hopes to pair the Syracuse Diocese with another diocese that was devastated by the hurricane. Manning said that from his experience communicating with agencies in the Gulf region, he found out there are several dioceses across the country that do not have Catholic Charities in place. He reported that his office, in conjunction with Catholic Relief Services, is working on a project that will supply medical supplies to third world countries. Manning said he will keep the DPC informed of all the programs.
Sister Theresann Gehringer, DSMP, introduced herself to the DPC and spoke about the new ministry she and another sister are bringing to the diocese. Their ministry with developmentally disabled adults is in the early stages. The sisters are based at Most Holy Rosary Parish in Syracuse and are now getting to know families in the diocese. “We’re concentrating on post-confirmation aged people right now,” Sister Theresann said. “So far, those in the 25-30 year old range.”
She spoke of her experience working with persons with disabilities and about how much joy they bring to others. “They trust others for their needs just like we all should trust Jesus for ours,” Sister Theresann said. The sisters hope to prepare individuals for the sacraments as well as to bring them into the parishes where they can participate as full members of the church. Father James Lang, vicar for parishes for the diocese, presented updated data regarding diocesan statistics. In 1974 there were 400 diocesan priests. Currently, he said, there are 273 priests total with 11 parochial vicars serving. In 1974 there were more than 40 parochial vicars serving the diocese. The number of women religious in the diocese has declined from more than 900 in 1974 to just over 350 today. He said that the people of the diocese should review these numbers remembering the make up of Central New York including the job market and birth rates. In 1974 there were almost 8,000 babies baptized; last year there were 4,600. The number of people attending Mass has actually risen according to the most recent October census disproving the common rumor that Mass attendance is down, Father Lang said.
“This is a very challenging time. There are a number of people who think denial is the name of a river in Egypt. Yes, everything is changing radically and in the next 10 years it is going to be mind-boggling. We can choose to mold the future or we can decide we want to be clobbered,” Father Lang challenged. “This is a time of great promise if we don’t engage in self-defeating behavior.” There are tremendous things going on in parishes within the diocese, he said. There is a real need to encourage Catholic ministry within families in order to foster vocations. “We need to do this together. We need to remember in our families that there’s more to life than computer science.”
There were other presentations at the meeting including another review of parish communications by diocesan communications director and assistant chancellor Danielle Cummings. There was an extensive bulletin exchange among members at the previous meeting.
Kit Parker offered a HOPE Appeal update from the Office of Stewardship and Development and reviewed information about giving. Information distributed by Parker indicated that Roman Catholics rank 20th of 20 denominations in giving. The reasons reported for this were: Catholics are asked less often; Catholics are not asked in person; and less emphasis is given to pledging. HOPE Appeal 2005 totals $3,951,550 pledges and $3,482,850 collected as of November. There are 83 parishes that have collected over 100 percent of goal and 23 parishes that have collected under 70 percent of goal. The average pledge is $113, up from $106 last year.