Given the outcry on the part of the stormy petrils and length of the article in the National Catholic Reporter Online (NCR), one would think the world had come to an end.
At least, according to the “narrative.” It seems as if everything today is about a “narrative.”
Consider the angry narrative providing the subtext of the NCR article.
On January 13, 2014, Archbishop Michael Sheehan of the Santa Fe Archdiocese told the pastor of Aquinas Newman Center that the Dominicans’ service would be terminated on June 30, 2014. Worse yet, the ham-handed, conservative Archbishop issued this edict allegedly without any prior consultation. And, rubbing some salt into the ecclesial wound he was unnecessarily inflicting upon all of the Center’s students and parishioners, the Archbishop stated in the press release he issued announcing the change that two “fine young priests” of his Archdiocese would be replacing the Dominicans. (The latter obviously aren’t “young” and perhaps will be touted as victims of age discrimination.) Those two priests include the Archdiocese’s vocation director and University of New Mexico (UNM) alumnus, Fr. Michael DePalma, who will serve as pastor. The parochial vicar will be Fr. Simon Carian, 26. Ordained last year, Carian is a University of Notre Dame alumnus currently studying medical ethics in Rome.
Why the change?
Consider Archbishop Sheehan’s pastoral narrative which added fuel to the angry narrative. In his press release, the Archbishop stated:
Having Archdiocesan priests at the Newman Center will enhance relations with the Archdiocese’s pastors and parishes of whose young adults attend [UNM], as well as promote diocesan vocations.
The angry narrative’s reaction?
To paraphrase: The nerve of His Excellency! This is the post-Vatican II Church, not the patriarchal and triumphal post-Tridentine Church! That man has no right to remove our beloved Dominicans. For gracious sakes, he even dumped the name “Aquinas” that has been in the Center’s title for as long as everyone can remember. Hrrumphhhh….
Some background information concerning the two narratives.
The Dominicans have served UNM’s Aquinas Newman Center in Albuquerque since 1950. The Center currently serves more than 500 UNM students and 750 families. One Mass is offered daily and five Masses are offered on Sundays. The Center also provides campus ministry, parish social groups, Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, and service opportunities.
Now, in light of these competing narratives, what may be the real narrative: Archbishop Sheehan is well aware of the success many Newman Centers across the nation are having in fostering vocations to the priesthood, especially those centers where “young” priests serve. The Dominicans never had much success in this regard during their 60+ years of service at the Center. So, the Archbishop decided to staff the Newman Center with his men and have them run it in the style that has demonstrated success at other universities and colleges.
That has the stormy petrils in an uproar. An allegedly “pre-Vatican II” bishop is seeking to destroy the “Pope Francis Church” the Dominicans have constructed and which parishioners seem to enjoy very much. After all, one subtext to the angry narrative is that parishioners must enjoy going to Mass (or “services” as the NCR article called them). As the Newman Center’s current pastor, Fr. Dan Davis, OP, opined:
The parishioners are very progressive, very intellectual, and they resonated with the way we preached. The Newman Center tends to be a conglomeration of disenfranchised Christians from around the city–which confirms the very things that the bishop is contesting.
In an email circulated to parishioners, a former UNM student and longtime Center parishioner, Chuck Wellborn, provided some additional details:
The Archbishop has made critical statements about our parish to others in the Archdiocese….These comments suggest that he believes our parish is insufficiently doctrinaire. It is certainly true that the Newman Center attracts parishioners with a wide variety of backgrounds and views, in particular university students and faculty. In that sense, our parish is quite dissimilar and perhaps more liberal in its thinking than at the Archdiocese’s non-university parishes.
Is that what has the stormy petrils in an uproar? A Newman Center that was intended primarily to serve students’ religious, spiritual, and moral needs has developed into a parish that operates as a “quasi-exempt” institution in the Archdiocese, meaning “operating parallel to but not necessarily in tandem with the Archbishop and his clergy.” And now, Archbishop Sheehan is quashing that long-term “arrangement.”
Despite the anger espoused by Fr. Davis and parishioner Wellborn, not all are happy with the current arrangement and support the Archbishop’s decision.
For example, on January 13, a UNM student, Colt Balok, posted a picture on his Facebook page of himself having dinner with Archbishop Sheehan. Balok captioned the picture, “I had a great dinner with Archbishop Sheehan tonight. UNM, he has some great news for us Catholics!” Then, in a Letter to the Editor printed on January 29 in the Daily Lobo, UNM’s student newspaper, Balok said:
…[the Newman Center] needs to be a place where the body and blood of Christ is adored and worshipped, not a place where the altar servers wear polo shirts and fail to honor and respect our Lord Jesus Christ….Thank you, Archbishop, for making the Newman Center Catholic again. My friends and I will no longer have to travel to other parishes to attend Mass.
Good for Archbishop Sheehan!
The Motley Monk would observe that His Excellency has every right to provide UNM students a religious, spiritual, and moral home in a way that fits his overall pastoral plan and its objectives. One objective is to increase the number of vocations to the diocesan priesthood so that UNM students will continue to be served by the Archdiocese. And, the Archbishop has every right to staff it with his men who will run it in the way the Archbishop desires.
Given the demographics, archbishops and bishops across the United States no longer can depend on the religious communities of men to provide manpower, especially manpower that is not self-sustaining. Now is the time to envision the future, not to look backwards in hope that the 1960s and 1970s will return.
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