More Merced, California, troubles

More Merced, California, troubles

Remember the story of Fr. Jean Michael Lastiri, the priest in the Diocese of Fresno, who was caught by parishioners allegedly soliciting for gay sex on web sites? He was eventually forced out of his pastorship by the bishop, but only after the issue got national attention. Even then, when Lastiri was supposed to be at a counseling center across the country, he was seen in his hometown going about his business. Meanwhile, his parish had been torn apart by pro- and anti-Lastiri factions with all kinds of harassment and accusations flying around.

Well, the sordid mess is far from over. Now it appears that there is a financial aspect to this scandal. According to internal auditing, a whole lot of parish money is not accounted for with Lastiri writing himself very large checks out of various accounts. One of the big shockers was $53,000 in the pastor/priest-in-residence travel fund! That’s a whole lot traveling.

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  • Just to avoid any misunderstanding, the activity level at St. Patrick’s isn’t really related to reconfiguration.  We’re not actually designated to gain territory or take in part of some other parish’s congregation.  Some faithful have probably joined us on an individual basis, but that can’t be a large number.

    Rather, the place was just busy already with nine Sunday Masses before the construction started, and several of them standing-room-only.  With that sort of population, expanding the building was overdue.

  • The problem today is that we equate “successful” with “busy” when it comes to parishes.  A parish can have a paid staff that takes up the whole page in a bulletin, and they’ll generate meetings, workshops, memos, e-mails, and other stuff that makes the place seem busy.  But what if the priest(s) are only hearing 10 confessions a week?  That’s fine if you have a parish of 100 families, but pitiful if it’s a parish of 1500 families.

    In the end, a parish exists to provide the Sacraments to a specific geographical location or to a specific ethnic group.  Everything else is nice, but not required.  In the end, Christ will not ask pastors, “How many support groups did your parish have?”, but rather, “How many souls came to God?”

  • Sad to say Ik and see hundreds of kids in religious education, you start to lose the fatalistic sense that the Church is dying and instead begin to hope of a revival and a thriving. That’s part of what the reconfiguration is about.

    It’s not just about being “vibrant,” whatever that means, but about “thriving.”

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    meegan213@comcast.net

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    2004-12-04 21:31:14
    2004-12-05 01:31:14
    Hadn’t really thought about that *positive* psychological effect, ie, parishes bustling with the displaced of other parishes, but it must be a great thing to see.

  • I used to participate in a forum with several Byzantine Catholics.  They were quite critical of our typical parish size, indicating that a personal relationship with a priest/confessor is essential for a solid spiritual life.  Their parishes, apparently, tend to be quite small, so that the priest knows all of them by name, and they all know each other.

    Finding a spiritual director in the average Catholic parish which in my diocese is down to one priest, is just about an impossibility.  Fr. would if he just had the time.  But he doesn’t.  End of conversation.

    Now we are going to mega-parishes.  Just the opposite direction from that which will provide true spiritual direction.

    I don’t see this as a solid trend at all, and I don’t take encouragement from it, especially in a cultural climate that is bringing such a variety of religions into play, and where New Age is flourishing.  We need spiritual direction more than ever, at just this precise time in Catholic history when for most none is available.

    There is also the likelyhood that so many people and so few priests will remake the Church into a social organization of laity rather than a sacramental religion.  There is no replacing the priest without remaking the faith.  Lay substitutes are not the answer.  We need more priests badly.

  • Carrie,
    Many priests are not qualified to serve as spiritual directors anyway…

    Diocesan priests are trained to run a parish and administer sacraments—that’s what they know.  Many don’t know any mystical theology of any of the major types….and cannot advise on personal prayer or spiritual growth.  Some of them have problems with this themselves and cannot guide another.  They are not taught this in the seminary.

    Most of them can “tell you stuff,” all of them can hear your confession, some of them can talk psychology, but none of that is the same thing as spiritual direction.

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