I have a vague recollection of a Ray Repp song titled “Be A New Man.” You know when it was. Hymnal for Young Christians and all that.
The parish report, however, notes that because of Cuenin’s resignation, ”large numbers of parishioners have left, collections are down, and the financial strength and stability Father Cuenin worked so hard to develop and maintain have been compromised.”
Let’s get a few things straight.
1. This is the Vatican II era. Lay people, especially progressives, are not dependent on the personality of a priest to maintain a vibrant parish. As long as the new pastor isn’t actively dismantling a parish, there should be room to maintain the good things Cuenin and others started.
2. If indeed Cuenin’s departure is either a reason or an excuse to compromise parish stability, I have three words: get a grip. My mother referred to such strategies as “cutting off your nose to spite your face.” If your vibrant parish is so dependent on a particular priest, you’ve lost your grasp on Vatican II. Go back to 1963 and start reading the documents again.
3. That song? O yes. Well, if you can find the words to it, rewrite it: “Be a New Parish.” You have a decent priest (from what I hear) who isn’t inclined to set fire to the church, consume the contents of the liquor cabinet in a single day, or do otherwise impolitic things. If your parish self-image is so priest-centered, give the new dude a chance. You don’t have to name your third-born son after him. And if priest-centeredness is a big deal for you, what are you doing in that parish to begin with?
I tell my friends still bothered by the demise of New Wine pretty much the same thing. We don’t need diocesan funding to do it. The bishop praised the program and the staff when he put the lid on it and them; that’s an endorsement in my book. If your bishop is behind you, and you can put the good will of those other New Wine graduates to task, you can continue any grass roots ministry formation program you care to. I’m sad that my friends and colleagues that worked at the chancery lost jobs. I vented. I went to the parties. I get over it. But if we don’t replace the effort with our own, the lesson will have been lost. And I will be very disappointed.
The real test of New Wine, in my opinion, will be if the people take up the challenge and keep it going. If not, I’ll know that my sister and brother Kansas Citians are pretty much like Boston Catholics. The chorus of that song goes, “We need Father’s say so.”
And it’s a lesson whose time has come, new men and new women.