Building Sold, Ministry Continues

I heard a whisper that the Rockville Centre diocese announced a final sale on its chancery. An office building not fully used, and besides, people working remotely. Bankruptcy aside, it seems like a good move.

I remember 2012 when an arson attack forced us out of our parish building. Church was seven months, and offices about three weeks. It seems like a lifetime ago, but wifi for my laptop was easily found around town, and I could fit a sacristy in my car’s trunk for worship in various locations on campus and around town. Our parish’s small groups migrated to campus and people’s homes. My counseling space was found in coffeeshops, diners, and kitchen tables.

For the most part, student small groups didn’t return to the center. That made sense. Out of 8,000 declared Catholics in the university’s student register, only one-tenth registered as parishioners. And maybe another 10% associated with us in some way during the year. It makes sense that a missionary church is out and about in the place it calls its own. Ten to twenty percent engagement isn’t exactly a success story; moving to campus couldn’t make it worse.

Yet …

When bosses don’t see workers, there’s always that little imp on a shoulder suggesting the Big Cheese is getting duped. Even Jesus, out of sight, gets questioned about being the real thing. Is the job getting done? Shouldn’t that be enough?

When my colleagues and I were working out of eateries and meeting people on campus and about town, there weren’t any questions about what we were doing. Our pastor was fond of saying that he hired professionals and that his staff always did its job.

Bishops collect bad whisperers sometimes, perhaps more than the average parish priest. I wonder how the trust factor will be strengthened going ahead.

When the diocesan liturgy office went vacant a few decades ago, a priest friend asked if I would throw my hat in the ring for the position. Happy in my parish, I didn’t really consider it. But I thought about how I would function as a diocesan liturgist. Saturdays and Sundays on the road to begin with, to visit every parish as a pew person. Workshops, parish liturgy committee visits, special liturgical celebrations spread out from the cathedral whenever possible. I didn’t see myself in an office more than half the week. And today, what need would there be to locate in a chancery at all?

Maybe the title could be: Building Sold, Ministry Blossoms.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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