Saturday, January 07, 2006

A welcoming parish?

Just recently the pastor of Ste. Marie's Parish in Manchester, New Hampshire - Rev. Marc Montminy -booked four talks at a local bar in what was billed as an effort to reach out to young people in their 20's and 30's who do not practice their Roman Catholic Faith.

According to an article in The Boston Globe: http://www.boston.com/news/odd/articles/2005/10/26/a_pint_with_your_priest_church_books_bar/,
Rev. Montminy said that many of today's younger generation are "looking for something" and "they can't find it, because I know they're looking in all the wrong places."

And so, armed with a philosophy adapted from a 1970's country song, Fr. Montminy presented his four talks: "Naked & Without Shame," "Clothed With Love," "It Ain't Easy Being Catholic Today" (apparently it isn't easy to use correct grammar either, or perhaps Fr. Montminy is simply dumbing down his presentations for the sake of those who are entertaining their bachannalian propensities) and "Put Out Into The Deep."

According to Chris Paul, who serves as an "evangelist" at Ste. Marie's, "The idea is just to find a different atmosphere that will reach different people."

Evidently. Meanwhile, I am a 39 year old Roman Catholic whose faith has never lapsed. I have always lived a sacramental life and have always been completely loyal to the Magisterium of the Church. But it took me five phone calls and two personal visits to the parish office at Ste. Marie's just to obtain the parish registration form.

When I finally did obtain this form, I indicated that I would be interested in volunteering in some capacity at the parish. I never heard from anyone. I was never welcomed in any way whatsoever.

Perhaps the problem is that I am loyal to the Magisterium? Maybe it's simply that I don't drink?

Is Ste. Marie's a welcoming parish? It is if you are a lapsed Catholic who cannot attend Holy Mass but who has all the time in the world to toss back a few at the local watering hole. But if you're a cradle Catholic who is loyal to the Magisterium and who actively opposes dissent from the same, well....that's another matter!

While it is commendable and an act of charity to reach out to those who have left the Church or who have never considered the Church at all (that's the purpose of evangelization after all), in so doing is it really necessary to disregard - or at times even have hostility toward - faithful Catholics?

Paul

11 comments:

Lisa said...

I agree Paul. I've spoken to others who have told me the Diocese of Manchester maintains a list of Catholics who are obedient to Rome and who promote and defend the Church's teaching.

This list is used to persecute those Catholics. It is used to bar them from involvement in parish activities and so that "pastors" will know who to ignore and ostracize.

Robert said...

The Church in New Hampshire supposedly "welcomes the stranger" - see their website: http://www.catholicchurchnh.org

But many orthodox Catholics, and especially those of us who appreciate the Latin Mass - and I'm not talking Feeneyite's here or members of the SSPX, - but Catholics who accept the validity of the new rite while still preferring the Latin, are simply unwelcome in New Hampshire.

Pope John Paul II said, in his Apostolic Constitution Ecclesia Dei, that Bishops should grant "a wide and generous application" to the Latin Mass.

Bishop McCormack hasn't done so. Why? The answer is obvious. If you are a dissident who rejects certain aspects of the Church's teaching and demands "structural change" (VOTF), Bishop McCormack and the Diocese will tolerate you. If you have a love of the Latin Mass or simply take a stand against dissent within the Diocese, you are "persona non grata" and will be treated as a leper.

Eric said...

Many priests feel threatened by lay people who are knowledgeable in their faith. Others who have succcumbed to a liberal philosophy or to modernism, despise the laity who actually speak out against sin.

Many priests refuse to preach on sin and its consequences because they no longer believe in these realities.

Keep up the excellent posts.

Fr. Marc said...

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

I aknowlegde the alienation that you feel in regards to the Church in Manchester and throughout the world. However, I must also take execption to Paul's experience with our parish. If he ever came to our office he did not leave any message that he wished to converse with any of the priests here. We may have not been availble at the moment, due to funerals or communion calls or the needs of our people. Instead of leaving a message that he has called on us "five times" he instead uses this medium to complain.

The parish and its priests are well informed and very loyal to the Roman Catholic Church and her teachings. We find it amazing and somewhat astoninshing that someone would go out of their way to complain about the parish without ever sitting down and takling, with charity, about their needs and complaints.

We believe that the moment Paul does, in fact, talk with one of us he will be welcomed and charished as one of God's children.

We pray that the gace of Jesus Christ will prevail in this situation of misunderstanding and that the truth of the Gospel will bring reconciliation to all.

Your brother in Christ,
-Fr. Marc Montminy,\
Pastor
St. Marie Parish

Paul Anthony Melanson said...

Fr. Marc Montminy has written a comment at this website asserting that he must "take exception" to my experience with Ste. Marie's Parish. He writes, "If he ever came to our office he did not leave any message that he wished to converse with any of the priests here."

The phrase "if he ever came to our office," is obviously crafted to instill doubt as to whether or not I told the truth in my article and the implication is that I may be engaging in falsehood.

Such a tactic is unworthy of a priest. And it is my hope that in the future, Fr. Montminy will address the substance of what I wrote and will refrain from such an approach.

As a matter of fact, I did contact the parish on numerous occasions, leaving a message each time. However, I never received a response.

It took me roughly 2 1/2 months just to obtain a parish registration form. During my last phone call, I suggested that perhaps I needed to contact His Excellency The Most Rev. John McCormack to find out why I was having so much difficulty registering at the parish.

In addition, although I was told by a staff member of the parish office that I would be invited to a meeting with the pastor and that such meetings are expected of all new parishioners, I never received any such invitation.

Fr. Montminy continues, "We may have not been available at the moment, due to funerals or communion calls or the needs of our people. Instead of leaving a message that he has called on us "five times" he instead uses this medium to complain."

Let's get some more facts straight. First of all, I did in fact leave messages for Fr. Montminy and his Associate. And again, these went unanswered. Secondly, since I am not the center of the universe (and have no desire to be), I understand that priests are very busy people with often demanding schedules. However, 2 1/2 months just to obtain a parish registration form is, well, simply unbelievable.

Furthermore, although I registered - finally - in January of 2005, to date no one has ever welcomed me to the parish. That my friends is almost exactly one year ago. With all due respect for Fr. Montminy, I find it extremely difficult to believe that he's had so many funerals or communion calls that he's been unable to welcome me during this past year (a period of 12 months) or to follow up on my parish registration form (in which I indicated a willingness to volunteer at the parish on some level). Such excuses ring hollow.

Lastly, I did not write my article at this website to "complain." I realize it would probably bring Fr. Montminy some degree of comfort to convince others that I am simply engaging in pettiness so that he might all the more easily dismiss my observations and soothe his conscience.

However, I bear no animosity toward Fr. Montminy or any of the good people at Ste. Marie's Parish. I do, to borrow Fr. Montminy's phrase, take exception at being discriminated against simply because I defend and promote - publicly - the Magisterial teaching of the Church.

Fr. Montminy concluded his comment by writing that, "We pray that the grace of Jesus Christ will prevail in this situation of misunderstanding and that the truth of the Gospel will bring reconciliation to all."

The grace of Jesus Christ will always prevail in each and every situation. However, there is no "misunderstanding" here. If anything, I understand all too well that in more than a year's time no one has ever welcomed me to the parish.

Is reconciliation needed? I bear no grudge whatsoever. I do, however, expect the pastor of a parish to put into practice what he preaches.

Perhaps I expect too much.

Phillip said...

I have a question. If Fr. Montminy was so busy over the course of a whole year that he had absolutely no time to welcome Mr. Melanson to the parish, how is it that he now has the time to write a comment at this website to defend his lack of charity and how is it that he DOES have the time to go to bars and have drinks with people outside the Church?

Gerard said...

What is particularly insidious is that the discrimination Paul Melanson is describing is usually very subtle.

One almost never hears a priest from the Manchester diocese say, "You're too orthodox, you're not welcome here." Instead, that person is ignored as if he or she were a ghost.

In the time that it took Fr. Montminy to finish his Chivas Regal at that Manchester bar, he could have called Paul Melanson and welcomed him to St. Marie's.

We all have our priorities I guess.

steve hotho said...

I understand that many priests are overly sensitive to criticism that they are antagonistic towards Catholics who adhere to a more traditional approach to the faith. Many of them are antagonistic and they should get over it for the sake of unity in the Church.
I would caution Paul not to expect too much from the Church today. Really and truly, how important is it that someone welcomes him to the parish or that the priest ignores him. It would be nice if things worked that way, but Paul has his faith and nothing is going to shake that. If we try to conform our lives to the will of God, then leave Church politics alone, support what we can and ignore the rest. Keep your eye on the main chance, Paul, and don't sweat the small stuff. Steve

Paul Anthony Melanson said...

Steve, thanks for the kind thoughts. I couldn't agree with you more. As I already mentioned, my post wasn't intended as "retaliation" in any way. I know that Fr. Marc will never welcome me because I don't fit in with his particular concept of what it means to be Church.

I never use this website as an instrument for airing my own grievances. What I had hoped to accomplish is to encourage Fr. Montminy and the good people of Ste. Marie's Parish to ask themslves whether they treated me (and more importantly many more Catholics as well) in a welcoming manner.

You are right in saying that many priests today have succumbed to pride and are inable to admit their own faults and that they too have things to work on.

Imagine if I went to confession (something I do every 2-3 weeks) and the priest attempted to give me some constructive advice on how to improve my spiritual life (as he often does) and I were to say to him, "Fr. Rather than using this medium to "complain" about what's wrong with me, couldn't you just give me my penance?"

All of us are imperfect and are in need of constant conversion. We can all learn from others. This may come as a shock to Fr. Montminy, but even an insignificant layman like myself, a sinner like myself, just might be able to offer him some constructive criticism from time to time.

Michelle Allain said...

Dear Paul,

Your friend Roger pointed me to your blog. After some careful consideration and thinking of how I could best be of service to you, I have decided to send this comment.

As a staff member, I am sorry that you feel that you were not welcomed properly here at Ste. Marie. While I can assure you that it certainly was not intentional, that may not diminish the disappointment you feel.

Unfortunately, not all of our offices are connected due to the size of our campus. Thus, what one office knows about regarding messages and the sort -- another may not be aware of.

After reading your posting, I am unsure if you have found another parish to attend or not. I will say that our office is always looking for well meaning Catholics to come and give of their time in a variety of areas. Please feel free to contact me at my office number (624-1509)if this is something of interest to you.

Again, I am sorry you had a difficult experience.

Peace be with you,
Michelle Allain
Asst. Coordinator
Office of Christian Formation
Ste. Marie Parish

Paul Anthony Melanson said...

I want to thank you for those kind words Ms. Allain. I am not disappointed in the sense of being "hurt" (although I was very embarassed when Fr. Montminy refused to welcome my mother and I at the Senior Dinner in late 2004). I am disappointed whenever I see that a Catholic community is not welcoming. This for the same reasons the U.S. Bishops laid out in their document entitled "Communities of Salt and Light."

Nevertheless, thank you for the kind words. I have found another parish. At the same time I am discerning a priestly vocation.

Would you happen to be the same Michelle who accused me of lacking the Cardinal Virtue of Fortitude? If so, be assured that I hold no animosity toward you. I only hope your estimation of me has improved.

When I write a post at this Blog, my goal isn't to "retaliate" or to "lash out." Rather, by exposing doctrinal errors - when I find them - or attitudes which fail to hold up when placed within the Lumen Christ - I hope to accomplish my responsibility as a committed member of Christ's Mystical Body which is the Church.

Again, thank you. And may the Sacred Heart of Jesus bless you and yours.

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