Grateful Employer

Grateful Employer

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by Bill Droel

There is the world of meritocracy and the world of grace. There is the world of I worked hard, and I deserve what I have. And there is the world of There but for the grace of God and others, I could be.

Once upon a time, a landowner hired some day laborers for his vineyard. Going about his daily business, the landowner thrice saw idle laborers in the plaza parking lot. Each time he hired them for the vineyard job. That evening he paid all the workers equally; the same total wage for those who worked a couple of hours as for those who toiled all day. (See Matthew 20: 1-16)  Continue reading “Grateful Employer”

Parishes, Part III

Parishes, Part III

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by Bill Droel

Outreach and mission must set a parish’s goals, not inherited routines or personality quirks of the leaders. Outreach and mission directly inform an enlivened liturgy, especially the music and preaching. Doors are open wide to new arrivals. One Chicago parish, for example, has a sign above the church entrance: Witamy, Welcome, Bienvenidos.

Some new arrivals are immigrants; others come by way of a process called gentrification. Nowadays, in contrast to the bubble years preceding 2007, gentrification is usually a slow process. An observant parish leader understands that today’s gentrification includes more than young professionals remodeling lofts. It embraces teachers and health care workers (nurses, technicians, researchers, graduate students and more). It includes young information and service workers who find walking to work or to groceries and restaurants attractive. Continue reading “Parishes, Part III”

Domestic Workers

Domestic Workers

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by Bill Droel

 

Domestic workers—nannies and eldercare assistants–are a major part of the growing personal service job sector. There are more than 200,000 domestic workers in New York State alone. What is it like?

Rachel Aviv profiles one domestic worker in The New Yorker (4/11/16). Emma is from Bukidnon Province in the Philippines. Even with some college education and a government job, Emma and husband Edmund could not support their nine children. So she comes to New York City; specifically to Woodside, Queens where more than 13,000 Filipinos live within walking distance to the 61st St. & Roosevelt Ave. number 7 subway stop. Continue reading “Domestic Workers”

Rules in Church

Rules in Church

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by Bill Droel

High school students need clear rules applied fairly. Chaos reigns in classrooms and hallways when rules are too vague or are unevenly applied. Teachers in a well-ordered school automatically dismiss a misbehaving student’s plea: “I didn’t know there was a rule.” Of course, the student really means: “I didn’t know I would get caught.”

Moral formation occurs in high school. It is impossible, however, in a high school classroom to teach the difference between private morality and public morality or the difference between rules and pastoral guidance. Continue reading “Rules in Church”

Words Matter

Words Matter

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by Bill Droel

In 1984 Msgr. Jack Egan (1916-2001), who at that time was director of Human Relations and Ecumenism at the Archdiocese of Chicago, sent a memo about race relations to clergy and lay leaders involved with Chicago’s Northwest Neighborhood Federation and with Southwest Parish and Neighborhood Federation. Egan was reacting to A Declaration of Neighborhood Independence, issued by the two community organizations.

“The language contained in this Declaration is inappropriate, irresponsible and divisive,” Egan wrote. His memo objected to the Declaration’s “name-calling and vituperation” and more particularly to its “race-baiting” and its “tone of violence.”

A newly published book, Vanishing Eden: White Construction of Memory, Meaning and Identity in a Racially Changing City by Michael Maly and Heather Dalmage (Temple University Press), looks back at those days. The authors also report on interviews they conducted among those who were children in those neighborhoods at the time. Continue reading “Words Matter”

Parishes Part II

Parishes, Part II

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by Bill Droel

It is a formula for decline to run a parish, indeed to run any enterprise, for the benefit of insiders rather than outsiders. People move away from a parish for normal reasons: a job relocation, downsizing or upscaling their residence, retirement or illness, and eventually death. Attracting new members always has to outpace the exodus. This no longer can happen by passively waiting for new arrivals to register with a parish. Growth parishes have to be comfortable with a variety of pastoral styles; they have to be proactive with programs that undergo regular evaluation; they have to systematically reach out to new residents and to others who spend time in or around the parish/neighborhood. Growth parishes have to sometimes tailor liturgies for, let’s say, an arriving ethnic group or for young adults. In a growth parish the regular visits to nursing homes and hospitals must be augmented by an effort—no matter how rudimentary—to meet health care workers. The disposition for growth means, for example, that the parish CEO (who may or may not be their pastor) and/or the school’s principal participate in the local chamber of commerce and have regular contact with nearby social service agencies and with administrators in the public schools or the community college and with local government entities. Likewise the leaders of a growth parish (its staff and its members) will schedule dialogue sessions with members from nearby churches (including Catholic parishes) and with those from any nearby synagogue or mosque.

Why don’t parishes adopt the option for growth? Continue reading “Parishes Part II”

New-Style Parishes

New-Style Parishes

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by Bill Droel

The late 1800s and early 1900s were boom years for U.S. Catholicism. Immigrants from Ireland, Germany, Eastern Europe and elsewhere populated urban neighborhoods, building churches and schools. Using Chicago as an example, its Archbishop James Quigley (1854-1915) issued a 1910 decree for the construction of more churches so that no one would need to go more than one mile to worship. “A parish,” he wrote, “should be such a size that the pastor can personally know every man, woman, and child in it.”
In that very year, there was already a square-mile neighborhood in Quigley’s diocese with 11 parishes: four for Irish-Americans, two for German, two for Polish and three for other Eastern Europeans. Over 70% of this Bridgeport neighborhood was Roman Catholic in 1910. Several other Chicago neighborhoods easily surpassed Quigley’s goal of one per square mile.

With some changes in the lineup, Bridgeport maintained 11 parishes into the 1980s. In the 1990s the number was reduced to seven. Today, using the same boundaries, Bridgeport has six Catholic churches. The same downsizing happened in most East Coast and Great Lakes areas. Detroit, for example, lost 30 parishes in 1989. Continue reading “New-Style Parishes”

Realistic Voting

Realistic Voting

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by Bill Droel

The term intrinsic evil is appropriate in a philosophy or theology classroom where students are presumably acquainted with some Aristotelian distinctions. Used in a presidential campaign, the term asks too much of electoral politics. Our U.S. Catholic bishops employ the term intrinsic evil a dozen times in their 2016 election guide, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship. The term’s use there is, in the opinion of “The Working Catholic,” one more example of moralizing; one more ingredient in the disenchantment and frustration of our citizenry.

Politics is a “messy, limited [and] muddled activity,” writes Bernard Crick (1929-2008) in Defense of Politics (University of Chicago Press, 1962). Yet it is the most beautiful way of balancing public interests, lifestyle choices, conflicting rights, interwoven responsibilities and changing times. Politics (with its laws or policies) is always imperfect because politics is an exercise in this-worldly approximate justice. Its results at sunset must be renewed through the exercise of public virtues tomorrow morning. Continue reading “Realistic Voting”

Full of Grace

Full of Grace

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by Bill Droel

The phrase Godless world is popular with some presidential candidates. In recent months it has also occasionally appeared in Catholic publications and catalogs. Catholics are mistaken to use the phrase or others like it.

Catholics believe in the Incarnation and the Redemption. God, through God’s creation and through Christ’s death and resurrection, is already in our holy world. Encounter with God for a Catholic is thus normally mediated through the world. Catholics experience grace (God’s love) through family, neighbors, co-workers and others. Catholics meet God in the sacraments; the little sacraments of daily life and the liturgical sacraments.

Most Catholics most of the time do not claim a so-called direct or individual relationship with God. The relationship is mediated. God’s love and God’s truth come by way of the world; by way of discovery in the classroom or the lab, inside the ups and downs of home life, through art, music or literature, through conversations and action on the job, through stories about one’s grandparents, and through the worldly accomplishments and setbacks of predecessors in the faith. Continue reading “Full of Grace”

Gratitude Deficiency

Gratitude Deficiency

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Bill Droel

The coins on our counter and in our pockets carry the slogan “Out of Many, One.” But that is not a common theme in our society nowadays. Instead, writes Jeremy Engels in The Politics of Resentment (Penn State Press, 2015), the operative slogan is “Out of One, Two.”

Democracy plays out differently in various times and places. It means, however, that the populace can routinely hold the powerful in check. Democracy is an alternative to authoritarianism, oligarchy, dictatorship, totalitarianism or aristocracy. James Madison (1758-1831) and other founders of our country wanted a democracy in which citizens had power, but not in free-wheeling anarchistic style. Madison promoted the wide interplay of factions. Each faction would advance its agenda. Each group had to play on a large political field and thus could not succeed without the backing of other groups that shared some part of the original agenda. In forming a coalition the group had to temper its agenda.

In our society, Engels details, Madison’s factions (e pluribus unum) are reduced to two (e unibus duo). It is us against those whom we resent. The silent majority resents the loudmouthed pleaders. Those with hard-working family values resent immigrants who supposedly take away jobs. Those who in theory exhibit a Christian lifestyle resent Muslims who supposedly want to take over.

Meanwhile, the powerful elites become more powerful because the mechanisms for democratic accountability are neglected. The grievances of the populace are “channeled at the wrong targets,” says Engels. Resentful rhetoric, as heard on some radio shows and at campaign rallies, is counter-productive. The audience might momentarily feel charged-up; ready to counter their cultural opposites. As Engels convincingly shows, however, the resentment “does not hasten justice.” It actually perpetuates suffering because it locks the aggrieved group into victim status. Instead of honing the political skills that lead to change, resentful groups wallow in blaming, name-calling and pointless behavior.

The rhetoric of resentment contains lots of violent metaphors that eventually have an effect on conduct. Engels clearly states that no direct line exists between, for example, a candidate or radio host who plays to resentment and, for example, a crazed shooter in a school building. Violent language does though create a culture of fear, a culture with weak restraints.

One of Engel’s five chapters is largely given to Sarah Palin, who recently endorsed Donald Trump for president. She obviously does not favor acts of violence. But a close reading of her talks reveals violent terms aplenty. She paints herself and her followers as victims. To Palin, “the other” is not a legitimate political opponent, but a hated evil enemy.

In recent years some people (lay people, some parish staff, a few bishops) have brought the nastiness of the culture wars (a metaphor) inside the church. They don’t let faith enlighten public life; they use the resentments of public life to define our faith. They may think our times require a holy crusade (metaphorically). Their posture, however, certainly achieves the opposite of what they desire. In fact, their ideological notion of religion is dangerous. Their backwards approach is similar to that of radical Muslims who use an ideology to interpret God’s revelation.

The opposite of resentment is gratitude; both an individual attitude of gratitude and a public politics of thanksgiving. To be continued…

Droel edits INITIATIVES (PO Box 291102, Chicago, IL 60629), a free print newsletter on faith and work.