From the Pastor: A Meeting With Bishop Parkes
Last Monday I received a phone call from Bishop Parkes’ secretary. She told me that Bishop Parkes wanted to see me as soon as possible. Could I come to his office tomorrow at 2:30? The timing was actually quite good. Because Tuesday was my “day off” (after morning Masses, confessions, and Adoration) I didn’t have any appointments scheduled except for a visit to my dad, who lives only about thirty minutes away from the Chancery offices. So, at the appointed time I showed up for our meeting. I was greeted quite warmly by both Bishop Parkes and his always-amiable Vicar General, Msgr. Bob Morris, and sat down for business. I fully expected that I would be told the fate of Epiphany and the other two parishes where the Traditional Latin Mass is celebrated. Why else would the Bishop request a rushed meeting? Two Roman documents had forced Bishop Parkes to ask permission for such Masses to continue and, up until now, I had heard nothing of a response. Do we all get to continue offering the TLM? Have only one or two of us been given permission? Have any of us been given permission to continue celebrating the Mass but not in the parish church, meaning that we have to rent a tent or barn or find some other place to continue? I was sure I was about to find out. No matter what the outcome, at least we would no longer be held in suspense, for we have been like Isaac, filled with trust that God’s will be done, patiently waiting for either his father Abraham’s knife to plunge deeply into his heart or for the angel to call off the sacrifice at the last second.
Alas, that was not to be the case. The Bishop simply wanted to give me three messages. The first, and the one directly related to the paragraph above, is that he has not yet received an answer to his request that all three parishes continue as usual. He assured me that he fully supports us and that in his letter to Rome, which he sent a couple of months ago, he had laid out good arguments for keeping the TLM going in all three Diocesan locations. He has told me several times now that he supports us (specifically, Epiphany) and that he wants us to prosper. I have passed that message on to you before and I hope you know the sincerity of his words.
The second message was that he is not sure if we—Epiphany—support him in return. The main thing he has to base such support on is the CMA, the Catholic Ministry Appeal. As he reminded me, the CMA has replaced the old APA (Annual Pastoral Appeal), which previously assessed each parish approximately 20 percent of all donations and used the money for running Diocesan programs and paying Diocesan bills such as staff salaries, insurance, electricity, and whatnot. The APA assessment was obligatory and, if not paid through parishioner donations directly, would be collected forcibly by the Diocese taking it directly from our savings account. The CMA, on the other hand, is used for the same purposes but is completely voluntary in nature. I wrote about it last year about this same time as we were in about the same situation. If the Bishop thinks that the pastor is not doing his best to encourage support for the Diocese, the CMA goal will revert back to “compulsory” instead of “voluntary.” If he believes that the best effort is being made, even if the goal is not met, he will accept whatever is willingly given and call it a done deal. Our current CMA goal is approximately $123,000 of which only 12% has been paid by only 6% of our parishioners. He sees this as a lack of support from you, the parishioners, which, in turn, shows a lack of support from me, the pastor. He asked if it would help if he sent one of his staff to explain how the program works (for instance, you can choose where you wish your donation to be used if you wish) and why it is important (the Bishop doesn’t have the ability to “pass the hat” as we do every week). I answered truthfully that while I would welcome that, the man he sends must be willing to answer the question, “Are we being shut down?” He was a bit put off by that answer because it is not him that would shut us down should such a terrible thing happen, but rather the Pope. Bishop Parkes supports allowing Traditional Latin Masses to continue. Pope Francis has been clear that he wants us “backward” TLM people eliminated from parish life. I hope nobody objects to me stating that truth so bluntly and clearly. So here is another reminder that the Diocese needs funds and the people have an opportunity, through the CMA, to supply for her needs in a manner that is much better than the previous method.
The third thing Bishop Parkes wanted to tell me is that I am not present at many Diocesan functions. I certainly cannot argue with that statement. I attend all Diocesan meetings that are mandatory or seem informative, but that number is not large. I had no priest to take over for me during the annual Priest Convocation last fall and I stubbornly refuse to cancel Masses at the parish just so that I can enjoy the company of my fellow priests for the week. I skipped the Chrism Mass during Holy Week, and I have even been unable to attend several large fundraising dinner/speaker events that I normally attend. But I certainly can try harder.
At the end of the day, though, the sad reality is that we are still in Limbo.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka