New Wineskins

Thank you for “Exceptional Pastoring,” by Mary M. Foley (3/9). My parish priest is running three parishes spread over two towns, the parish priest next door is running two other parishes in two other towns—and so it goes. Here in England, we have far fewer priests than in the United States (I am often amazed at the number of Sunday Masses and priests in some U.S. parishes), and we are coming to realize that we need much more lay involvement—and the majority of involved lay people are women.

We need more training for pastoral leadership and more acceptance of women “up at the front” if we expect the church not only to survive but to grow and to flourish.


Eileen Sagar

Burnley, U.K.

Role Models

In “Exceptional Pastoring,” Mary M. Foley is correct in saying “We are not the givers of religious vocations, nor can we choose what gifts will be given.” But it is important to remember that a call to a religious vocation is not often a direct “call” (as St. Francis or St. Paul were called), but rather is mediated by the surrounding community and the broader culture. Therefore, it is not only important for a pastor (or anyone in pastoral leadership) to talk about and encourage vocations, but also to recognize how their milieu shapes the understanding of vocation in those being called.

If we want to encourage young men to enter the priesthood, we have to give some thought as to whether the model of lay pastoral leadership might not move young men (and women) in another direction. This is not an objection to lay pastoral leadership; when done well, it is a great gift to the church. But it is a concern that needs to be acknowledged and addressed by those in pastoral leadership roles.

David Cruz-Uribe, S.F.O.

West Hartford, Conn.


Re Mary M. Foley’s reflections on women in parish leadership: We have been talking about alternative forms of parish leadership for over 20 years, but bishops, priests and laity are all still sailing down that river in Egypt.

I once had a conversation with a group of churchwomen gathered to facilitate a parish task. “If this were really important,” one sniffed, “Father would be here.” “Father’s not here,” I responded, “because he trusts that we can get the job done.”

This is a novel idea to most bishops, priests and parishioners, so let’s stop wasting trees on articles about things that are not happening. Maybe in 20 more years, the Catholic community will be desperate enough to consider changing.

Kristeen Bruun

North Richland Hills, Tex.

Fresh Air

In 90 years of life on this good earth, I have rarely written a letter to the editor. However, the recent article by Mary M. Foley caught my attention.

It was beautifully articulated and expressed, far beyond my ability to do so, my feelings about the potential of women in parish leadership. This is an issue that has long been neglected in official Catholic media. It is a welcome breath of fresh air.

John R. Friant

Berryville, Va.

Fellow Traveler

I loved Karen Sue Smith’s “The World by Chair” (3/2). It really resonated with my experience. I have been working on putting together a trip to Australia, returning via South Africa, and have been using a Web site where one can plot out a trip on a map and pick the flights. Great fun. I’ve gone around the world many times now...and never left my desk!

Suzanne Elsesser

Larchmont, N.Y.

Strong-Arm Tactics

I agree with Thomas Massaro, S.J., about the need for “free and fair collective bargaining” in the workplace (“More Perfect Unions,” 3/9). But I fail to see how denying workers access to secret balloting helps achieve that goal. By all means, we should prevent unfair practices by employers, but we must also prevent unfair practices by union organizers.

Allowing strong-arm tactics by union organizers to secure “majority sign-up” after denying workers a right to a secret ballot will not enhance workers’ rights. What’s next, “majority sign-up” in our national elections?

Bill Latta

Napoleon, Ohio

Faith Formation

One issue in Daniel P. Sulmasy’s report on the unraveling of Catholic health care in New York (“Then There Was One,” 3/16) that I would like to underscore is the dire need for substantial formation programs for Catholic health care leaders. I have seen poorly formed leaders selected for their competence, and yes, I have seen that competence result in better bottom lines. But I have also observed the moral and ethical limitations of some such leaders and have been appalled that Catholic health care boards would make such a tradeoff.

Is it any more appropriate to allow a supremely competent but poorly formed leader to head a Catholic health care institution than it would be to allow an unformed leader to head any other Catholic mission? Would we select an unformed leader as the president of Notre Dame, or allow an unformed leader to preside at Mass?

A. Craig Eddy, M.D.

Missoula, Mont.

An Ailing Industry

Re Daniel P. Sulmasy’s “Then There Was One” (3/16): It is indeed sad that the Catholic health care tradition of delivering witness to the value of life must come to an end because of the fiscal realities and market disincentives that have come to bear on what has now become more of a business than a ministry. Perhaps it is time to shake the dust from our feet at these ventures and place our energies and resources where they may be employed to proclaim Gospel values more effectively.

Dan Callahan, S.A.

Toronto, Ont.

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