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Stewardship experts discuss faith practices of millennials


Catholic News Service

ATLANTA — With two youngsters in tow for Sunday Mass, things can get forgotten, like cash, which Ryan Johnson admitted he rarely carries.

He’d love the option to use his mobile phone to donate to a cause at the parish on the spur of the moment.

Jamie Crane, with the Office of Planned Giving in the Diocese of Colorado Springs, Colo., shares some insights on reaching out to millennial Catholics Sept. 19 at the International Catholic Stewardship Council’s annual conference in Atlanta. (CNS photo/Michael Alexander, Georgia Bulletin)

“We like cashless, paperless, checkless,” said Johnson, a millennial Catholic. The family gives money to the church with an automatic electronic check from his bank.

Faith is so important to him that the 35-year-old Johnson knits it together with his career as an energy engineer by nurturing a network of Catholic young professionals with Catholic Charities Atlanta that he hopes to see grow.

Ryan and his wife, Caroline, 30, joined St. Ann Church in Marietta, selecting from five nearby parishes in part because they can use their phones to read its website, keep up to date with parish news by reading an electronic newsletter, and interact with the 2,500 Facebook followers.

“You want to feel like, if I am talking about the parish, the parish is listening. If I’m commenting sometimes (on the Facebook page), I want an answer. I want to be engaged,” Johnson told The Georgia Bulletin, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Atlanta.

The leading edge of millennial-age believers is marrying and starting families. Parishes preparing for the future will evolve to meet the habits of this group, said a panel of four Atlanta millennials at the International Catholic Stewardship Council conference.

The conference drew some 1,100 to Atlanta Sept. 17-20. Church workers and priests attended scores of workshops during those four days on drawing people into a richer faith life.

Panels sharing insights on connecting with this digital native generation, who recently outnumbered baby boomers in the national population, were well attended at the conference.

Churches need to be aware of trends to serve those born after 1980 in effective ways. These young adults use technology to streamline their lives, using mobile payment apps instead of cash, are passionate about issues and want to engage with an authentic and personalized community.

Millennials are increasingly important as they move into adulthood and start families, said Father Andrew Kemberling, pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Church in Denver. The church must train this age group as good stewards since parents are the most generous of its members, he said.

Stewardship is “a way of life for people,” said Father Kemberling, chairman of the International Catholic Stewardship Council. “We want to offer the best of our tradition. We are not going for the dollars. We are going for evangelizing. The point is to save souls.”

Audience members anxious to draw these young adults into the pews and schools left the conference rethinking old ways.

Carol English, who works at St. Joseph School in Marietta, wants these young men and women to think about Catholic schools for their children. But after hearing that mass-marketing pitches fail, she said the school needs to rethink its outreach toolbox.

“We do have to make our online presence a higher priority, above and beyond,” English said, after learning how this tech-savvy generation lives online and relies on social media.

Schools and parishes could rethink events to appeal to millennial interests, replacing an afternoon of golf with a social event, for example, featuring craft beer and food, she said.

In Marietta, St. Ann Church made an investment in 2012 and again in 2016 to hire professionals to design the parish website, said Graham Kuhn, who is responsible for parish communications.

“You shouldn’t have to lower your standards to look at a Catholic church website,” he said in a phone interview.

A site needs to be attractive, engaging and informative to draw people in, he said.

“Our whole angle on everything is we are focused on building for the future,” said Kuhn.

The parish Facebook page can serve as a community bulletin board. Kuhn’s policy is to respond to all comments. When a parishioner who had a bad experience with a ministry posted it online, she received a call and visit from a pastoral staff person to talk, he said. And other parishioners offered words of encouragement.

Kuhn said he sees that as a strength of social media, when parishioners respond to people’s comments to “heal wounds and build unity.”

In the hotel conference room, a standing-room-only crowd listened to back-to-back sessions on millennials, the generation born between 1980-2000. The first session focused on starting ministries targeting them.

Retaining Catholic millennials is increasingly a challenge. The number of people who identify as having no religious affiliation continues to rise. Fewer people in their 20s and 30s are interested in the Catholic Church. In 2014 the Pew Research Center found only 16 percent of millennials called themselves Catholic versus 23 percent of baby boomers.

For Abby Byron-Goslin, who works in the Diocese of Savannah, these adults in their 20s and 30s have gifts to be tapped to serve the church. She began a ministry called To Be Catholic and serves as the director of campus ministry in Savannah.

Millennials, like others before them, want answers to questions of identity and to belong to a community, she said. “Who they are and whose they are? They are children of God and they are his,” she said.

She believes millennials should be integrated into the parish community, serving in ministries, not an island by themselves.

Byron-Goslin said church leaders could do a better job building bridges starting from the youngest Catholics learning the faith and going up to college graduates. The problem is people leave the faith when there are gaps between ministries and some 80 percent of believers stop attending church in college, she said.

Janice Givens, a young adult pastoral leader who attends St. Brigid Church in Johns Creek, told the crowd there are people in their 20s and 30s in the pews just waiting for a nudge to come together.

“If you throw the net, you are going to get a ton of fish. Nobody is throwing the net,” said Givens, who funded Go FISH Outreach.

John Lanier, executive director of the Ray C. Anderson environmental foundation, said he gives to causes if an organization explains how his family’s support changes lives.

“We are all issue driven. Our issues are diverse,” he said. “It’s got to be something you can connect to.”

Jeff Adams, a corporate real estate lawyer, said he values authenticity, so parishes that treat him impersonally are turnoffs.

If the vision for a parish and leadership is engaging, “you have my money, you have my time, you have my attention,” he said.     

Nelson is a staff reporter at The Georgia Bulletin, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Atlanta.

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Pope names Atlanta auxiliary as coadjutor bishop for Louisiana diocese


WASHINGTON — Pope Francis has named Auxiliary Bishop David P. Talley of Atlanta as coadjutor of the Diocese of Alexandria, Louisiana.

The appointment was announced in Washington Sept. 21 by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

Pope Francis has named Auxiliary Bishop David P. Talley of Atlanta as coadjutor bishop of the Diocese of Alexandria, La. (CNS/Michael Alexander/Georgia Bulletin)

Pope Francis has named Auxiliary Bishop David P. Talley of Atlanta as coadjutor bishop of the Diocese of Alexandria, La. (CNS/Michael Alexander/Georgia Bulletin)

Bishop Talley, a priest of the Atlanta Archdiocese, was named an auxiliary bishop of Atlanta in January 2013 and was ordained a bishop in April of that year.

Bishop Ronald P. Herzog is the bishop of Alexandria; he has headed the diocese since 2005. As coadjutor, Bishop Talley automatically becomes head of the diocese upon the death or retirement of its bishop.

“Pope Francis has given the people of the Diocese of Alexandria in Louisiana a tremendous pastoral gift,” Atlanta Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory said in a statement. “Bishop Talley is a servant minister of our church, who is graced with extraordinary wisdom, patience, kindness, and dedication.

“He developed those gifts as priest and bishop here in the Archdiocese of Atlanta, where he always cared for our people as a true minister of mercy and kindness.”

Bishop Talley has served the archdiocese in a number of capacities including as director of vocations, tribunal judge, judicial vicar and chancellor, and has served on the archdiocese’s Hispanic ministry board and on its advisory board representing priests.

Born in Columbus, Georgia, Sept. 11, 1950, he pursued seminary studies at St. Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in Indiana. He was ordained for the Atlanta Archdiocese in 1989.

His first assignment was as parochial vicar of St. Jude Parish in Sandy Springs, Georgia. He was there until 1993, when he began post-graduate studies at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, where he earned a doctorate in canon law in 1998. In 2001, St. John Paul II named him a monsignor.

He has served other parishes as administrator, pastor and parochial vicar. He last assignment before being named an auxiliary bishop was as pastor of St. Brigid Parish in Johns Creek, Georgia, from 2011 to 2013.

The Diocese of Alexandria comprises 11,108 square miles in central Louisiana. It has a population of 368,065 people of whom, 36,280, or 10 percent, are Catholic.

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Contemplation leads to ‘transformational leadership,’ women religious told


ATLANTA — On a personal level, contemplation is “transformative” and on a communal level it is “transformational leadership,” Franciscan Sister Pat Farrell told attendees at the 2016 assembly of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious in Atlanta.

Franciscan Sister Pat Farrell, right, is seen with other women religious in Atlanta Aug. 10 during the 2016 assembly of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. (CNS photo/Michael Alexander, Georgia Bulletin)

Franciscan Sister Pat Farrell, right, is seen with other women religious in Atlanta Aug. 10 during the 2016 assembly of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. (CNS photo/Michael Alexander, Georgia Bulletin)

The Aug. 9-13 assembly drew nearly 800 participants under the theme of “Embracing the Mystery: Living Transformation.” All the speakers pointed to the need for contemplative engagement with the struggles and sufferings of the world.

In her Aug. 11 keynote, Sister Pat addressed the topic “Leading From the Allure of Holy Mystery: Contemplation and Transformation.”

She spoke of centering religious life leadership in contemplation, describing contemplation as “a response to the movement of Spirit that has been stirring in and among us for some time now, becoming increasingly manifest.”

“Where this contemplative impulse might be leading is less obvious. What will be the long-term effect of reclaiming and deepening the contemplative dimension of religious life, of exploring emerging consciousness?” asked Sister Pat, a former LCWR president.

She said when she was given “the gift of time and space for contemplation,” she “found it transformative.”

“I knew that it was not for myself alone, like some private spiritual fitness program for personal enlightenment,” Sister Pat said. “What emerges in any one of us comes as gift from beyond, as leaven given to transform the whole, and in fact has the power to do that.”

Women religious “can only create their future together,” Sister Pat said, “and there is urgent need to be able to sense what is emerging in the group.”

“Communal discernment of some kind has always been part of the dynamic of religious life but there is a new urgency now to deepen our capacity to hear and follow the guidance of collective wisdom,” she continued. “The learning and processes arising from within congregations and through LCWR are both a gift given to us and a call. The future is drawing us beyond the personal toward communal transformation.”

Congregations are “facing critical situations that call for long-range planning for structural, organizational, financial and logistical issues,” Sister Pat said.

Today’s “task-oriented culture makes it easier for many people to deal first with the more concrete and tangible realities,” she said.

But to enable members “to speak together from a contemplative depth,” there must be a focus on what is less tangible, that is creating processes and designs “that tend the inner collective life of the congregation,” Sister Pat said.

“It can be challenging to create spaciousness around leadership tasks that involve tension and complex decision making in order to allow deeper access to the wisdom that is needed,” she said.

The contemplative dialogue process promoted by LCWR is “critically helpful,” Sister Pat said.

“It takes intention and focus to speak together from a deeper source, out of a place of peace, to harvest the wisdom of the whole,” she said. “We are learning together to create a culture among us of deep listening and dialogue.”

Sister Pat cited an example of how the “the value of contemplative spaciousness” stood out for her at the national leadership level. Before LCWR leaders visited the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith as part of a now-concluded oversight process of the group, she said, “we sat together in a circle of silent prayer for an hour.”

“We entered that critical Vatican meeting in a state of deep peace.” Sister Pat told the assembly. “I was not aware of any fear whatsoever, either in myself or the other LCWR leaders. I have often wondered what our initial response to the mandate (to meet with the congregation) might have been if we hadn’t come together from that contemplative space.”

Another example of “spaciousness,” she described was the six weeks of public silence following that meeting, which gave LCWR leaders time to formulate a response.

In April 2015, the Vatican and LCWR announced the successful conclusion of the oversight process. The Vatican approved new statutes and bylaws for LCWR, ending a seven-year process of investigating the group and engaging in dialogue with its officers to ensure greater harmony with church teaching.

LCWR has approximately 1350 members who are elected leaders of their religious orders, who represent approximately 80 percent of the 49,000 Catholic sisters in the United States.

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Atlanta archbishop to lead U.S. bishops’ new task force on race


Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta has been appointed as chair of a new task force of the U.S. bishops to deal with racial issues brought into public consciousness following a series of summertime shootings that left both citizens and police officers among those dead.

Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta  has been named to lead a U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' task force to deal with racial issues. (CNS file / Michael Alexander, Georgia Bulletin)

Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta has been named to lead a U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ task force to deal with racial issues. (CNS file / Michael Alexander, Georgia Bulletin)

The task force’s charge includes helping bishops to engage directly the challenging problems highlighted by the shootings. Task force members will gather and disseminate supportive resources and “best practices” for their fellow bishops; actively listening to the concerns of members in troubled communities and law enforcement; and build strong relationships to help prevent and resolve conflicts.

“By stepping forward to embrace the suffering, through unified, concrete action animated by the love of Christ, we hope to nurture peace and build bridges of communication and mutual aid in our own communities,” said a July 21 statement from Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

In addition to creating the task force and appointing its members, Archbishop Kurtz also called for a national day of prayer for peace in our communities, to be held Sept. 9, the feast of St. Peter Claver.

Archbishop Gregory is a former USCCB president. Other task force members are Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Social Development; Bishop Shelton J. Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana, chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee for African-American Affairs; Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento, California, chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee on the Catholic Campaign for Human Development; and retired Bishop John H. Ricard of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Florida, who is president of the National Black Catholic Congress.

The day of prayer, according to a July 21 USCCB announcement about the task force’s formation, will “serve as a focal point for the work of the task force.”

The task force’s work will conclude with the USCCB’s fall general meeting in November, at which time it will report on its activities and recommendations for future work.

“I have stressed the need to look toward additional ways of nurturing an open, honest and civil dialogue on issues of race relations, restorative justice, mental health, economic opportunity and addressing the question of pervasive gun violence,” Archbishop Kurtz said. “The day of prayer and special task force will help us advance in that direction.”

The task force will have bishop consultants, including Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, who is USCCB vice president, as well as bishops whose jurisdictions have experienced extreme gun violence, or who otherwise bring special insight or experience on related questions. An equal or smaller number of lay consultants with relevant expertise will be appointed soon thereafter, the USCCB announcement said.

“I am honored to lead this task force which will assist my brother bishops, individually and as a group, to accompany suffering communities on the path toward peace and reconciliation,” said Archbishop Gregory in a July 21 statement. “We are one body in Christ, so we must walk with our brothers and sisters and renew our commitment to promote healing. The suffering is not somewhere else, or someone else’s; it is our own, in our very dioceses.”

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Atlanta archbishop apologizes, responds to critics of new residence


Catholic News Service

ATLANTA — Responding to public and media criticism about his new $2.2 million residence, Atlanta Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory issued a statement of apology in his April 3 column in the archdiocesan newspaper.

“As the shepherd of this local church, a responsibility I hold more dear than any other, certainly more than any configuration of brick and mortar, I am disappointed that, while my advisers and I were able to justify this project fiscally, logistically and practically, I personally failed to project the cost in terms of my own integrity and pastoral credibility with the people of God of north and central Georgia,” he wrote in The Georgia Bulletin.

This photo, taken March 15, shows Atlanta Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory’s new residence, which was built on land left to the archdiocese. Responding to criticism about the $2.2 million residence, Archbishop Gregory apologized in a column in the April 3 issue of The Georgia Bulletin. (CNS photo/Michael Alexander, Georgia Bulletin)

The archbishop acknowledged that he had received “heartfelt, genuine and candidly rebuking letters, emails and telephone messages” during the past weeks about his residence.

“Their passionate indictments of me as a bishop of the Catholic Church and as an example to them and their children are stinging and sincere. And I should have seen them coming,” he wrote.

“To all of you,” he said, “I apologize sincerely and from my heart.”

The archdiocesan communications office has received more than 100 emails and messages, mostly positive, about the archbishop’s column.

The new 6,000-square-foot residence is located on property donated to the archdiocese from the estate of Joseph Mitchell, nephew of Margaret Mitchell, author of “Gone With The Wind.”

In his will, Mitchell requested that primary consideration be given to the Cathedral of Christ the King, where he worshipped. The cathedral received $7.5 million for its capital fund and spent roughly $1.9 million to buy the archbishop’s former residence. Cathedral officials are planning to spend an additional $292,000 to expand the archbishop’s former residence so its priests can live there, freeing up space on the cathedral’s cramped campus.

Cathedral officials have budgeted an additional $1 million to expand the archbishop’s former residence so its six priests can live there, freeing up space on the cathedral’s cramped campus. The cathedral rector, Msgr. Frank McNamee, asked Archbishop Gregory to sell the residence to the cathedral because it is in walking distance and parishioners strongly wanted their priests to be that close.

The sale funds were used to build the new residence. An additional $300,000 went toward making it handicapped accessible and including a larger chapel than the one in the older residence.

Archbishop Gregory moved into the newly built home in January. Some local Catholics reacted unfavorably to the move and articles in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and other media outlets were critical of it.

In his April 3 column, the archbishop said he would meet with archdiocesan consultative bodies in upcoming weeks to hear their assessment of what he should do about the new residence.

If the groups recommend he no longer live in the residence he said the archdiocese will begin the process of selling the property and would “look to purchase or rent something appropriate elsewhere.”

Conventual Franciscan Father John Koziol, chairman of the archdiocesan priests’ council, said he admired the archbishop for “trying to do the right thing” and for “being so up front and transparent.”

Archbishop Gregory noted that bishops have been “called to live more simply, more humbly, and more like Jesus Christ who challenges us to be in the world and not of the world.”

He added that by example, Pope Francis has profoundly communicated the call to simplicity.

He ended the column with the assurance that he values the privilege and honor of being the archbishop of Atlanta. “I promise you that my service to you is the reason I get up each day, not the house in which I live or the ZIP code to which my mail is sent.”


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