Saturday, January 18, 2014

Fr. Chuck's Column, January 19

On behalf of the parish staff and the Austin Paulists I want to wish all of you a very Happy Dr. Martin Luther King Day (observed). May we all take this opportunity to reflect on, and recommit ourselves to, the work of equality and justice. Amen!

Early this month (Mon through Wed, Jan 6-8) I had the opportunity to attend a Paulist Preaching workshop given at our seminary in Washington, DC.  It was for Paulists and given by Paulists. And I enjoyed it very much.

The Paulists are a very small group compared to the much better known religious communities in the Church, such as the Jesuits, Franciscans, Dominicans, Salesians and so on. Paulists are only in the US and Canada (and one church in Rome), and we number only about 130. Our average age has been going up for some time so that I – after 35 years of priesthood – am still in the younger half of the Paulist community. 

And so the Paulist Fathers for the last several years have been struggling with maintaining all of our commitments with an aging, shrinking number of priests, as well as struggling with the rising costs of education of our seminarians and caring for our elderly members. Like many families we face challenges of trying to do more with less. It can get to be a downer dealing with these shortages of personnel and finances all the time. 

But one positive thing Paulists are known for is good preaching. I hope justifiably so. As you may have experienced, no two Paulists preach the same way, so it is hard to say that there is a distinctive Paulist style of preaching. However, there is (I would argue) something distinctive in the approach. I believe Paulists try to reach people where they are at, speak to their actual lives, and mostly don’t go on too terribly long. 

In any case, for me this preaching workshop was a refreshing and uplifting change: to be dealing with one of our strengths instead of one of the seemingly intractable problems we face as a community of priests. All the presenters in the workshop were Paulists, and all did an excellent job. Fr. Tom Kane, who teaches preaching to seminarians in Boston, gave us an overview and context for liturgical preaching (preaching at Mass). Frs. Jack Collins (who was stationed here in the past) and Jim DiLuzio (who visited here 2 years ago) presented on mission preaching. Frs. Frank DeSiano and Bruce Nieli (who now lives in Austin) gave a rousing presentation on preaching that evangelizes, and Frs. Steven Bell and Ivan Tou (both formally on the parish staff here) gave a presentation on preaching to college students and young adults. It was all very well done. 

Therefore it was an affirming and uplifting experience.

On behalf of all the Paulists here on the staff, I want to thank you for helping us in our mission to preach the Word of God. St. Austin is a great congregation to preach to because people really pay attention when we preach. No one is reading the bulletin, catching up on their sleep, or chatting with their neighbor when we preach, and we very much appreciate that. We also appreciate your comments, suggestions and even your constructive criticisms. It helps us to know if our efforts are hitting home or not. Thanks!

God bless!

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