Newspaper Archive of
Arkansas Catholic
Litlte Rock, Arkansas
September 12, 1998     Arkansas Catholic
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September 12, 1998

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Whintt do attending pool parties, ask- g questions and sitting on fence posts have in common? Oh, do read on. What began one evening several weeks ago as your typical "couple of morns talk- ing together while their kids were at a pool party" conversation -- complete with re- caps of vacation destinations and the latest buzz on the best back-to~chool sales -- ended up being a conversation I'd describe as anything but typical. I say this bemuse not too far into the discussion one of the morns, whose real name is not Sue but let's call her that for the sake of clarity, shared with us the fact that she and her family found themselves being drawn to attend one of the non-denominational churches in town. Now normally this is the kind of news most would find uplifting, Given the state of affairs we so often face in this world, it's heartening to hear someone say they're being drawn to a church of any kind, But this particular news didn't resound quite so joyfully, for you see the Catholic parish my family and I am drawn to is the same one that this gal and her family are feeling drawn away from. At the outset when she spoke of her feelings of a lack of "connected-ness" to our parish --- a feeling, she added, she took part re- sponsibility for it was all I could do to keep from leaping over the top of the table, going eyelash to eyelash with her, and exclaiming, "What do you mean you don't ~ ~ff.l.AJ~.O(5 feel connected toTherese Rohr our parish? Don't you know about all the wonderful things happening there? Aren't you aware of all the tremendously caring, spirit-filled, down- right fun people who make up our com- munity? Haven't you ever picked up a bul- letin to see how many opportunities there are listed every week inviting you to get involved? Pleading with you to get involved? Can't you see the tremendously great hearts our priests, deacons and staff have for all of us? How could you possibly not feel connected?" Fortunately for all of us sitting there, that didn't happen. Instead God, in His infinite wisdom, had other plans. He tern- - d porarily rendered me all but mute. At the will be up to Sue and the Holy Spirit to same time, He also saw to it that evening determine that for herself. to place another person in midst of that So here I sit several weeks later sOl discussion. A most wonderful person, who wrangling with questions that have for the sake of clarity, we'll call Cindy out of this anything but typical because that really is her name. chat. Would another church better Now even though Cindy and I happen this family's needs? Will Cindy to share many of the same feelings of love challenge to Sue to consider where and deep regard for our parish commu- she might "plug in" to the parish prove l nity, instead of practically frothing at the be the re-opening of a door? And mouth as my initial instinct was to do, she that open door eventually grow to did the most incredible thing. She listened, enough to lead this entire family back~ She encouraged Sue to talk about some of I wish I could simply say "tune in the things she was finding at the other row for the answers," but you and church that she wasn't finding at ours. know that's not likely to be the case. The conversation that ensued from that of the most important point could easily fill the rest of this page. from all of this, though, is Ultimately, however, when it comes to the most compelling questions aren't where she is on her faith journey, it was ones we direct toward others. Often and is my very real sense that Sue is both the most compelling questions seeking something out while at the same we need to direct toward ourselves. time sitting on a fence post. By her own "What is it, Therese Rohr, that you admission, she's neither fully let go of that doing to help bring about this which she's grown up with her entire life community you so strongly feel nor totally embraced the new. The very your parish? This feeling of fact that she continues to alternate between ness? And not just to this one family, both churches told us that. And while I to the many others out there, who, strongly believe the Catholic Church ~ like them, ate teetering on the with all of our bumps and bruises --- holds fence post?" the very thing she is seeking, ultimately it Therese Rohr writes from Bentonville. to attract ted cans to Aan African-American Baptist liturgy I ttended has me wondering whether Catholic liturgies might be more attractive to blacks if we learned the lesson of full participation exemplified in Baptist litur- gies. The service I attended was for the sister of a close friend who was murdered, leav- ing behind her five beautiful children. The sorrow reflected on her children's faces and in the family was heart-breaking to experience. Ministers and friends turned out in droves, lending comfort to the family. How they conducted their liturgy was even more comforting. A deacon greeted the people with, "Praise be the Lord." The congregation repeated it, but not to his liking. So he shouted out, ~Now let's say this louder so the Lord will hear us," and louder they became. After this, women and children sang, and then each of the clergy mem- bers preached briefly. I was the only non-African Ameri- can to speak, and I must admit that I felt out of place. My style was so much more quiet. In fact, everyone present seemed more zest- ful than I did. Those who sang or eulogized threw their whole being TIlE ~'~UJVL4N ~ID~ into it. Before Ft. Eugene Hemrtck long, people were responding full heartedly with "alleluia" and "Praise the Lord." The sorrowful faces of the family lit up, and you could see they were being up- lifted. The messages of the clergy were clear and loud: ~'he Lord has taken this woman, and the Lord won't fail her. She is now in the home she loved best." As this message was delivered in a variety of ways by the clergy, people began to stand up, acclaim the Lord and dance. The ministers did likewise. Everyone threw themselves into the lit- urgy. By their gestures, they seemed to be telling the Lord that this woman deserved heaven, and that the Lord would keep his promise of welcoming her home. The minister who was the main eulo- gist spoke with enormous gusto -- so much so I thought he might have a heart attack. As I watched, I wondered what the Catholic Church needs to do to attract African Americans. It is a known fact that we have lost the majority of them to Bap- fists and other denominations. Then it dawned on me that with the exception of the Eucharist, our liturgies have similarities, and if we Catholics cel- ebrated our liturgy to the fullest, we would attract more African Americans. The well-known liturgist Father Guardini once wrote: "When we make sign of the cross let it be a real sign ot cross. Instead of a small cramped that gives no notion of its meaning, make a large unhurried sign, from head to breast, from shoulder to consciously feeling how it includes whole of us, our thoughts, our our body and soul, how it sanctifies us." The same wholeheartedness here can be applied to our singing we respond with acclamations "Praise be to you Lord Jesus Christ" "Alleluia." at When the priest says, "Lift up y0~ should do this in the full~ i[ ~1~ hearts," we sense of the word and try to dispel ~q::!*~i sadness we harbor. If we put more heart into our my bet is that many would respond powerful attractiveness, including Catholics who have drifted away. Nurse-sisters in Civil War: None more Christlike than these Having lived in Washington, D.C., off and on for 10 years, I have become the official tour guide whenever friends and I happen to find each other there for business or vacation. But my reputation as an "authority" was diminished last month when a colleague asked me the where- abouts of the Memorial to Nuns of the Battlefields. A few calls to the Tourist In- formation yielded suggestions ranging from "I don't think we have anything reli- gious in the Capital" to '%'hy don't you try calling the Snfithsonian." Nothing. And if it hadn't been for the interven- don of my friend, Sister Judy Morris of the Dominicans of St. Catherine, Ky., I'd still be clueless. Judy has been keeping me abreast of activities commemorating the 175th anniversary year of the Dominican Sisters' presence in Kentucky. She had recently sent me a copy of Sister Paschala Noonan's history of the sisters, titled ~-Jignadou," which means "sign from God." And there it was on page 90: "It took many years before the services of the sis- ters during the Civil War came to national attention. A monument was erected to their memory in Wash- ington, D.C., in 1918." It stands across the street from St. Matthew Cathe- dral, a 9-foot gray marble monu- ~ ~ ment dedicated to Ft. Thomas 1. all the nuns who served as nurses McSweerley during the Civil War. A bronze relief sculp- ture depicts 12 nuns in full figures, dressed in the habits of the various or- ders, posed in positions describing works of mercy. During the Civil War, although casual- ties were high, more troops succumbed to measles, typhoid, malaria, infection dysen- tery, camp fever and small pox than to shrapnel. There was a tremendous short- bathed itI How often has he been age of personnel to offer medical assis- and assisted along the road to tance. Most of those who did volunteer cence the home memories with had no formal training, these unpaid nurses filled his Religious communities responded, set/d- Dan Pauios' stunningly ing hundreds of religious sisters to nurse essay, "Behold the Women," the sick and wounded. Regardless of where '%Vhen the war ended and their sympathies lay, the sisters nursed both congregations returned to their the Blue and the Gray, Protestant or Catho- dudes, they did so with no fanfare. lic, without discrimination. This unbiased trumpet calls. They did not do a and efficient service won for them the talking about their war experienceS. respect of the troops as well as that of the truly felt that they had done their commanding officers, government officials, part, their duty, and sadly, they and the President himself, little recording of their part in Abraham Lincoln wrote: "Of all the history." forms of charity and benevolence seen in And this was and continues to be the crowded wards of the hospitals, those story of nuns today of some Catholic sisters were among the ence enacted through lives of quie! most efficient. Gentle and womanly, yet votion and cheerful support. In with the courage of soldiers, they went from of countless individuals these cot to cot (as) veritable angels of mercy, women were --- and are -- How many times have I seen them exor- courage, spirit and compassion cise pain by their presence or their words! been reminders throughout the How often has the hot forehead of the of Christianity that we are all soldier grown cool as one of these sisters be "Christ-bearers."