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Monday, July 07, 2008

Breaking news from NCR: St. Louis Parish Hit Again

Note: I trust that NCR (National Catholic Reporter) will keep us fully informed when Sean Collins begins to "talk truth to power." Please remember to sign the petition for Sr. Louise HERE

Photo by Jim Tobin

Beleaguered St. Louis parish hit again
By Tom Fox, NCR Staff
July 7, 2008

Beleaguered St. Cronan parish in St. Louis, Mo., from which Sister of Charity Louise Lears was banished last month as a pastoral associate for her support of women’s ordination, has been hit again by the resignation of its pastoral associate, Sean Collins.

Collins announced his decision to end his parish work in a letter dated July 2nd to the St. Cronan parish council.

“I believe in the days ahead my calling is to continue our common work of praying for peace and trying to make real in the city of St. Louis the Reign of God,” Collins wrote. “I have come to the conclusion that I will be hampered in that calling, personally, if I remain an employee of a parish in the archdiocese.”

The tumultuous events at St. Cronan, an inner city Saint Louis parish, began June 26 when then St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke issued punishing delicts against Lears for having actively supported women’s ordination efforts in the archdiocese.

The next day Burke was named prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, the highest church court at the Vatican.

Burke edicts forbid Lears from taking part in any archdiocesan church ministries. He also forbid her from participating in sacraments within the archdiocese.

St. Cronan has now lost both its pastoral associates in one week’s time.

Collins told NCR that leaving his official post will allow him to speak freely about Lears’ case and wider conduct of life in the archdiocese.

“I need to be able to talk freely about Archbishop Burke's treatment of our sister Louise and our faith community,” he said.

“We sought dialogue with him (Burke) repeatedly and our repeated invitations were either ignored or rebuffed,” Collins said. “Now that the canonical penalties of Louise have been decreed, I could no longer hold back my criticism in a public forum.”

Ruth Hassler, a designated spokesperson for the parish, said that Collins’ resignation has been met within the parish by “shock and grief.”

“Many of us are reeling from being hit with another significant loss so soon after losing Louise from the pastoral team,” she said. “Those of us who know Sean a little better are not surprised at his resignation, so much as we are taken off guard by the timing of it.”

Hassler said people “respect his choice, especially those of us who currently work for or have recently worked for Catholic institutions within the archdiocese.”

“As a matter of integrity, it appears to be the best choice he could make. But understanding that choice doesn't shelter us from the grief of the loss,” she said.

Hassler described Collins as a “strong, gentle, intelligent, passionate, and deeply prayerful leader.”

Collins has had leadership roles in the parish for the past six years.

Until last week the St. Cronan leadership team included Father Gerry Kleba, the pastor, as well as Lears and Collins, the co-pastoral associates. Parish members say they referred to all three as “co-pastors.”

The 250-household parish has had a reputation for being socially engaged in the local neighborhood. The parish operates a food pantry and through a local chapter of St. Vincent de Paul, helps locals with utility bills, household goods, and house repairs.

The parish also operates a garden on a former vacant lot and this summer is involved in the construction of two Habitat for Humanity houses.

Parishioners told NCR that during winter months the parish organizes outreach to people living on the streets, staffing nightly teams to check on people weathering the cold outdoors.

St. Cronan is located in the center of St. Louis. The parish membership dwindled in the 1960s and early 1970s as its largely white working class population left. Pockets of elderly remained as the parish elementary school closed.

In the late 1970s, a revival of sorts began as small groups of former college students moved into the neighborhood. The arrival of a new pastor in 1981 added to the momentum. It has been a hub of inner city Catholic activity since.

Collins says his plans now are to join with a group of people -- some former Cronan parishioners and others -- to investigate what “being church” might mean in the months ahead. “What form that takes, I'm not sure,” he said. “But I am sure excited to find out.”

Fox can be contacted at



Kirkepiscatoid said...

Hmmm...I wonder what Burke has it in for this particular parish. He really seems dead set on squashing them...

Anonymous said...

They probably do not tow the party line. Instead, they are busily engaged in living the gospel.

Fran said...

Burke is a hardliner and what a way to go out before heading to Rome to claim his booty.

They are making examples here and it is really an outrage. I've been out all day and have yet to post on this.

Elizabeth thanks for our support in doing so.

How will we ever go about the business of Christian unity when this is at the heart?

In any event Kirkepsicatoid - it is not just the parish. These are the dying gasps of men so entrenched in their fetid power and people like Louise Mears threaten that by her very existence, let alone ordination.

And curiously all this intensity with all the business in your church.

I smell rats.

I am reminded of +Gene's sermon that I saw on Susan Russell's blog yesterday... He spoke about how the priest and the Levite could not stop to help the person on the road, even if they wanted to.

They would have lost their ritual purity and would not have been able to go to J'lem to do their temple duty.

When rules trump life like that or even like this, we know there need to be some new rules, or better yet... New Life.

God have mercy on us all.

Pedantic and angry rant over.

Prayers ascending.