The new Catholic Mass translation: A bit like Y2K?

Catholics who attended Mass yesterday were introduced to a new translation of the liturgy that was in the works for many years.

My colleague Robert Marchant wrote about the much-anticipated changes:


“Some of the changes will alter the most familiar call-and-responses of the service. The greeting “The Lord be with you / And also with you” will be changed to: “And with your spirit.”

New words with a distinctly Latin flavor, such as “oblation” and “consubstantial,” will harken back to the old Latin Mass that was phased out in favor of services in the local vernacular language. Some new body language — striking one’s chest when asking for forgiveness — will also be added. Changes in the melody and the phrasing of the parts of the Mass that are sung — the Holy, Holy, Holy, etc — are also in store.”


Monsignor Edward Weber, pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Church in West Nyack and Rockland’s Catholic vicar, described the change for priests: “I’ve been doing this for 35 years. As a priest, I’ve really had to study. You can’t go out there cold, or you’ll get lost. This Sunday will be the big test.”

At, the prominent Catholic writer Peter Steinfels started off his post — “The Aftermass” — with “Now that wasn’t so bad, was it? Or was it?”

He also wrote:


“There was a good deal more stumbling over “and with your spirit” — about a 50-50 split, I’d say. After the post-communion prayer, we welcome any newcomers in the congregation, and when the pastor resumed “The Lord be with you,” the response was particularly ragged. So he laughingly tried it again and again, and we rose to a rousing, “And with your spirit!”

Frankly I wish he would do that more often. A majority of the congregation mouths most responses, if at all, with scarcely enough vigor to be heard by the person in back or front of them. This raises doubts in my mind whether forty years after Vatican II the basic idea of active participation in a communal worship has been successfully communicated. I was hoping that the introduction of the new translation might be an occasion to undertake the catechesis which had not been done in the 1970s.”


There are many interesting comments below Steinfels’ post.

One reader wrote: “My own pastor (after four masses with a total of 1500+ people) says he didn’t get one single comment, positive or negative, about any of the changes. Not at all sure what that means, and neither was he.”

Several people agreed with this observation from a reader: “To me the most jarring and wrong-headed change was the repeated use of “chalice” rather than cup – “the chalice of salvation”? This fussiness about Jesus using a chalice is particularly silly since in the assembly’s proclamation of the mystery of faith right after the consecration, it’s still a “cup.” ”

The well-known theologian Joseph Komonchak offered this: “In our tiny parish, no big deal. One woman remarked: “What is all the fuss about?” It was a little bit like Y2K–nothing disastrous happened.”


The next Episcopal bishop of New York is, among other things, a cartoonist

I’ve been too busy with massive education projects and way-complicated education stories of late to think about my old God-beat.

So time to do a little catch-up:

The Episcopal Diocese of New York on Saturday elected a bishop-coadjutor elect. This means that the fellow in question, the Rev. Canon Andrew Dietsche, is in line to become the next bishop when current Bishop Mark Sisk retires in 2014 (he needs the consent of other bishops and standing committees from other dioceses).

Dietsche, who lives in Poughkeepsie, is already on the staff of the NY Diocese, serving as canon for pastoral care. Interestingly, he was not one of five candidates put forth in August by a special committee of the diocese. But he was one of two candidates nominated from the floor and was elected on the third round of balloting.

His resume includes these responsibilities in his current position:


• Coordinated medical, mental health, spiritual and financial resources for clergy well-being.
• Liaison to the Clergy Critical Needs Committee, the Executive Committee of the Mid-Hudson Region,
and the former Clergy Wholeness Committee;  Member of the Liturgy Committee.
• Member of the Board of Directors of the Corporation for the Relief of Clergy Widows and Orphans.
• Cartoonist for the Episcopal New Yorker.
• Keynoter for diocesan and regional conferences in New York and New Jersey, particularly priests’ and
deacons’ conferences.
• Workshops and Presentations, regionally and parochially, on Pastoral Care in Parishes, Spiritual and
Pastoral Issues of Death and Dying, and Clergy Stress and Self-Care.
• Vestry Retreats, Vestry Training, and Vestry Consultation.
• Stewardship education and preaching, and conflict resolution.


Dietsche, 57, will become bishop at a challenging time for the diocese and for the Episcopal Church. Membership has been falling for decades. Many churches in the Lower Hudson Valley have small, aging congregations. The denomination has, of course, faced all sorts of internal conflicts over homosexuality. And the profile of the Episcopal Bishop of New York is much lower than it was a few decades ago (despite Sisk being a really smart, level-headed and respected guy).

After his election, Dietsche said this:

“I believe that it is especially a privilege to be the church in uncertain times.  It is the greatest gift to face challenges which surpass our ability and understanding, for it is only then that we learn what it really means to trust God.  We are in a season in which so much of our common life, the life and health of so many churches, and the resources on which our ministries and our mission have depended, can no longer be taken for granted.  The particular challenges with which we will contend in this next chapter of our life will test us, but I am certain that, God being our helper, we will prevail over fear and doubt and by the witness of a courageous faith give glory to God.  I thank the clergy and people of New York for inviting me to lead them into that wonderful future, and I ask God’s blessing on this, our great Diocese of New York.”

Former Methodist bishop of N.Y. Ernest Lyght to retire

When I started covering religion, way back when, one of the first stories I wrote was a profile of Bishop Ernest Lyght, then the head of the New York Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.

The truth is that I was trying to get the lay of the land — to figure out who was who — and Lyght’s office was right up the road from my office. So I made an appointment to stop by and chat (probably after reading up a bit on Methodists). I don’t believe that Lyght had ever been mentioned in my paper.

We had a long and often fascinating interview. Bishop Lyght was at the time one of only 10 African-American bishops in the United Methodist Church. His father, he told me, had been a Methodist minister during the years when the Methodist church was, well, officially racist. The denomination had had a special diocese for its black members. This segregated diocese wasn’t dissolved until 1968.

I remember asking Lyght why his father hadn’t left the Methodist church for the AME or AME Zion denominations, which were formed by black Methodists who had broken away. He told me that his father was committed to staying put and seeing change.

And I was sitting across from the result. His son was the United Methodist Bishop of New York.

Bishop Lyght was a gracious and fine man, tall and soft-spoken. When his second, four-year term in New York was over in 2004, he was elected bishop of West Virginia.

I mention this now because I received an email blast today from the current United Methodist bishop of New York, Jeremiah Park, announcing that Bishop Lyght is retiring next month because of health problems.

I’m sure that a lot of Methodists around here — and others — miss him and wish him well.



Say goodbye to parish schools and hello to regionalization

When I was still on the beat, I wrote quite a few articles about the Archdiocese of New York’s plans to “regionalize” Catholic schools.

The idea was to end the old one parish/one school model and have all parishes — including those without their own school — take on administrative and financial responsibility  for the schools in their region. A lot of people hoped that this approach to running Catholic schools will give all parishes — all church-going Catholics, in fact — a stake in the future of Catholic education.

Something had to change, as all the school closings of recent years have shown.

After numerous delays, regionalization is happening. The archdiocese recently announced that all schools will be grouped into one of 10 regions — including Rockland, Central Westchester, and Northern Westchester/Putnam.

The Rockland group will be one of three that will begin operating next September. The others will take shape in the fall of 13.

Boards of trustees will be appointed to run each region, with clergy holding a majority on each board. ALL parishes will contribute financially to their region. There will be “a new parish assessment for schools based on a sliding scale,” according to Catholic New York.

Board members in the three model regions will receive training beginning in January. School principals will also be trained on how to work with the new boards.

Timothy McNiff, superintendent of schools for the archdiocese, said that Archbishop Dolan is on board. “He understands completely that what cannot happen is that we remain with the status quo,” McNiff told CNY.





Maintaining Catholic identity a hot topic

Some may remember John Dilulio as the one-time head of President Bush’s Faith-Based and Community Initiatives office who resigned early on and criticized the president to Esquire magazine.

It was way back in August 2001, before 9/11 even.

Dilulio is now a political scientist based at the University of Pennsylvania. He writes a lot about religion, in particular his Catholic faith.

Next Tuesday (Nov. 8), he will be speaking at St. Theresa’s Church in Briarcliff Manor, continuing the parish’s unbelievably good (and free) lecture series run by parishioner and former Newsweek religion editor Ken Woodward.

Dilulio’s topic is especially timely: “Maintaining Catholic Identity: Right and Wrong Ways to Do It.”

It’s timely because a new study found that Catholic identity may be weakening for many Catholics.

For instance: About 40 percent of Catholics said you can be a good Catholic without believing that the bread and wine of Mass become the actual body and blood of Jesus. Only about 30 percent support the Magisterium — the teaching power of the Catholic Church.

Anyone who knows a lot of Catholics (and talks to them about their faith and beliefs) can’t be that surprised by these findings.

It will be interesting to hear what Dilulio, a self-described “extreme centrist,” will say about how to maintain Catholic identity. And how not to do it.