The goalie who thanks Jesus, Mary and Joseph for each save

Hockey is not nearly as popular as it was when I was a kid.

Back then, most kids between Coney Island and Brighton Beach followed the Rangers and/or Islanders about as closely as they did our favorite baseball, football and basketball teams.

These days, the NHL playoffs get little attention, especially if the Rangers are uninvolved.

But the Stanley Cup finals will begin Saturday night between the upstart Philadelphia Flyers and the “Original Six” Chicago Blackhawks.

Whispers in the Loggia’s Rocco Palmo points out that Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki, an auxiliary of the Archdiocese of Chicago who is about to become bishop of Springfield, Ill, is not only a big hockey fan, but a player.

A goalie, in fact. The Holy Goalie.

He’s also a marathon runner.

Last year, he told the newspaper of the Diocese of Green Bay:

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When I’m running, I’m constantly saying a prayer. I say Hail Marys. I have a little finger rosary and I’m praying Hail Marys while I’m running. When I’m out there on the ice, if somebody’s coming at me on a breakaway, I say, ‘Oh my God, Jesus help me.’ Then if I make the save, I say, ‘Thank you Jesus, thank you Mary, thank you Joseph, thank you guardian angel. I say all these little prayers while I’m out there.

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Great stuff.

Paprocki — a great name for a bishop/athlete, no? — has even written his own guide to the Cup finals.

He includes this nod to hockey toughness: “The grit and determination of the Chicago Blackhawks is epitomized by defenseman Duncan Keith, who lost seven teeth when he was hit in the face by a puck in last Sunday’s game that clinched the semi-final series against the San Jose Sharks. He only missed four shifts and ended up playing a game-high 29 minutes, 2 seconds and assisted on the tying goal.”

The Holy Goalie’s prediction? Blackhawks in 5.

What did you expect from a Chicago bishop?

Photo: (Sam Lucero | The Compass, Diocese of Green Bay)

An honorary doctorate for Catholic blogger

I just came across a story about Rocco Palmo, the guy behind the incredibly popular all-things-Catholic blog Whispers in the Loggia.

I had to mention that Rocco is in St. Louis today to receive an honorary doctorate from the Aquinas Institute of Theology. He’ll also be commencement speaker.

That’s quite a feat for a 27-year-old blogger/journalist who started Whispers in 2004 not expecting it to go anywhere.

It shows how influential Rocco has become — not only to the religion journalists who are fascinated by him but in the Catholic world that he writes about so well.

Rocco is a whole new breed in that he tries to be a honest, semi-traditional journalist while at the same time proudly displaying his Roman Catholicism and his love for the church.

As he tells the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Tim Townsend: “I want the church to succeed. But I won’t say something brilliant happened when it hasn’t. I’m not a spokesperson for the church.”

Of course, some Catholics appreciate and value that perspective. Others feel that Rocco is insufficiently obedient.

He refers to his readers as his “Gang.” Here’s his post from Wednesday:

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Strange days, gang… strange, and then some. But all in good fun nonetheless.

Your narrator’s got some fish to fry on the road, and will plug away as time allows. In the meanwhile, though, your prayers, please; three weeks to LA — or, as some have already taken to calling it, “Dancing with the Cards”… and along the way, as ever, no shortage of horribly belated thank-yous and backlogged mail to dig out from under.

Whatta ride, gang. God love you lot forever — hope everything’s great on your end.

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If you read Whispers, you know that Rocco works out of his parents’ home and that he is always struggling to make a go of it financially. He doesn’t take advertising or subscriptions but counts on donations, many of which come from priests.

“The hardest part is trying to make a full-time living off it,” Rocco tells Townsend. “I have a girlfriend, and I’d like to give her a ring someday, but at this point, I’m waiting until I can clear out of my parents’ house.”

Here’s an interview with the young fella:

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One year and counting for Archbishop Tim

One year ago today, the rumor became fact: Tim Dolan was the next Archbishop of New York.

He had been talked about as a leading contender for the job for at least several years. His name came up in every conversation I had with a priest or church “insider” about who might replace Cardinal Egan.

I always heard the same thing: He was funny, engaging, insightful and “just what New York needs.” I had met Dolan briefly a few years before — but even a quick chat was enough for me to know it was all true.

tjndc5-5otbe1et0us110m2skcb_layoutFrom the day the Vatican made it official, Dolan lived up to his rep. And he received about as much Good Press as any public person in New York could possibly expect.

The media gushed over him for a solid two or three months. Breathless stuff. We had a larger-than-life guy.

Dolan told reporters that he would spend his first year getting a sense of things and listening to people. True enough, he’s gone from parish to parish and talked with many priests and lay Catholics — often in his now-famous spot phone calls.

I’ve heard a few grumblings — not many — that it’s time for Dolan to act.

He faces many of the same issues that Egan and Cardinal O’Connor before him faced. There aren’t enough priests. Many pastors are up there in age. Northern parishes are growing and many city parishes are not. Many Catholics schools are struggling. The archdiocese is becoming increasingly Hispanic, even as many Hispanic Catholics attend separate Spanish-language Masses or worship at largely Hispanic parishes. There are certainly a large number of illegal immigrants going to Mass in New York — who the church stands up for, even if many white Catholics will not.

Then there’s the economy. Demands on the church are greater. Resources are fewer.

As Dolan said in Poughkeepsie the other day: “Number one, more people come to us because you usually come to people you know, and most people know and feel comfortable with their church. If they’re short on rent, their kid’s tuition or grocery money, guess where they are going to go? Their parish.”

Dolan will mark his first anniversary in New York (he was actually installed on April 15) by spreading some more good cheer.

He told ABC News: “The number of people who have come to me, from the mayor’s office on down, and said, ‘Archbishop, we kind of like having you around. We’re worried about you. You better work on your weight.” They’re right, and I really, really have to watch the intake because I love to eat. I love being with people.”

Last night, Dolan held court at a “Theology on Tap” program at a NYC bar.

Whispers in the Loggia’s Rocco Palmo was there and typed a blow-by-blow account that you can read today.

There were about 900 people, Palmo wrote, and it took Dolan 20 minutes just to get across the room.

The boss had plenty of jokes, like “assure me I’m not picking up the tab tonight.”

He talked primarily about the “Petrine ministry” — the papacy.

He said “all we believe is Jesus Christ — alone — is the center and source of unity and authority in his church… he designated Peter as his vicar.”And “we believe Jesus gave Peter the privilege of being his earthly representative…”

And this: “Jesus is the head of his church… but — in case you haven’t noticed — Jesus just so happens to be invisible, alright?”

That’s Dolan.

My guess is that Dolan will soon begin making his mark in the Archdiocese of New York. It will be keenly interesting to see what he really thinks about what needs to be done.

If you want to know more about him, I came across an Oct. 19 release date for a new book from John Allen, Catholic journalist extraordinaire. It is to be called “American Pope: A Biography of New York’s Archbishop Timothy Dolan.”

American pope, huh? He’ll have a lot to live up to…


Archbishop rumors flying (again)

I remember when the speculation was rampant over when Cardinal O’Connor would retire.

It went on for years. And years.

Of course, O’Connor would die as archbishop in 2000 at the age of 80 — five years past the point when bishops submit their retirement papers to Rome.

Cardinal Egan turned 75 in April of 2007, and the rumors were flying before he could blow out the candles on his cake. (That is, if archbishops have birthday cakes. Red velvet, perhaps?)

Speculation picked up after Egan acknowledged the possibility of retirement in a TV interview.

In December of 2007, I wrote an article about the likelihood that Egan would become the first archbishop of New York to retire (alive).

Then the pope came and went last April, which many saw as Egan’s last hurrah.

The archdiocese was said to be preparing a retirement residence for him (although I was told that it would be for “visiting dignitaries).

Nothing happened.

Since the summer, most priests and church insiders I’ve spoken with had stopped paying attention. At least day-to-day attention. The transition would happen when it happened.

Rumors floated that Egan’s piano had been removed from the archbishop’s residence, sparking some interest.

That was then.

A few days ago, Edward Pentin, a Rome-based journalist for National Catholic Register (owned by the Legionaries of Christ) reported that the pope had made his choice for New York and an announcement was imminent.

The NYT followed with its own report today, which will surely kick the rumor mill into its highest gear (yes, an odd string of cliches).

Milwaukee TV picked up on the rumor that the city’s archbishop, Timothy Dolan, is considered to be front-runner for New York (as has been the case for years).

And Rocco Palmo of Whispers in the Loggia writes about how difficult it can be to separate the rumors from the facts: “Yet in terms of an ecclesial outlook, this infinite, intense interest in what’s doing behind the curtain offers a powerful storyline in itself, one that should come as both comfort and challenge to our main players: namely, leadership matters — and God’s people are, even now, looking for it.”

I’ve heard the announcement could be next week. Even tomorrow.

So we wait.

‘Dwelling crankily on old wounds’

Whispers in the Loggia’s Rocco Palmo writes today about a difficult start for World Youth Day in Australia, where an auxiliary bishop got snippy with a family that’s suffered mightily as a result of clerical sexual abuse.

The Melbourne family’s two daughters were allegedly raped by a single priest, and one of the daughters committed suicide this year.

bishop-fisherclose-upb.jpgBut Sydney Auxiliary Bishop Anthony Fisher (that’s him) — who has been in charge of organizing World Youth Day — described the family’s outspokenness and advocacy as “dwelling crankily on old wounds.”

Cardinal George Pell, archbishop of Sydney, apologized to the family after Fisher’s comments — without commenting on them.

Palmo writes:

…the comment came at the worst possible moment, easily eclipsing the celebrations in the national press as stories on the bishop’s “blunder” and yet another firestorm of reaction currently lead the coverage on Oz’s top broadcast and print outlets.

A papal apology for clerical sexual abuse is still expected at World Youth Day.

A World Youth Day footnote: Pope Benedict XVI sent a text message to pilgrims on their cells: “Young people God & his people expect much from u, because u have within u the Father’s supreme gift: the Spirit of Jesus – BXVI”