success stories

Posted January 17, 2004

Still an excellent history of the U.S. church and where it might be heading

Book: Transforming Parish Ministry: The Changing Roles of Catholic Clergy, Laity, and Women Religious
Authors: Jay P. Dolan, R.Scott Appleby, Patricia Byrne and Debra Campbell
Crossroad, New York, pp. 366

Excerpt from Jacket:

In the years since the Second Vatican Council, the American Catholic parish has undergone unparalleled changes. On the one hand, declining numbers of vocations to the ordained priesthood and the religious life have had enormous repercussions on ordinary parish life: the frequent closings of schools and churches being merely the most dramatic of these. On the other hand, new understandings of ministry in all its varieties have admitted thousands upon thousands of lay people to meaningful participation in the administrative, educational, liturgical, and social ministries of the church.

Until now much of the discussion of ministry in the United States has concentrated on the theological and pastoral dimensions of the issue. This book is important because it provides a much needed historical perspective. The heart of the book are the three sections on the priest, sister, and lay person. Each of these sections ranges over a fifty year period, from 1930 to 1980, and examines two major issues: the changes that took place in the understanding and practice of ministry among specific groups of people (priests, sisters, lay people) and how this altered their relationship to the parish. In the fourth and final section, Jay Dolan integrates these particular studies into a broader social context and suggests why such substantive and dramatic changes occurred at this particular time in the life of the American Catholic Church.

In examining the changing role of priest, sister, and lay person over the course of the past fifty years, this book not only reveals the rich history of American Catholicism in the thirty years that preceded Vatican II, and it not only makes sense of the changes that have transformed the church in the post-Vatican II era, but it also provides the necessary context for the contemporary discussion of ministry and its likely developments over the next fifty years.

Excerpt from Book:

Priest and Professional

To further complicate the laity’s perception of the new priesthood, the activist priest was joined by a second alternative to the ombudsman — namely, the professionalized priest. By 1969 this trend was so prevalent as to be celebrated in a volume on Hyphenated Priests: The Ministry of the Future. The so-called hyphenated priest obtained an advanced degree or entered professional life in a particular discipline. He was only coincidentally present to a parish; his working address was usually a university campus or a downtown office building. Moreover, this approach to priestly ministry emerged as a self-conscious adaptation to the needs of the modern, American, postconciliar church. Wrote Joseph Fichter, S.J.:

"No longer can the priest be just a priest. He must be a priest who does something; this is where the professionalism comes in. The day of the general practitioner is gone. We no longer live in a Bavarian village or in an Irish village. We now live in a highly specialized society and every priest needs expertise beyond what he gets in the seminary.

. . . Women religious also set an influential example for priests. As in other areas of renewal, they arrived ahead of the clergy on the professional circuit. A decisive step in this direction was the Sister Formation movement, inspirited in the early 1950s in part by Pope Pius XII who urged that full professional training be given to religious sisters preparing for teaching and hospital work. This meant that women religious had a head-start of almost a decade in grapping with the issues of specialization and professionalization. The assumed leadership roles in many of the early ecumenical organizations and conferences on urban and rural social outreach precisely because they were well prepared by formal training and substantial pastoral experience.

Table of Contents:

Part I: Present to the People of God: The transformation of the Roman Catholic parish priesthood

R. Scott Appleby

1. The era of the ombudsman, 1930-1954

2. Pioneers of renewal, 1930-1954

3. Priesthood reconsidered: Presence beyond the parish, 1954-1962

4. Priesthood reformed: experiments in parochial presence, 1962-1972

5. The absent priest and floating parish: the possibilities and predicaments of crisis, 1962-1972

6. The emergence of the orchestra leader, 1973

Part II: In the parish but not of it: sisters

7. Saving souls and educating Americans, 1930-1945

8. Success and the seeds of change, 1945-1960

9. A tumultuous decade, 1960-1970

10. Diminishment, disillusion, discovery, 1970

Appendix: Constitution of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth

Part III: The struggle to serve: from the lay apostolate to the ministry explosion

Debra Campbell

11. Lay organizations and activism, 1889-1928

12. The heyday of Catholic action and the lay apostolate, 1929-1959

13. The laity in the age of Aggiornamento, 1960-1969

14. The lay ministry explosion, 1970

Part IV: American Catholics in a changing society: parish and ministry, 1930 to the present

15. The 1940s

16. The 1980s

17. A question in search of an answer

Selected bibliography