A reader sent me a link to a 14 minute video of the 150th anniversary of the Erie Benedictines. Watching it makes me doubtful that they will have a 200th anniversary much less a 175th. The video even includes liturgical abuses such as glass chalices and performance art liturgies. A video in which the Catholic Church or Jesus are never mentioned. Just the typical talk of Zen meditations and Sr. Joan Chittister talking about how for the first time warfare now kills more civilians than military personnel (obviously not a WWII scholar). Their vibrancy in growth was talking about a 27 year old who had joined the order and and a 40 and 62 years olds who became lay members. One of the worlds easiest job is being a Novice Master for the Erie Benedictines. You can go years without having to anything to do at all.
What struck me most about this video is that they were nothing more than a community of social workers. They do good work for the poor and for others, but it seems divorced from the Gospel. Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta disliked the term social worker and had said ‘We are not doing social work; this is God’s work.’ I don’t think the Erie Benedictines would have a problem with the term at all. By the video you would think that it was a promotional video for a retirement home. Old folks home or Benedictine Sisters would make for a difficult test for the outside observer. Another interesting thing I noticed that every single cross displayed in the video was a Christ-less cross. No crucifixes at all. Maybe this is truth in advertising since they have become a Christ-less community.
Can communities such as these be reformed or will they just die out? It seems to me that in the history of the Church that most reform happens from breaking off when an order has become lax and lost its focus on Christ. The Benedictines will live on but these branches will become footnotes in the history of the order.
Are you sure these were “Erie Benedictines” and not “eerie Benedictines”?
It’s too bad. There was a need to transition from a universal raison d’etre as school sisters (the reason bishops usually brought sisters over from Europe) to an identity that is more intrinsic to the congregation. It could have been good, and it had to be done. And the whole peace message is intrinsic, because of the depth of interpersonal sacrifice in monastic life. But something was obviously lost.
(Did you hear the words “Jesus Christ” in the video? Maybe I missed it.)
I knew two lay oblates (I think thats the term) of this community. They were very proud of the fact that their community has the greatest proportion of lay members vs religious (i.e., tons more of the laity than professed sisters).
If they could just bring themselves to say “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,” instead “creator, savior, sanctifier,” then perhaps I’d hold out hope that their community might turn around.
I swear, I thought ‘Sister’ Chittister said that these Benedictines took a vow of stupidity. (She didn’t but that’s what I heard her say. Must have been what I expected to hear after watching this mess in action.)
The only habits seem were in the old pictures of the founding nuns. Good luck inspiring vocations.
I found it funny that the only women under 30 were in full habit and in a black and white picuture. I think some of the work they do is wonderful, but my social service program does all the same, there is no spirituality.
Looking forward to your review of the Atlanta bash.
Talk about shooting fish in a barrel!
NO, there will not be a 175th… If by some miracle there is, it will not be the order we see today celebrating it…
The order is disintegrating but what I found almost equally disheartening is that they are still getting “column inches” in blogs and traditiona newspapers and magazines.
Let the dead bury the dead! (Matt 8:22)
We have better uses for our time. There are hundreds of lay and religous movements, fraternities of secular priests, new monasteries and the like to support, praise and get the word out on!
The EB’s can’t find a novice for their beds… The Byzantine Carmelites in Scranton can’t find beds for there novices!
� The Norbertines in Orange County are looking for a place to build a bigger monastery
� The Fraternity of St. Peter is double-bunking seminarians in rooms designed for single senior seminarians
� In Rome Miles Jesu is sticking extra beds where they can for their new members
� The Maronite Monks of Adoration, Most Holy Trinity Monastery is growing and has been since 1978 – every single member a Roman Catholic attracted to the spirituality of this Catholic sui juris church… How is that for being a cafeteria Catholic – looking to OTHER Catholic traditions to grow perfected in the spiritual life!
� Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey reports that they are raising money to expand for they are out of room!
� Sweden has seen an annual rise in vocations and a growth of immigrant Catholic Communities. One of the least Catholic nations in Europe has experienced a flood of faithful who are taking their fait there with them.
� EWTN is seen by wider audiences annually and the vocations grow as well.
� In less time than the Erie Benedictines have been around Bl. Theresa of Calcutta’s Missionaries of Charity have grown to over 4,500 nuns and is active in 133 countries.
� A lay association called the Heralds of the Gospel… “Comprised mainly of young people, this Association is established in 57 countries. Its members practice celibacy, and are entirely dedicated to apostolate, living in separate houses designated for young men and young women. ” They have well over 1000 YOUNG members.
Here is a list of oders that are growing and that celebrate the Tridentine Mass (a rite the EBs would likely cross the street to avoid!):
* Monks of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel
* Canons Regular of the New Jerusalem
* Canons Regular of the Mother of God
* Religious Institute of the Holy Cross of Riaumont
* Benedictines – Triors
* Benedictines – St. Pierre de Clairac
* Benedictines – Randol
* Benedictines – Le Barroux
* Benedictines – Gaussan
* Benedictines – Fontgombault
* Benedictines – Clear Creek
* Institute of St. Philip Neri
* Fraternity of St. Vincent Ferrer
* Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest
* Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter
* Apostolic Adminstration of St. John Mary Vianney
Oh yea… all of them are GROWING. Certain of these groups have been given parishes that otherwise would have been closed… and are now building SCHOOLS.
� The Franciscan University of Steubenville has recruited and attracted so many orthodox students, there is a special program for pre-theology majors with intentions of vocations
� The Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration have no more rooms and are recommending young women to other houses
� The Benedictines at St. Walburga�s Abbey have added three more postulants to the novitiate
� The Benedictines of Perpetual Adoration have a novice and another coming!
� The Nashville Dominicans report they have more Sisters than ever in their 142-year history – median age is 36.
� Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist haven�t finished building their new motherhouse yet and are already almost out of room. They�re young�uns too.
�The Legion of Christ has suffered from scandal that has lead to the retirement of its founder. Time will tell what the effects of that scandal – and weather it is true or not�. But here is the thing about that conservative order so fiercely loyal to the Holy Father: �the Legion’s nine seminaries have turned out 650 ordained priests. That is up from 210 priests in 1990. The Legion’s ranks also include about 2,500 seminarians studying to be priests
� US dioceses with the highest ratio of seminarians to Catholics in 2004 were, in order:
1) Lincoln, Nebraska
2) Yakima, Washington
3) Savannah, Georgia
4) Cheyenne, Wyoming
5) Rapid City, South Dakota
6) Wichita, Kansas
7) Tulsa, Oklahoma
8) Alexandria, Louisiana
9) Pensacola-Tallahassee, Florida
10) Steubenville, Ohio
11) Spokane, Washington
12) Bismarck, North Dakota.
� Arlington, VA did NOT make that list… but they do have a “Vocations crunch” too… They have 60 parishes… “Of those 60 parishes, only 42 are now staffed by diocesan priests. “We’ll ordain 22 men in the next 14 months,” Father Gould pointed out. “The real problem will be finding 22 beds for them.”
� Carmelites of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Los Angeles, a large and thriving community. Check out there website.: http://www.carmelitegeneralate.homestead.com/
� In the Soviet Union 30 years ago, even 20 years ago we could not imagine the Catholic Church having a presence that was NOT underground. Today a new order has been formed: Canons of Jesus the Lord to serve the community in Vladicostok. Certainly problems remain, but in Russia and the rest of Eastern Europe Greek and Roman Catholics have come out of the dark to build new churches, reclaim old ones, and lead a public life of faith again.
� In the past 30 years there have been more than 1,000 converts to Catholocism from the ranks of Evangeical, Protestant, and Anglican clergy. Many of them have become priests and deacons. Many of them are very active in lay ministries and apostolates. More than a few of them have brought converts with them. Scott Hahn, Mike Cumbie, Marcus Grodi, Fr. John Neuhouse, Fr. Graham Leonard, Fr. Ray Ryland, Fr. Chrysostom Frank� 400 British Anglican priests, who objected in 1993 to the Anglican Church allowing ordination of women. Randall Terry of Operation Rescue, former seculars (Norma McCormic a.k.a. Jane Roe of Roe v. Wade & Bernard Nathanson former abortionist, and David Morrison, former gay rights activist.. to name just a teeny tiny few� I mean a fraction of a fraction of a fraction! Mostly these folks have been lead to the fullness of the Catholic faith because there were orders, individual priests, and hard-working laity that were simply out there being good Catholics, and teaching the Truth in word and deed.
� 14,795: The number of perm deacons in the US in 2006.
There are so many more success stories, new communities, lay movements publications, websites… we can’t be bothered with has-beens who cannot replenish there own numbers. I have not even scratched the surface here. Not even a tiny bit.
So let the dead bury the dead if the MUST� But in all actuality, when the last of the Erie B�s pass, there will be more than enough priests and deacons to bury them. And more than enough new, young, orthodox religious to remember them in their daily prayers.
Thank you for the last post, I needed to be reminded of the positive things. Hopefully by the time the last of the Erie sisters are turning in there zen garden rakes, these orders will be able to move into thier empty convents.