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July 24, 1998     The Message
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July 24, 1998

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4 The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana July 24,1 Searching for a Samaritan today By PAUL R. LEINGANG Editor It was Saturday afternoon, late in the afternoon, when I came home after an extra day at work, trying to catch up, trying to get ahead. It was the weekend before we planned to leave on vacation. And of course, there were a thousand things to do before we could go. But when I went to the mailbox, and brought in what had been sent to us that day, I suddenly discovered that there was some- thing else which demanded attention. Getting the day's mail is usually an exciting thing. It is amazing to me, how recognizable are some of the things that come in the mail. A home address is an easy clue, that something has arrived from a "brother or a sister or a friend. At times, the handwrit- ing alone is enough to tip me off, that the letter in hand comes from someone I know and love. The return address on the envelope on this par- ticular Saturday was not pleasant. It was the Internal Revenue Service. An "official business" letter from the IRs is not one to be ignored. I sorted through the rest of the items from the mailbox, but the IRS envelope exerted its power and demanded my attention The letter was amazingly blunt and without grace or nuance. "We have changed your tax return," it began. "You owe..." As clear as the first sentence was, it seemed, so confusing was the rest of the letter, all three pages of it. I suppose the startling impact of the first line blunt- ed my senses as I plunged deeper into the pages. My biggest surprise, though, was calling the toll- free number listed on the letter, on a late Saturday afternoon, and finding someone at the other end of the line who was helpful. She even waited patiently while I dug out some filed information, and within minutes, a correction had been made and all was resolved. First impressions are powerful, but not unchangeable. Most people I know would not welcome a letter from the IRS, or expect an IRS employee to be courte- ous and helpful. Our view of the IRS is shaped and reinforced by the jokes people tell and by comments in Congress. Many people I know also have negative expecta- tions about other people. The characteristics of other racial or ethnic groups are built up and established in the hearts and minds of man, even without any per- sonal or particular experience, one-on-one. It seems unfortunate to me that we have lost a good part of the impact of the Gospel story of the Good Samaritan. Ask a child in school or a friend at L church what a Samaritan is, and ably, "some one who is kind to a stranger." A significant detail in the story is that the Jesus was talking to had a terrible view of the tans. They were despised and to be avoided at all costs. I realize that for me, the people who IRS are my Samaritans. I want to avoid them, like them, I don't trust them and I tear them: for the one "GOod IRS employee" who help me on a Saturday evening.  Who are the people you fear? Avoid? Despise? What is the basis for your feelings? ! tiffed? If there are children in your home .... about the people in their daily world. the time to counter the growth of stereotypica! ing about races or groups. Examine the attitudes in groups or classes or races the obj Make a difference today. Get to know an: ual from a race, creed, occupation, hair political party other than your own. Get your neighbor. Comments about this column or the Christian Family Box 272, Ames, Iowa 50010. Highlighting concerns about priestless parishes standing Christian tradition" afflicted by a declining number of priests. While "the objective must always .remain the celebration of the sacrifice of the Mass," the pope said, parishes that do not have a priest should still gather on Sundays to pray, listen to the Word of God and, if possible, receive the Eucharist, which a priest had consecrated earlier. According to the Vatican's Statistical Yearbook of the Church, published in early July and containing figures valid through Dec. 31, 1996, there are more than 220,000 Catholic parishes and more than 112,000 mission'stations in the world. The yearbook said there were just more than 404,300 priests in the world in 1996. The total was down by more than 400 from 1995 because the continuing drop in the number of religious- order priests surpassed the con- tinuing increase in the number of diocesan priests. According to the Vatican's fig- ures, the world's Catholic popu- lation was at least 995 million; the Vatican said an additional 4.6 million Catholics are believed to be living in China and other countries where exact figures are difficult to determine. The yearbook said that in 1996 close to 160,000 parishes had resident pastors, more than 55,000 had priest administra- tors, and thousands of others were run by lay people, reli- gious or deacons. However, the yearbook said 2,070 parishes were "completely vacant" in 1996; only 1,000 parishes were vacant five years earlier. And while Vatican officials talk about "priest-poor" Latin America and while North American bishops feel forced to consolidate parishes, more than half of the vacant parishes in the 'Enormous Prayers'- a book recommended To the editor:. I have just finished reading the new book "Enormous Prayers" by former Evansville resident and Memorial High School grad- uate Thomas Kunkel. It is a study of the lives arid work of a few dozen priests across the country -- missionaries, doctors, bishops, monsignors. A few of them are local men. The book is beautiful and inspiring. I highly recommend it .for any young person in search of modern heroes, for any seminarian and for all per- sons interested in their faith. It is organized in chapters that each deal with a different priest, so you can jump around or just read a few chapters and still gain a lot of insight and inspira- .tion from this book. "Enormous Prayers" opens to its readers the man.y dimensions, dynamics and -- best of all -- the many possibilities that our creed and our churches embrace. Ann M. Ennis Evansville world -- nearly 1,400 of them -- were in Europe. Bishops around the world have entrusted more than 3,500 parishes to the care of perma- nent deacons, religious brothers and sisters, or to lay people.. Some examples by country cited in the yearbook were: -- In France, 845 parishes were entrusted to lay people and 61 to women religious. Per- manent deacons were in charge of 39 parishes and religious brothers cared for five; 141 parishes were vacant. -- In Canada, 136 parishes were cared for by lay people and another 195 were entrusted to women religious. Deacons headed 64 parishes and broth- ers watched 6ver seven; only 28 parishes were reported vacant. -- The United States had 76 parishes under the guidance of lay people, while 238 were in the hands of women religious; 89 parishes were entrusted to deacons and four to brothers. Vacant parishes numbered 22. -- Brazil, the country with the most Catholics in the world, had 28 parishes entrusted to lay leaders and 143 guided by women religious. Deacons led 26 parishes; brothers led anoth- er nine; and 10 parishes had no appointed leader. -- The situation was similar in Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with 83 lay-run parishes and one entrusted to a sister, although L ;:: By CINDY WOODEN Catholic News Sen/ice . VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- When Pope John Paul II wrote his apostolic letter on keeping Sundays holy, he had special words of concern for the growing number of Catholics in parishes without a resident priest. Vatican statistics released in early July, just da'ys before the publication of the papal letter, "The Day of the Lord," showed the number of parishes in the world with no pastor or admin- istrator had more than doubled between 1991 and 1996. The pope said parishes with- out a priest for the celebration of Sunday Mass are a problem in "young churches," where one priest serves many faithful scat- tered over a large territory, as well as "in countries of long- i 4200 N. Kentucky Ave. Evansville, IN 47711 _4 Weekly newspaper IY-,, of the Diocese of ...J Evansville by the CaUlJc Preu of Evansville PVaaw ...... C.,adA. ............................ Paul NmP4 St Wme ........................... U,vy ar Htm Address all communications to P.O, Box 4169, Evansville, IN 47724-0t69 Subscription rate: $18,50 per year Single Copy Price: $.50 Er'4ered as perKw:tav, ai matter at the post office in Evanslle, IN 47701. PuPatiOn nuttier 843800. Posrter: Return POD ms 3579 to Offw::e of t998 Cathol ess  Evarsvi;e four parishes were parishes were led by brother nor by manent deacon. The ratio of priests in the world to grow, to book. In 1991, the ratio was 2,338 each priest; in 1996, : . i for each priest. However, the widely from continent to nent and In France the and in Australia the just more than 1,500 were more Catholics per priest, United States tilere Catholics for every The ratio in ;taly vcZ while in Irelald Britain there were 800 Catholics f According to the Yearbook of the the five countries Catholics were: -- Brazil with 135.8 : Catholics, or 86 population. -- Italy with 5 '7 : Catholics, or 97 population. -- Mexico with Catholics, 92 percent ulation. -- The Phili million -- The U.S. with l Catholics, 22 ulation. " I Bmhop s schedu Vacation, continues through July 30. Philmont scout trek, Aug. I through 20.