Thursday, July 2, 2009

When The Going Got Tough A Solution Was Found

Last night I received an email from a reader with some great news for the people of Madison, Wisconsin. The Catholic Multicultural Center will reopen. I wrote on this closing previously. The following report is from the Capital Times:

Catholic Multicultural Center to reopen its doors August 3
Pat Schneider — 7/01/2009 12:25 pm

The Catholic Multcultural Center, the south-side services center whose abrupt closing a month ago shocked and angered the Madison community, will reopen its doors on Aug. 3.
And Queen of Peace Parish, which will run the center in a building that will continue to be owned by the Madison Diocese, will be launching a public fund-raising campaign to help meet a $350,000 two-year budget. Bishop Robert Morlino had agreed to let Queen of Peace take over following a groundswell of opposition to the center's closing.

News of an opening date brought applause from members and friends of the Latino Support Network -- LaSup -- gathered today to discuss the status of the center, 1862 Beld St., which has served the city's south side since 1946. It was LaSup that rallied community support to save the center in the days after its May 29 closing, and members of the group today were almost gleeful as the center's former administrator Andy Russell reported on developments. Russell and two of the center's other three employees let go when the diocese closed its doors citing lack of funding, are being rehired by Queen of Peace.

An anonymous challenge donation of $175,000 has been made -- if a matching amount is raised in the community. The Catholic Diocese is giving $155,000 toward operation of the center, two local parishes have pledged $10,000 each and many smaller donations have been made, Russell says. Donations, in fact, have come from five states.

The controversy over its closing has raised the profile of the center, and anyone who wants to learn more about it or how to help, an Open House will be held 2-5 p.m. Sunday, July 12.


This is a great story about compassionate people stepping up to fill a void. Queen of Peace parish is one of the biggest and most affluent parishes in the diocese and seems well placed to take on this outreach program. Kudos to Queen of Peace parish and their pastor Fr. Fiedler for making this reopening feasible and Kudos to Bishop Morlino for acting quickly to approve and support this grass roots effort.

It's worth reading the link given in the article about Queen of Peace parish. This is also from the Capital Times and is a more extensive article on the closing of the Center and it's aftermath. The comments are worth reading as they serve to underscore the division amongst Madison Catholics regarding their bishop. Here's part of one comment from a supporter of the Bishop which in my mind succinctly states a major conflict about how Catholics see the role of the institutional church:

3) Yes, the poor have a high priority for ALL Christians, and we all share a duty to care for the poor. While this is the duty for ALL Christians, it is NOT the FIRST duty for the INSTITUTIONAL Church. The first priority of the INSTITUTIONAL Church, is to preach the gospel and provide the sacraments.

I can see the logic in this assessment that the Institutional Church's first priority is to preach the Gospel and to provide the Sacraments. Unfortunately Jesus taught quite specifically that preaching wasn't enough. One had to live and act on His teachings. It's not enough to talk the talk, you must also walk the walk. Providing for the institution before providing for the poor is not walking His talk.

The Diocese of Madison is not the only diocese in which the role and definition of the bishop and Church mission is in conflict. As financial resources dry up the question of mission becomes more critical. In Madison an individual parish stood up and with help from others, has decided the poor and needy are their mission. The Diocese has opted to step back and support them in that mission, rather than lead them in that mission, at least in the day to day operation. There is still plenty of room for conflict over other issues concerning church teaching and acceptance of secular or other denominational support if the Multi Cultural Center maintains it's status as a Catholic enterprise. There is still plenty of stuff to work through.

But in the meantime, come August 3rd the Center reopens it's doors and that's a very good thing for the people of Madison. Which goes to show that when there is a will, a way will be found. That's a very affirming and hopeful message. It's a Jesus message.


  1. Finally, some light in the darkness. It's great news Colleen. Great news!

  2. If the words of Jesus aren't enough for some Catholics, we also have the very explicit words of our current Pope:
    "The Church's deepest nature is expressed in her three-fold responsibility: of proclaiming the word of God (kerygma-martyria), celebrating the sacraments (leitourgia), and exercising the ministry of charity (diakonia). These duties presuppose each other and are inseparable. For the Church, charity is not a kind of welfare activity which could equally well be left to others, but is a part of her nature, an indispensable expression of her very being."
    Deus Caritas Est, paragraph #25

    Also see this same encyclical for explicit directives to cooperate with other religious and secular charities when possible (while also preserving the distinctively Christian/Catholic in the way we serve).