The St. Louis Review does a nice job this week staying ahead of the PR curve on the St. Stan's matter. This week's editorial:
St. Stanislaus: Who was denied a voice?
Ethnic heritage parishes, once a standard in the immigrant-rich United States, have been slowly disappearing as more generations of native-born Americans have released their cling to ethnic identity.
For many Catholics, combining cultural heritage with faith is still an important factor of life. Catholics of Polish heritage in St. Louis did this for more than 125 years at St. Stanislaus.
For almost seven years, some members and the board of St. Stanislaus have been at odds with the Catholic Church over control of the corporation formed for the parish by Archbishop Peter Kenrick when the present church was being built. The conflict has included a priest being removed from the clerical state, numerous Catholics in schism and a palpable pain among faithful Catholics of Polish heritage. It is unfortunate that this issue has been transformed into a question of whether those controlling St. Stanislaus want it to break away from the Catholic Church altogether.
Archbishop Robert J. Carlson offered a solution. In a letter to the members of St. Stanislaus on July 29, the archbishop proposed what its board was wanting: A promise that the archdiocese would maintain St. Stanislaus as a Polish heritage parish — as long as there was interest and an effort to support it — and that the ownership of the material goods and property would remain in the hands of the corporation in perpetuity to be used for Polish religious and heritage purposes. The offer included a pastor for the first year and $10,000 to hire a consultant for a fund drive to secure the future of parish finances and the survival of the parish of St. Stanislaus.
In a vote of 257 to 185, members of St. Stanislaus rejected the archbishop's offer to reconcile St. Stanislaus with the Church. While this could be portrayed as a fair, democratic vote, the results beg the question: Who was denied a voice?
In 2005, when St. Stanislaus was still operating as an archdiocesan parish, there were 483 registered parishioners. That year, the Polish apostolate was moved to St. Agatha Church, which now has 290 registered Catholics, most of whom were members of St. Stanislaus. Many of these Catholics desire unity in the Polish apostolate and deserve a voice. But the current structure of St. Stanislaus has stricken them from the parish rolls and denied them the opportunity to be heard.
In a letter to the members and board of St. Stanislaus before the vote Aug. 8, the parishioners of St. Agatha urged the board "to make a right decision and vote for the approval of the Archbishop Carlson proposal."
Perhaps more troubling is the issue of the 257 who voted against the archbishop's offer. What is their real agenda? How many are Polish? How many attended St. Stanislaus prior to 2005? How many started attending the church after its Catholic status had been removed? How many would continue to attend a reconciled St. Stanislaus Polish Roman Catholic Church? How many are more interested making a statement through media-magnet theatrics than living the Gospel of the Lord?
St. Stanislaus and its board should have no hesitation with this offer. It is clear that the archbishop and fellow Catholics want to renew the bond of faith with the Polish Catholics of St. Stanislaus. A small group should not deter this important process. This is about faith, not property. If a group of people wish to start their own church, they have free will to do so. But they should not do it at the expense of the Catholics who continue their fidelity to Christ.
We must all pray with conviction that St. Stanislaus reconsider its rejection of this opportunity for reconciliation.
As their brethren from St. Agatha said in their letter, "... in your hands is the future of the St. Stanislaus Kostka Polish Roman Catholic Parish, which was established by our ancestors for all Roman Catholics of Polish heritage in the St. Louis area."
Now is the chance to preserve that.