Who is to blame for the closing Catholic schools?

As a faithful church-going Catholic, I would like to air out some of my reactions to this recent report by a so-called Blue Ribbon Commission. They were not chosen from the communities that they arbitrarily impacted very deeply and had little sense beyond old financial reports of the desires and needs of their fellow Christians. Here is a list of my reactions.

1. Why has Church membership been declining? Does the leadership of the church from the backrooms the Vatican to the secrecy of the Philadelphia Archdiocese have anything to do with this? Their decisions were not good, if not criminal, and yet there is no hint of their responsibility for a declining laity in this report.

2. What happens to the deserted school buildings as a result of this Blue Ribbon Report? If sold who receives the money? Not the parishes that sacrificed and financially supported those schools for decades or does the archdiocese that shut them down. What if the schools are vacant for a time, who has the responsibility for the upkeep?

3. I also find it interesting that some of the schools on this list have the support of pastors and laity reaching out to the greater community to aid children who have little educational choices. What an opportunity for evangelization. It looks like they may be the hardest hit even though they are financially independent and have acted without the resources of the diocese.

4. This report was a cold, business-like but not a Christ-like report. Parishes that have pride in their schools and maintain a fiscally sound school, but don’t reach the reference data used by this so-called Blue Ribbon Commission are asked to sacrifice generations of support by a group where they have no representation. The new archbishop is not one of us but an outsider sent by the Vatican charged with getting a house in order after years of mismanagement.

5. In conclusion, what would St. John Neumann, founder of the parochial school system in the United States, think about the destruction of the Catholic school system in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia? Also important to mention was the missionary vigor that Katharine Mary Drexel brought to this area by reaching out to the marginalized. What happened to that legacy?

This is a church that takes pride in not being democratic. Maybe if the laity were allowed to participate and be more actively involved, as John XXII tried to initiate, the vitality of the Catholic Church would be healthier and growing.

Philip E. McGovern

Concerned about Mercury

As a mother of two girls and pastor to dozens of children, I’ve been concerned for years about mercury pollution. Mercury is a proven neurotoxin that can interfere with the proper development of babies’ brains and neurological systems. This can lead to learning and attention disabilities, problems with coordination, and even mental retardation.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 600,000 women in our country have unsafe levels of mercury in their bodies, which gets passed along in their blood and breast milk to their offspring.

The biggest source of this mercury is from the coal we burn in our dirty, old power plants – and Pennsylvania abounds in these, unfortunately. Our state is the second worst mercury polluter in the country. This puts our children at special risk.

The congregation for which I am a pastor, Chestnut Hill United Church, has been working since 2006 to get the state to enact a mercury pollution law (which was overturned on a technicality in 2007), and more recently to get the federal government to control mercury pollution.

So I was delighted to learn that President Obama last month signed into law legislation that will cut mercury pollution by 90 percent. Senator Casey supports this law, as do Reps. Schwartz and Fattah.

Maybe Senator Toomey will explain why he has tried to kill the mercury law. I certainly can’t.

Rev. Linda Noonan
Chestnut Hill

A plug for Susan Morse

Having read Susan Morse’s book “The Habit,”  I can attest to the fact that she is a delightful and insightful story teller and now – by default – a first hand professional navigator of the trials and tribulations of working your way through the system for elder care.

Having heard her interviewed by Marty Moss-Coane on “Radio Times,” I can attest to the fact that she is also a delightful speaker. We are proud to have her as our first speaker of the 4th Annual Chestnut Hill Book Festival and Speaker Series Jan. 25 at 7 p.m. in the Bombay Room of the Chestnut Hill Hotel.

Marie Lachat
CHBF Committee

Bringing it all back home

I grew up in Chestnut Hill  and left the womb in 1977 to explore the world and make my fortune.  I’m currently living in Delaware, Ohio, and plan on moving back in 2015 when I retire.  I have always had a subscription to the Local during my travels to keep tabs on what was going on back on the Hill.

Hugh Gilmore’s article really hit home with me on the topic of Life and Death.  Folks from childhood, chums from high school and parents were actually dying and I was having a hard time facing the harsh reality.

Everyone else I spoke to as I turned 60, were willing to accept death with a shrug.  I’m still fighting the battle but was reassured to know there are actually “others” out there that share my reality as we baby boomers age!

Mike Burke
Delaware, Ohio