Bishop Robert McManus looks to the future
By Matt LaBarre
Region – Bishop Robert McManus has led the Roman Catholic Diocese of Worcester for seven years. During that time, he's experienced a number of highpoints, and endured some disappointments.
“I have a passion for promoting vocations, the lifeblood of the church,” McManus said. “We'se opened the Holy Name of Jesus House of Studies, where young men, many from Colombia, are studying in preparation for the seminary.”
In the past few years, the diocese has invited and accepted nine Colombian seminarians for study, and just a couple of weeks ago, five men were ordained priests in the diocese. Three of those men are from Colombia.
“We need Spanish-speaking priests who speak the language of the new immigrants, to make them comfortable in the community and in the church,” McManus said.
“We recommitted the diocese to a New Evangelization; so many people in the United States drifted away from the church, and over the time I'se been in this diocese our priests and deacons have expressed a realization that a primary goal is to welcome people back to the church,” he said. “Our culture is becoming so secular and families so engaged in activities that Sunday has become a day when things that cannot be done during the rest of the week get done – not a day of rest – and that's a trend that is harmful and troubling.”
The reconfiguration of the diocese, resulting in some parishes being closed, has been a painful experience. St. Anne's in Shrewsbury and St. Margaret's in Worcester became one parish, located at St. Anne's.
“I's be horrified if people weren's initially upset, as parishes have been the center of faith for many individuals and families,” the bishop said. “But people have been telling me now that the parishes, such as St. Anne's, have been strengthened, and there's new energy, which is wonderful.”
Catholic school education is also a primary focus for McManus.
“Catholic schools exist to offer Catholics and others a choice, schools where everything offered – secular and spiritual – is taught in the overall vision of the church,” McManus said. “Education is not just of the mind, but in the heart and conscience.
“Of course, we'se blessed with two outstanding schools in the Community Advocate's readership region, St. Mary's Elementary School in Shrewsbury and St. Bernadette Elementary school in Northborough.”
According to McManus, the Catholic school system in America has always been different from Catholic schools in other countries. In America, Catholic schools were gateways to society for new immigrants, whether from Ireland or Italy or more recently from South American or African countries. Historically, it took two generations for new immigrant populations to become part of mainstream society in America, and Catholic schools played a major role in that process.
McManus also said that the economy has really affected the schools.
“Our strength has always been educating poor and middle-class children, and our lay teachers do a heroic job at very low pay,” he said.
Finding new revenue to keep schools functioning at their high level is critical.
“Our teachers and staff approach working in our schools as not a job, but a calling,” he added.
Bishop McManus is optimistic about the future.
“I's thrilled that we'se welcoming new priests,” he said, “all our priests enjoy high morale, and there's an energy all over the diocese, clergy and parishioners; that's very exciting.”
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