Monday, February 20, 2006

Throwing good money after bad

Not to land another one squarely on the chin of my home church, but this weekend saw the Chicago archdiocese's second attempt at a "Festival of Faith," a conference meant to rival the L.A. archdiocese religious education conference, which draws about 25,000 people and a big pile of cash for the church there. Unfortunately, Chicago's first attempt, held over Halloween weekend in 2004, was a financial catastrophe (think at least six zeroes), partially because it was over Halloween, and partially because no one wanted to pay $22 to park at a church conference, which was held at Navy Pier, a major Chicago tourist attraction with prices to match. Plus, the pier is super-long--think a half-mile from end to end--so you can imagine the more mature conference-goers trying to huff it to the talks.

Last weekend's festival of faith was held at a more accessible suburban convention center, but even with the compulsory attendance of Catholic grammar school teachers (given the day off) and high school students (anything to get out of class) on Friday, attendance was, uh, probably not what was hoped for. Saturday was no better, especially since there was no group that could be ordered to attend--although an article in the Chicago Sun-Times claimed 6,500, which I guess is accurate if you count those attending the golf conference next door.

Of course, one reason for this is the extremely short list of "approved" speakers, which included a number of bishops no one has ever heard of and skews to the right. (I sometimes wonder if the list of "disapproved" is longer than the approved.) L.A. is more open with its speakers, and everyone from liberals to conservatives can find something that interests them. (Sounds like a good conference, no? Well, that is, if, like me, you are a gigantic church nerd.)

Of course, in the end, the event is another waste of the people of God's money. Back in the good ol' days under Cardinal Bernardin, the archdiocese used to sponsor "Jesus days" at area high schools that would draw a good crowd and a lot more bang for a lot less buck. For some reason, though, we've evidently decided that folksy gatherings at high schools aren't fancy enough, so we have to throw a big shin-dig whose attendees are mostly conscripts.

I knew I could find something to grump about if I gave it a little thought. It is Monday, after all.


At 3:31 PM, Anonymous ANR said...

Downtown didn't really send an audiotape urging generous donations out to every parish and make every parish play it during the homily at every Mass last Sunday, did they?

'Cause the tape got played at my parish and I know the staff there would never do such a thing unless they were ordered to -- partly because the echo in that big stone space made the tape darn near incomprehensible.

At 10:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

to anr:
yes - downtown does it again - every parish was ordered to play the tape for the Catholic Appeal since it was commitment weekend (more like the office that runs this appeal should be committed). Anyway, if you don't do the appeal, you owe the Arch 6% of your annual ordinary operating income. Nice time to ask for money after you squandered it away on the Festival of Faith.

At 8:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

gee, I must have a renegade - we didn't even hear about a tape! And, to my knowledge, no one has mentioned the appeal, tho I got a mailing from the Arch.


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