Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Another one bites the dust. R.I.P. St. Peter's

Despite giving us reason to believe that there would be no more school closings, the Archdiocese just announced that it will be closing the venerable St. Peter's Girls High School in June and moving the elementary school to the shuttered St. Paul's school complex on Clinton Avenue. The high school girls would be integrated into Notre Dame and Moore. According to the Archdiocese, the high school would only have a mere 95 students in the Fall, thus making it financially unviable. Students and alumni are understandably devastated. So, in the latest humiliation for Staten Island Catholics, the Mother Church of the island, our oldest parish, in our most populous and urban neighborhood, can't even keep their school open.

Predictably, many people are blaming the Archdiocese, but the culprits are endless. For one thing, rising costs have to be a factor. Tuition is $6900 a year. That is far, far above what my Catholic school tuition cost when I was in school, even adjusted for inflation. I can't imagine anyone who could afford that, especially if you have more than one child. In addition, since the Vatican II church's own lax theology has produced a vocations crisis, lay teachers are a considerable expense, as they do insist on being paid. On the other hand, St. Peter's Boys school has over 600 students, a brand new facility and is by all accounts flourishing. Are North Shore Catholic parents mysteriously having a preponderance of boys for some reason? Or perhaps it has to do with the fact that the boys' school is located in leafy Livingston, while the girls' school is located in gritty New Brighton. It's a fact that what was once a largely Irish/Italian/Polish neighborhood back in the 60s is now predominantly black and Hispanic. And as we know, most of us Catholic "ethnics" aren't too big on integration and multiculturalism. That doesn't reflect too well on our Faith, but it's a fact we must acknowledge- the school's base has fled from the area and is not too inclined to send their kids to school there.

Or maybe the problem begins at the top. I don't usually mention people by name here, but any pseudonyms would be transparent in this case. What exactly has Monsignor Dorney done to increase students and parishioners? I don't know much about him except that he has been pastor of St. Peter's for as long as I can remember, and his magnificent church seems to be crumbling about his ears, literally and figuratively. His sermons are dreary and demotivational in the extreme, delivered in a tone resembling that of Ferris Bueller's teacher on Ambien, although I can tell he was well educated. He does not seem to be in good health. He is the co-vicar of Staten Island, whatever that means. He has displayed no leadership over the island's Catholics as far as I can tell. He has officiated at funeral Masses for at least one pro-abortion politician I can recall. He supported the sale of the Margaret Mary convent to the Moslem American Society. I really can't see the man doing anything to evangelize, promote or defend the Faith.

I attended a recent Mass at St. Peter's. A glance at the bulletin showed that there was literally nothing going on in the biggest church and most historically prestigious parish on Staten Island. There were some announcements for events in other churches. Monsignor Dorney was listed as the only priest in residence. There were a mere 50 people at the 12:00 Mass. Surprisingly, there were a few young people. The music was performed by a middle-aged guitarist who I believe plays in a band at Adobe Blues on weekends. With his 1840s style grey mutton chops, he resembles a mild mannered school teacher, but I can testify that this guy can seriously rock out on a Saturday night. He toned it down for Mass, and played the usual syrupy 70s tunes that seem positively out of place in this Gothic style cathedral. Monsignor Dorney gave a sermon about Gandhi. It was excruciating. All in all, it was just a sad and depressing experience. Seeing how the church is run, it is no wonder to me that the school is in the shape it's in.


Anonymous said...

Msgr Dorney actually makes jokes but you have to be listening to get them. He officiated a beautiful baptism for our son and an agnostic friend that I had invited (never been to a baptism) has thanked me several times over the past year for doing that and commented on the ceremony. There was only one priest because Immigration revoked the work visa of the other priest who is an immigrant. They are appealing the decision. I wonder if someone at immigration believes that there is no shortage of American priests.

Staten Pilgrim said...

I'm really not that interested in Monsignor Dorney's, or any other priest's, joke-telling ability. A priest is supposed to be an alter Christus, not a Borscht Belt comedian. I'm interested in a priest's ability to deliver a cogent, informative, relevant, orthodox, educational, and inspirational sermon. I'm looking for a priest who can lead a flock of Catholics and inspire people to love the Faith and come into the Church. Why would St. Peter's need a second priest, when no one goes there?