Contact: Christopher Heffron
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March 15, 2005     482 Words

National Pastoral Life Center: Mending Broken Parishes

CINCINNATI—Is your parish looking to extend its outreach to a growing local Hispanic population? Is there conflict between your pastor and lay pastoral ministers? Are parishioners confused by the clergy sex-abuse scandals? Then you might want to look to the National Pastoral Life Center for help. The NPLC is an organization that serves as a bridge over troubled waters by offering conferences for parish ministers, research, consultation, small community development and support for Catholic social ministry leaders. Translation: This organization works to heal and rebuild U.S. parishes.

The NPLC's inception and its mission are featured in the April issue of St. Anthony Messenger, in an article entitled, "The National Pastoral Life Center: Making Better Parishes." Author Peter Feuerherd delves into the history of this organization, as well as its quest to heal the wounds from which many U.S. parishes suffer. After March 23, the article will be found at:

NPLC, which began in 1983, is the brainchild of its founder and guiding force, the late Msgr. Phil Murnion, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York. Msgr. Murnion died of cancer in 2003. He intended NPLC to be a vehicle to guide and inspire parish and social ministry workers around the country and saw parishes as a way to change the world. It was an idealistic dream yet, through its conferences and publications, the venture has succeeded. Father Eugene Lauer, a priest of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, now heads NPLC.

For example, the care and concern of NPLC has extended to the Diocese of Las Cruces, New Mexico. The diocese is located in the southern part of the state, bordering on Mexico. Many of the Catholics there are poor and from immigrant backgrounds.

"They've helped us in just about everything," Bishop Ricardo Ramirez says about NPLC. "What we have learned overall is the emphasis on the parish. That's where the Church happens. If it doesn't happen on the parish level, it doesn't happen."

NPLC's work is varied and ever-changing. Besides the magazine Church, the organization offers publications that provide help for new pastors, advice for parents wanting to share their faith with their children, leadership for lay ministers, tips for servers and lectors, and materials that help those still hurting from the sex-abuse crisis.

It also organizes the Catholic Common Ground Initiative, but its focus remains the smaller details of parish life. The NPLC simply aims to mend the cracks found in many U.S. parishes and celebrate our common ground.

Sacred Heart Sister Catherine Patten, former interim director and current staff member of NPLC, who is spearheading the Common Ground Initiative, puts it simply: "The agency is an attempt to recognize that we are all part of the same Church."


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