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Web site and stuff on leaving, praying

Find a really large piece of paper for the interminable Web site (http://userwww.sfsu.edu/~rbarzan/welcome.htm/leavingmain.htm) of Robert Barzan, a former Jesuit who left the priesthood in 1987. Priests are still leaving in significant numbers, Barzan says in a news release. He received so many requests for advice that he organized the Web site to help ease their transition to secular life by offering hope and opportunity.

He writes: “Worries about future job opportunities, housing, health care, relationships, emotional support or even opportunities for ministry can make for a fearful situation. All of these issues are addressed at this Web site, and there are helpful links to other sites with more information.”

The Web site material is based on Barzan’s earlier book, Leaving the Priesthood: Practical Advice for Roman Catholic Priests and Religious Men.

John P. Egan also left the ordained priesthood, in 1985. He had long been a peace and justice activist and spent nearly 20 years in an inner-city parish in Jersey City. His writings have on many occasions appeared in NCR.

Now Egan has written a book, A Priest Forever and No More (Fragile Twilight Press, 15 West Eighth St., Barnegat Light N.J. 08006; phone and fax: (609) 361-0962; 90 pages, no price given) on his struggle to leave the priesthood. Or as he writes in the introduction, “one human’s struggle to become whole.” Publisher Barbara Truncellito points out that Egan “was asked to leave the priesthood just after a letter by him was published in NCR.” We are confident that this comment gives us too much credit.

The introduction also has a gracious word for those who stayed: “It needs to be said here that, while I could no longer live authentically without disassociating from the hierarchical priesthood, there are some ordained priests who can and do. ... Many of them are trying to be priests, in the best sense of that word. And in an extremely difficult context they are trying to be human, loving, caring and compassionate.”

Benedictine Sr. Joan Chittister, by contrast, has not yet left the priesthood. Chittister, who is so popular with audiences at home and abroad that she could run for president, has yet another publication to her credit: Living in the Breath of the Spirit: Reflections on Prayer (Benetvision, 355 E. Ninth St., Erie, PA 16503-1107. Phone: (814) 459-5994. E-mail: msbpr@juno.com. Price: $5).

A small booklet by Chittister standards, Living is a series of nuggets about the interior life. “Prayer erupts in the heart at the sight of either the impossibly beautiful or the unbearably difficult. It is, in both cases, a signal of the breakthrough of the divine into the mundane.”

Her gist is, don’t just kneel there, do something. She writes: “ ‘Pray to God but continue to row to the shore,’ the Russian proverb teaches. Dependence on God is not a substitute for our doing God’s will to the utmost. We can pray for peace, for instance, but unless we ourselves do something to bring it, it is an empty prayer, a kind of spiritual blasphemy.”

Word around the San Bernardino, Calif., diocese is that Holy Cross Fr. Ned Reidy, featured in our April 30 issue, is being replaced as chaplain at Christ of the Desert Newman Center. Reidy told NCR that he and Bishop Gerald Barnes are “in dialogue.” Downplaying the situation, the Pathfinder retreat-giving Reidy says the dialogue isn’t surprising, given that he’s been at Christ of the Desert for 19 years and the diocese’s term for a pastor is a maximum of 12.

Reidy told our Arthur Jones that, whatever the outcome, he’d like to remain in the desert giving the Pathfinder retreats.

Civil disobedience and resistance are still very much a part of the Catholic Worker way of life, reports Tom Roberts, who accompanied the latest delegation of Voices in the Wilderness to Iraq to focus attention on the sanctions imposed by the United Nations. The group, mostly Catholic Workers, included Leslie Schultz, Clare Grady and Neil Golder of Ithaca, N.Y.; Jim Clune of Binghamton, N.Y.; John Doughty of Lacuna, N.Y.; Chris Allen-Doucot of Hartford, Conn.; Br. Louis Rodemann and Susan Lee of Kansas City, Mo.; and Mary K. Meyer of Kansas City, Kan. Others with the delegation, led by Kathy Kelly of Chicago, were Jeff Guntzel, who works with Voices; Ahmed El-Sherif of Leawood, Kan.; and journalists Cheryl Wittenauer of Kansas City, Mo., and Pedro Brieger of Argentina.

-- Michael Farrell

National Catholic Reporter, May 21, 1999