Life issues is the biggest problem facing the Church in the Archdiocese of Miami. The third highest number of abortions in the country take place within the territory that is the Archdiocese of Miami, especially Dade and Broward Counties. It also has one of the largest populations of refugees in the country and one of the highest number of people living in poverty in the USA and it’s getting worse, because of the job shortage. Miami has one of the highest percentages of unemployment in the country and the cost of living is on the rise, while the services and benefits to the poor are on the decline.
The Archiocese also has two Catholic universities that need desperate attention and serious financial problems that are only going to get worse with population shifts. The middle and upper income families are shifting to two ends of the diocese leaving most of the parishes with the elderly and the impoverished immigrants.
Religious communities of women have practically all left the Archdiocese. They still have a very large number of religious brothers, but there is no telling how long they can afford to keep them. Right now there is one brother to every two priests, which is the highest ratio in the country. But the sisters could not stay, because of the growing number of sisters who are older. The younger sisters had to go where they could make enough money to support their retired and sick sisters. The Catholic schools in the Archdiocese could not support the sisters without undue hardship on the parents.
The good news is that Bishop Favalora helped found a diocesan congregation of sisters that is growing in leaps and bounds. Hopefully, they will be able to fill in many slots reducing the operatin expenses of many parishes and other diocesan ministries.
It is one of the few dioceses in the country that has special institutions for the deaf, the blind, and the mentally retarded. It also has five pregnancy centers with full services run by over two hundred lay volunteers, religious brothers, deacons and priests. They run chastity days for Catholic school youth, parent education for those expecting babies, healing ministry and retreats for post-abortion parents and they teach the Gospel of Life in as many parishes as they can reach in a year. Despite all of this, the ministry also needs the attention of the bishop, because the need is increasing incredibly. Planned Parenthood is is growing in leaps and bounds. They have now opened up a “spa” in Miami. It’s a fancy word for a super abortion center.
The large Catholic population of the Archdiocese also had an additional need for hospital chaplains. In the Archdiocese there are over 20 major hospitals, two of them Catholic and the others are private, except for one Baptist and one Jewish hospital. But most of the patients are Catholic, because the Hispanic, Hatian, Korean and Irish population is very large.
There are many men entering the diaconate program and many brothers. But very few men are looking at the secular priesthood. Those who enter the priesthood join religious orders. The religious orders can send them anywhere in their provinces.
Then there are the unexpected crises that occur. This past year the Archdiocese invested millions of dollars helping out the Hatians who came here as a result of the earthquake and they also sent a lot of money to Haiti.
The good thing is that Bishop Wenski is a local boy. He was born and raised in this area. He was stationed here for many years before going to Orlando. He knows the terrain. Everyone is very glad that the Archiocese will have a younger man coming. Bishop Favalora was getting tired and you could tell, even though he never complained.
It’s an interesting Archdiocese, because it is not large in territory as are other dioceses such as Boston, NY, Chigaco, Philadelphia, LA or Toronto. But it is very diverse, very populated and exploding every day, with new problems and challenges for the Church. But the greatest problem has been the abortion explosion. Although, the Respect Life Ministry of the Archdiocese has been very effective in bringing down abortions, the area was in second place in the nation and has moved into third place. That’s a good sign. The laity in the Archdiocese and the bishops have taken an interest in that ministry. Bishop Wenski will be incredible, because he is very invested in the Gospel of Life. He is younger and has a lot of energy.
Despite the many negative things that people say about Archbishop Favalora, he has done a lot of good things for the unborn, the disabled, the elderly and the poor. He also has a strong interest in the young. The young people of the Archiocese love going to his annual liturgy for the confirmandi. He fills the Cathedral. There is not even standing room. It’s all tweens. They alwasy give him a big cheer. I have attended two of those liturgies and he has strong skills communicating with the young. You can tell that he is a natural teacher. Of course that was one of his higher degrees. He has an M.Ed. He uses it well to communicate with kids.
I always feel badly when I see only the negatives said about anyone, but especially about bishops. So many of them have very special talents that are never mentioned or have accomplished things that are never mentioned in the media or in public forums. I for one will miss Archbishop Favalora. He has a contagious smile and I have never seen the man be rude or mean to anyone. He’s actually a very friendly man. But he deserves a rest and to enjoy life while he has good health. I know that Bishop Wenski will be great for the area, especially for the unborn and the poor.
Br. JR, OSF