Monday, November 19, 2007

The Proselytizing Paulists

I stumbled across this article from TIME in 1958, written on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Paulist Fathers. It gives a profile of a confident, active and growing community.

I won't say more on here (these are the subjects of vigorous discussion in the Novitiate), but it's clear, this doesn't really describe the community as it is now.

[Please don't get hung up on the word "proselyte." In recent usage it's taken a narrower, negative connotation -- of fraudulent, unsavory or immoral means of enticing someone to one's religious beliefs -- which wasn't the case in times past.]
In 1924 the Paulists started the first Catholic radio station in the U.S., WLWL. They pioneered, among religious groups, the use of paid newspaper ads and car cards to attract converts, developed a nationwide mail-order lending library. Two Paulist trailer chapels operate throughout the South during the summer. Today the Paulists number 221 priests and about 150 students preparing for the priesthood. There are 27 Paulist houses, 24 of them in the U.S.
The Jesuits, no mean missionaries themselves, have a healthy respect for the Paulists. The Jesuit weekly America once editorialized: "Many features of our Catholic missionary life in the United States at the present day were first popularized, if not actually invented, by the Paulist Fathers . . . These features were considered novel and rather radical when first proposed, [but] once tried out, they were found so practical that everyone took them for granted, and few remembered any more where they originated."
[For those who care to know, right now the Paulists number some 147 men (those in final profession), of which say, 70-80 are in active ministry, with eight in formation (including the novices). Those aren't very comforting numbers, but this is just reflective the steep decline in religious communities in the last few decades. ]


Mac said...

Who says "proselytise" has any of those nasty connotations you ascribe to it?

Gashwin said...

My bad, I meant, "to proselytize."

mike said...

There's nothing dishonourable about it.