Century Marks

Century Marks

Mass attendance

A group of Catholics in the Detroit area is sponsoring “mass mobs” one Sunday a month at churches where attendance is typically sparse. On a designated mass Sunday, attendance swells—up to 2,000 at one church, which netted an offering of more than $19,000, ten times the usual amount. One parishioner said she hoped the movement would encourage more Catholics to attend mass. Similar movements have been started in Catholic churches in other cities (NPR, October 9).

Room for the dead

Cemetery crowding, especially in large cities or among religious groups that forbid cremation, is becoming a problem worldwide, forcing some creative solutions. Residents of Mexico City must exhume and remove their relatives’ remains after a number of years. A Tower for the Dead project is in the works there: it will include a vertical necropolis along with a subterranean complex 820 feet deep. A simpler solution is to stack graves on top of each other and to share tombstones. Other options being considered are stacking the dead above the ground in niches built into a wall or housing the dead in buildings with each floor resembling a traditional cemetery (AP).

Preemptive action

An Alcohol­ics Anonymous group that has been meeting in a Baptist church in Keithville, Louisiana, for more than five years was told that it can no longer meet there. The church is forcing the group out for fear that if it lets nonchurch groups use the building, it could be forced to let it be used for the marriage of gays or lesbians. The pastor said the church was acting on the advice of an article in the Louisiana Baptist Church Message. A spokesperson for People Acting for Change and Equality said the church’s action is misguided. “Even if we have legalized gay marriage throughout the country, no church will be forced to marry gay people if they don’t want to,” she said (KSLA News, September 25).

Women in gray

Fighting for the poor and disadvantaged isn’t an aberration for the nuns on the Nuns on the Bus tour, led by Sister Simone Campbell. Their order, the Sisters of Social Service, was founded in Hungary in 1923 with a commitment to social justice. Their founder was the first woman elected to the Hungarian parliament. Another member was executed by the Nazis for hiding Jews in her hostel and was beatified by Pope Benedict in 2006. The order is credited with having spared the lives of at least 1,000 Jews during the Hitler era. From their beginning they’ve worn a simple gray suit that ordinary women might wear, not a habit (Harper’s, August).

Last choice?

Compassion & Choices, a death with dignity group, recently polled a representative group of likely California voters, asking how they’d vote on a measure to give terminally ill people who are of sound mind the right to request a life-ending medication. Nearly two-thirds said they’d vote in favor of it, including 53 percent of Republicans. Ignacia Castuera, a United Methodist minister and a Compassion & Choices board member, believes baby boomers are going to want that choice when they reach the end of life. Previous death with dignity efforts in California have been defeated with the help of religious groups, including the Catholic Church. Five states now have provisions for assisted suicide or assisted dying (Los Angeles Times, September 30).