Frustrated in Ministry

Posted by

Our parish, which has many young families and children, hosted a workshop on parenting by Syd & Ellen Kessler, authors of the book: The Perfect System of Parenting. We advertised this workshop in our parish bulletin, in the Sunday announcements at Mass, on our website, all for the last 5 weeks. We also had the workshop on the Archdiocesan website and in the bulletins of the other local parishes. Finally, a flyer about the event was sent home with the over 400 children in our local Catholic school. Now guess how many people showed up for the event? 25. I must admit I find that very disappointing.

The evening, February 26th 2008, did include a little bit of blowing snow but it was hardly a snow storm. And in fact the crowd (?) that did come together did not include what I call the “usual suspects”. We have in our parish some faithful parishioners who support everything the parish does. The are amazing and real examples of fidelity. Our parish would not be what it is today without them. However, this event was geared to a little bit of a younger crowd. It was an attempt to connect with parents who perhaps do not usually come to such events.

I am grateful for the people who did attend, but I wonder where the others were? It can’t be the advertising. Did we need to have baby-sitting during the event? Do younger people not see the connection between the church and life, besides the occasional Sunday mass? I must say that it makes me question our efforts to make our parish parent/children friendly. Is it worth the effort?


  1. It’s probably the lack of babysitting combined with a school/work night. At our church we learned the hard way too that, if we want parents to show up, we have to provide babysitting. Saturdays are also much easier (day or evening).

  2. Friar Rick, your frustration is well founded with all the efforts you’ve put into it. But, don’t be discouraged. Maybe it’s right time to attach an instant ministry “Baby Sitting” to
    “Perfect Parenting” workshop.

    Why don’t we create a “Drop-In Box” to let parents express the reasons for not attending the workshop. It’s good to know from them to help resolve why attendance is low. Maybe next time will be better. Iwill volunter to “baby sit” if this is the main problem. I am good in taking care of babies… I am proud of this skill.

    Sorry Fr. Rick, for offering some suggestion, that is to help ease out your frustration……… I am sure next time will be better.

  3. I missed something to say. Look at it in another angle. Success cannot be measured by quantity all the time. I am sure this 25 people will have a multiplier effects to their children’s children or even friends.

    That number is doubled of the first disciples of Jesus, and look what happened? I am positive that this ministry will turn out to be better. Just have a little patient. People can always change their minds and might feel the need for it in the future especially if you include that it goes with “babysitting.”I am trying to see things from another perspective being a member of this parish. Thanks again.

  4. Maybe people stayed away because this “system of parenting” offered nothing to Catholic parents on how to raise children up in the faith.

    One has to wonder what sort of advice Syd and Ellen Kessler could offer Catholic parents, being that they are themselves Jewish, New Age entrepreneurs who are deeply involved with the “Kaballah Centre.” This centre, you’ll recall, is the scary cult which sucked in Madonna, Demi Moore, Roseanne Barr, et al, and is Scientology’s chief competitor in Hollywood. The cult has a branch in Yorkville selling books, (including Kesslers’) tapes, magic trinkets and “blessed water” at 5 dollars an ounce. I call it pure snake oil. The “Perfect System” Mr. Kessler is pushing is based on his personal opinions mixed in with a smattering of pantheistic pseudoscience. He purports to show how people can apply simple, unchanging “laws of the universe” for living well and achieving “true and long-lasting fulfillment.” They’ve recruited their son, Jacob, into the family business, and he’s established the “Kabbalah Club” at the University of Toronto.

    Even if their talk at Bonaventure was just parenting, it’s the thin edge of a wedge. The central underpinnings of Syd and Ellen Kessler’s “system” directly contradicts Catholic teaching on family. WHY are they teaching at any Catholic parish???

    Procreation mean the begetting and raising of children. Raising means God calls parents as the prime movers in forming the intellectual, physical, moral and spiritual education of HIS children. Parents, therefore, desperately need the Church to transmit the purity and truth of Jesus Christ’s teachings without apology. When I got tired of policing our former priest’s endless un-catholic initiatives, my husband and I took our family to a parish where the priest understood what a Catholic family must do to survive in the modern world, and where we could hear homilies suggesting, say, that we offer morning and evening prayers together or read the bible together.

    As a parent, it breaks my heart that some priests are passing off their apostolic teaching role to busybody catechesis committees which will inevitably ignore the Churchs’ teaching on the family and book new age hustlers to spread false teachings. It’s so, so sad. The church has, in its spiritual treasury, the richest, most beautiful truths which await the new parent, but all that is “pre-conciliar” and shunted aside in favour of pop psychology, fads and in this case, Kabbalist new age confusion.

    Thank-you, Friar Rick, for pointing that the Kesslers are now pitching their wares to the diocese-I had heard of them, but I had no idea they established this beachhead. I’ll be getting together with our parish parents group the first week off March and I will suggest we write a letter to the archbishop regarding this travesty.

  5. Let us not forget that all Christians are spiritual Jews and that our faith owes quite a debt to theirs. Your notions of the Kabbalist way of life are misguided and quite frankly insulting. Maybe you should venture beyond the pages of wikepedia and US weekly next time you want to criticize another inidividual’s way of life. Even you, Ms. Murillo could stand to learn a great deal from the Kesslers and their wonderful approach to parenting. So take a break from shoving religious dogma down your poor children’s throats and spend five minutes talking to Syd and Ellen Kessler. You will surely find that their parenting viewpoints are universal. Much like one of the four marks of our Church. Catholic. Meaning universal. Not close minded and critical of other religions. I’ll be sure to see you at the parish parents group meeting. I will bring my ideas on how to rid the the world of calculating Kabbalists out to brainwash Catholic children.

  6. Perhaps Christians are spiritual Jews but what does that have to do with the issue here? Insofar as the Kesslers are shilling for the North American “Kaballah Center,” they’re the spiritual heirs of P.T. Barnum, not Judaism and therefore, they they have NO PLACE in a Catholic Church. I’ll make it my business to have our group sit down with archbishop on this one.

    A little background for readers…The founder of this cult is a guy named Shraga Feivel Gruberger, who now goes by the name of Philip Berg. A onetime insurance salesman, Berg left his wife and 7 kids to marry his former secretary. The Bergs began preaching his version of Jewish mystical enlightenment to naive students in Israel and eventually became so revered that some of his followers believed he had the power to resurrect the dead. He’s come a long way since, and created a Star-Bucks-like brand out of an ancient branch of Judaism and stocked his gift shops with all manner of overpriced schlock which, he assures us, will help us find our lost children, cure our illnesses, enrich our pocketbooks, make us sexual superstars and bring true love.

    But before you get all these blessings, you’ll have to shell out BIG dollars for some ridiculous spiritual products. Some that I’ve personally seen are as follows: Red string bracelets to ward off the “evil eye”, scented “Sexual Energy” candles; Kabbalah “Holy” water; baby crib sheets featuring protective Hebrew lettering, (That’ll be $280 please…) diamond necklaces bearing symbols to “attract” healing, love, and money; magic amulets and booklets rebranding Jewish mysticism as a user-friendly mix of Carl-Rogers style common sense with the Butterfly Effect.

    They’ll continue raking in millions from the credulous hoping for a cheap grace to better their material world. Oh, and Eric? I’m not the only one saying this. Open your eyes. Pretty well every mainstream jewish organization condemns the “Kaballah Center” and it’s pushy New Age sales force. They don’t even dignify the movement by calling it Kaballah, they refer to it simply as “Bergism.” While a couple of Berg’s concepts are borrowed from tradition, his overall teachings are a subversion of real Kabbalah, and the Kabbalah Centre teaches the antithesis of real Kaballah. “Bergism” has been denounced by the chief rabbis of Great Britain, South Africa, the United States and Canada. It’s been called “dangerous,” “cheap,” and “pagan.” Rabbi Yuval Sherlo, of an Israeli hesder yeshiva, spoke for many when he said, during the 3,000-strong Kabbalah Centre pilgrimage to Israel last September, “It’s hard for me to express in words how much I despise this festival and to what extent it has nothing to do with Kabbalah.”

    So Eric, I don’t need to “spend five minutes talking with the Kesslers” because invariably they’ll tell me that I’ve been misled about my precious Jesus and his protection of my family and children. They’re “perfect system” is going to tell me Jesus was just a “catalyst” channeling an all-denominational “higher being” whose goal seems to be to make families feel a sense of connection which doesn’t affect their “lifestyle choices.” Kosher Scientology? No thanks…

  7. Sarah, you still haven’t answered my question. Why do you think that their system “directly” contradicts Catholic teaching on the family?

    Also… I need to remind you to be careful of the language you use in this blog (e.g. they’re the spiritual heirs of P.T. Barnum, not Judaism and therefore, they they have NO PLACE in a Catholic Church). This is your second and final warning. I am sure you can make your point and still show respect. It’s the only way that we can continue this dialogue.

    And please, do meet with the Archbishop. But please, stop throwing references around about the Archbishop, as if to threaten those who disagree with you. It just cheapens your point of view.

    You write well and have some valid points to make. When you threaten and insult it just detracts from what you are saying and we end up focusing on that rather than your point.

    I would really appreciate an answer to my first question.

  8. I challenge you to find anything within the Kessler’s book that contradicts Catholic doctrine. The book is about parenting and is not meant to impress unsuspecting readers into the Kabbalist way of life. Have you read it yet? Or do you still live in fear of being duped into conversion. The Kesslers are not ruthless missionaries out to convert the masses. Although, the Catholic Church once was. They did not come to our church to preach the Zohar or sell the parishioners stylish red bracelets. Rather, they came to speak about their experiences as parents and pass on the knowledge they have gained to others. Must every ounce of education be Catholic packaged and approved.

  9. I can satisfactorily answer your challenge, Fr. Rick-its pretty clear how the Kessler’s “perfect system” perfectly contradicts Catholic teaching on the family, but I’d like to to say something beforehand if I may.

    I apologize for any language in my replies that crosses the line. However strong my language, my views align with, and show respect for mainstream Judaism. Judaism’s legitimate leaders use even more colorful language to condemn the followers and spreaders of Bergism.

    I feel strongly about this issue because too often in today’s Catholic parish, pop-psychology dross is being sold in place of the pure gold of Christ’s salvation. I expect Christ to be denied in our schools, in academia, in Parliament–I expect yoga instead of Yahweh whenever Oprah is on, but for the love of God, why is my family is denied Christ in the parish, which is supposed to be His house? Isn’t the Church our refuge? Isn’t the parish the one last place in our post-Christian civilization where Catholics can still hear of the Good News?

    In John 6:36, Jesus institutes the Eucharist –”He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise him up on the last day…” but many who up until then followed Him, now rejected His hard saying. They were offended, and asked themselves “who can follow it?” Jesus had the opportunity right there to modify His strange, “cannibalistic” command into something softer, more metaphorical and more upbeat. Jesus refused. He merely asks “Do you take offence at this?” (John 6:61) Hard sayings are part of God’s truth and Jesus proclaimed them without excuse knowing that most of His followers would not appreciate the plane of perfection upon which His Father operates, and abandon Him. (John 6:64-7).

    It was wrong to say the Kesslers are the heirs of P.T. Barnum, because the origin of their message goes back much further. Properly speaking, they’re the spiritual heirs of those 1st century jaundiced jews who rejected Jesus’ hard sayings and wandered off into the desert seeking an easier way. Their descendents are legion still roam among us. Occasionally they even come into our churches, denying the Good News in favour of the fun news, the easy news, and the materially enriching news.

    Which brings us to John 6: 66 and the apostles who wavered at his hard sayings. Jesus asked them: “Will you also go away?” Do not read Jesus’ living words as a static historical question-it was, and is, an active, burning question for all the successors of the apostles… Believe that on that snowbound Tuesday evening at Bonaventure, Jesus was with you, Fr. Rick, asking what he asked the first apostles in John 6.

    Did your actions echo Simon Peter… “To whom shall we go, Lord? You have the words of eternal life.” or did your actions align yourself with the descendents of His deniers…”This is a hard saying, who can listen to it? In life, our choices ARE our answers. And the choice that night was that the Kesslers spoke at length about a “perfect system” of raising children which, it turned out, had nothing to do with inviting Jesus into their lives.

  10. “…spiritual heirs of those 1st century jaundiced jews…” Sorry Sarah, that was unnecessary. I’ve just noticed your IP is the same as G Shelly…. a commentator on this blog who was banned for inappropriate comments. How interesting… playing games with the friar, eh! You’re out of here!

  11. Some very interesting comments in this section!

    Rick, I am eternally grateful to have you as my pastor and I will always try my best to support your efforts at the parish. Keep doing what you’re doing. Some things will work, some won’t. Life goes on.

    However, the presentation by the Kesslers was weak. I thought Syd was an interesting and intelligent speaker but he spent next to no time discussing parenting techniques and solutions. He spent 95% of the presentation explaining “cause and effect”, “fulfillment” and “first cause”. His wife appeared to have things to say about parenting, but she hardly spoke. Perhaps – in some strange or not so strange way – this thing didn’t attract many people because, inherently, it was not very good.

    I always gauge things like this by my wife’s reactions. She is as easy-going a person as one can meet, never digs in her heels on any ideological position and lives by the adage “live and let live”. Her reaction? The presentation was not very helpful.

    In regards to Sarah’s comments, I must admit, she articulated – very intelligently and very passionately – a pretty sound argument about keeping the parish focused on our rich Catholic faith. As someone with an orthodox Catholic bent, I was nodding my head a lot as I read her posts.

    On the other hand, while she made some valid points, her tone was uncharitable, a little heavy and, dare I say, dogmatic. I think a number of her comments weren’t fair and her concern that the Kessler’s presentation is a “beachhead” that somehow threatens our parish is rooted in irrational fear. My impression of the Kesslers was far from “heavy handed New Age sales force”. They struck me as kind, gentle, generous, intelligent and very thoughtful people trying their best to help.

    Sometimes I think people who love the Catholic faith and the beauty of it’s truth – the way that Sarah and I do – get fearful when they perceive a threat (real or not). Let’s face it, the Catholic faith takes enough of a beating and mocking in popular culture and in the mainstream that it’s hard not to feel that way sometimes. I’m reading Syd’s book “The Perfect System” and it’s interesting. That’s all. It’s not going to corrupt my faith. Kessler’s book sits next to B16’s “Jesus of Nazareth” on my night table but it doesn’t compete… it’s not even in the same ballpark.

    Sarah, don’t worry, the Kesslers are certainly no threat. Neither is this New Age Kaballah stuff. If you really believe in the truth of the Catholic faith – as I do – trust that it will always survive. In some ages, it will be a prominent cultural force (for whatever that is worth) and, in other ages, it will exist as a humble and, arguably, more pure and powerful force.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s