Peter Quinn’s very interesting article on the political and ideological uses of famine (“Hunger Games,” May 16) makes reference to Yang Jisheng’s Tombstone, a study of the great Chinese famine of c. 1958–61 (almost certainly the greatest famine in human history). But the article refers to him as “Jisheng,” which is his given name; the surname is “Yang.” Only his family and his buddies would have called him “Jisheng.” It would be the same as referring to the current president of China (Xi Jinping) as “Jinping,” or referring to Mao as “Zedong.” Or for that matter, referring to FDR, in a serious book on presidential history, as “Franklin.”

Nicholas Clifford

Middlebury, Vt.


A sign of hope

I truly appreciate Rita Ferrone’s piece on RCIA, “Room at the Font” (May 2). It is as precise and true as anything I have read on the subject. Even though she paints a troubling picture, we have to look for hope somewhere. We should search out areas of pastoral life where clericalism has not had its chilling effect.

Three principal Vatican II documents were supposed to update the church: Sacrosanctum Concilium, Lumen Gentium, and Gaudium et Spes.

By now we should know that the reason the first document has not had its intended effect is because the collegiality of the second document was never allowed to come to fruition.

Many evils flow from clericalism—the sexual-abuse scandals, the stealing of parish funds, and so on—but I am more concerned with what clericalism has done to liturgy. Where might we find hope in response to that kind of clericalism?

There is a parish in Chicago where lay ministry is valued and where the RCIA is carried out to perfection. At Our Lady of Mercy in Albany Park, more than sixty nations are represented and more than forty-six languages are spoken.

At that parish, the Easter Vigil service was celebrated in three tongues: Spanish, English, and Tagalog. It began at 7:30 p.m. and did not conclude until 12:30 in the morning. Not a soul left the service early—so full was the congregation’s participation in the Mass.

It was a celebration of the best of Christianity. What was proclaimed or spoken in one language could be read in the other two on the text given to the congregation. Songs were shared, the words projected on a screen that everyone could see.

Our Lady of Mercy Parish begins First Communion Masses for children in May. They do not end until July. Each celebration is planned by the parents who trained their children in the sacrament. High-school students who want to be confirmed send a letter to the staff indicating their desire for the sacrament and expressing their commitment to two years of instruction before receiving Confirmation. At the end of the letter, they select a ministerial commitment that will allow them to serve the surrounding community.

That is what RCIA was meant to do. The parishioners of Our Lady of Mercy—young and old alike—are invested in the church and committed to carrying out its ministry faithfully.

Of course, those programs didn’t spring up on their own. It took twenty years to develop them, and Fr. Joe Tito has kept them going with his staff for the past twelve years. One hopes they will last forever.

Don Headley

St. Mary of the Woods, Ind.

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Published in the June 1, 2014 issue: View Contents
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