Eucharistic Revival, a New Cardinal, and ‘Father Stu’


 As 5,000 faithful in procession launched the National Eucharistic Revival in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, daily Mass continued to transform a Catholic school in Covington, Kentucky, and a feature film on the life of Father Stuart Long hit theaters. In 2022, 22% of all new priests ordained in the U.S. were Latino. 
As 5,000 faithful in procession launched the National Eucharistic Revival in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, daily Mass continued to transform a Catholic school in Covington, Kentucky, and a feature film on the life of Father Stuart Long hit theaters. In 2022, 22% of all new priests ordained in the U.S. were Latino.  (photo: Courtesy photos / Archdiocese of Los Angeles/Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend/Father Daniel Schomaker/Sony)

While the momentous Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v. Wade stood out as the high point of 2022, the year seemed to be overshadowed to some extent by the narrative of the continuing decline of social values in the U.S.

The news regarding the Catholic Church seemed to be similarly mixed. While peppered by stories of transition and muddle, with little finality, there were many bright lights, such as the ongoing initiatives of the Eucharistic Revival and the Synod on Synodality, the increase in Latino priests and the inauguration of a college that caters to the trades.

Earlier this year, President Joe Biden nominated Ketanji Brown Jackson to the U.S. Supreme Court. Jackson, now 52 and the court’s first Black woman, was confirmed by Congress in June, joining the court’s three-member liberal minority. As the Register reported, the current court majority has narrowly expanded religious liberty in several recent cases but has been reluctant to make sweeping changes.

The November elections led to a divided Congress, with a narrow Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives and a narrow Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate. The rising tide of gender ideology has become perhaps the hottest of hot-button social issues. Catholic schools have struggled to find a balance between Church teaching that human sexuality is an immutable gift from God and the reality that some students are announcing gender “transitions.” While some dioceses are laying down clear directives — and getting backlash for it — many are not. In mid-November, a Dutch cardinal said the Pope should issue an encyclical on gender.

About 22% of all priests ordained in the country in 2022 were Latinos. It’s the highest percentage ever. Yet since Latinos now make up about 45% of Catholics in the United States, they are still underrepresented in the priesthood. Observers say that Latino families tend to steer their children toward marriage and family life. Poverty is also a factor, as is the high number of illegal immigrants — who can’t go to seminary in the United States with that status.

In August, Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego became the first diocesan bishop in the United States to become a cardinal without being a metropolitan archbishop. Cardinal McElroy, 68, is now the youngest of the 10 U.S. cardinals below age 80 and therefore currently eligible to vote for the next pope.

In November, the country’s bishops elected Archbishop Timothy Broglio to a three-year term as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), succeeding Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles. Archbishop Broglio, who turned 71 in late December, heads the Archdiocese for the Military Services. He is also a member of the board of directors of the National Catholic Bioethics Center. Among his goals is fostering unity among bishops, who are divided on several matters, including whether Catholic politicians who support abortion should be allowed to receive Communion.

In September, the USCCB released a report on what Catholics in various dioceses have said during the past year about how the Church is governed, as part of the worldwide Synod on Synodality. Bishops are scheduled to meet in Rome in October 2023. Pope Francis calls the synod “an exercise in mutual listening” and an opportunity to increase the number of voices in the Church’s decision-making. Skeptics worry about how the process is being managed and where it is headed when it comes to Church teachings on marriage and human sexuality.

Some of the problems facing the Church aren’t about doctrine. In October, The Catholic Project at The Catholic University of America released a report finding a wide gulf between priests and bishops. The survey found that 82% of priests regularly fear being falsely accused of sexual abuse. Some 92% of U.S. bishops surveyed said they would help priests with their personal struggles “very well” if asked for help, but only 36% of diocesan priests thought the same.

A gap also exists between clergy and laity. While church attendance among Catholics in the United States has dropped steadily since the 1960s, it dropped precipitously in 2020, after the coronavirus shutdowns, as many Catholics stopped attending. That situation continued into 2022 — with some dioceses averaging a 30% drop in attendance.

The United States incarcerates about 2 million people. Within five years, more than 70% of them are arrested again. What should be done? In March, the Register published a story quoting experts. Some emphasized rehabilitation, alternative sentencing, and even gradually abolishing prisons. Others called for more support for police and punishment so that poor people in tough neighborhoods aren’t victimized as much by crime.

How do you transform a Catholic school in an urban setting where many of the kids come from poor families damaged by drug addiction, divorce, and criminal activity? In 2017, a new pastor in Covington, Kentucky, implemented a daily 8am Mass. The pastor, Father Daniel Schomaker, told the Register he has seen a change in the kids’ prayer life, behavior, emotions and engagement with God.

The Register in August reported on the new college-level institute named after St. Joseph the Worker, which will open in 2023. The Ohio-based institute will train its students in the trades while integrating Catholic studies, all at a level that will not burden the student or his family.

In April, Father Stu premiered. The movie is based on the life of Father Stuart Long (1963-2014), a former boxer from Montana who went from hedonist to Catholic convert to Catholic priest — and heard confessions at his nursing home while dying from a rare progressive muscular disorder. The movie drew praise for its honest and compelling portrayal and criticism for its prodigious profanity. A cleaner version called Father Stu: Reborn was released in early December.

Conversion never gets old or repetitive. Or unsurprising, for that matter. In August, Notre Dame’s football coach, Marcus Freeman, quietly entered the Catholic Church, before making it public a few weeks later.

Also in August, actor Shia LaBeouf, 36, told Bishop Robert Barron he had converted to the Catholic faith. That’s quite a journey after a life that has included graphic sex scenes in movies, alcohol addiction, plagiarism, accusations by former girlfriends of physical and sexual abuse, and serious thoughts of suicide.

“My life was on fire. I was walking out of hell,” LaBeouf told Bishop Barron. What brought him to the faith? To prepare for a role as Padre Pio in a movie that was shown at a film festival earlier this year, LaBeouf lived in a monastery with Capuchin Franciscans — and found God.

‘Aerial View of Vatican City at Twilight’

2023: The Year in Review (Jan. 6)

This week on Register Radio, we look back at the top stories of 2023 with Register Editor in Chief Shannon Mullen. Then Senior Editor Jonathan Leidl joins host Jeanette DeMelo from Rome to discuss ‘Fiducia Supplicans’ and the impact it will have on Pope Francis’ legacy.