The St. Louis Post-Dispatch conducted an interview with His Grace Archbishop Carlson to coincide with the first anniversary of his installation in Saint Louis. The interview covers a range of topics, and can be read in full at the link above. There are a few interesting items, though, which I will excerpt below:
Archbishop Robert J. Carlson celebrates a busy, if quiet, first year
By Tim Townsend
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
When he arrived in St. Louis last June, Archbishop Robert Carlson pledged to make no major changes in his first year on the job.
“The last thing you want to do is come in and pretend like you have all the answers,” he said at the time.
The past year has been busy, if relatively quiet, for Carlson — especially when compared with his predecessor’s first year.
Shortly after Archbishop Raymond Burke arrived in 2004, he said he would not give Communion to Sen. John Kerry, a Catholic and potential Democratic presidential candidate that fall. An eventful initial year had begun. Next came the beginning of the St. Stanislaus saga, painful parish closings and controversy over Burke’s teaching on voting and sin.
In an interview with the Post-Dispatch on Friday, Carlson said one constant between the Burke and Carlson eras was a focus on Kenrick-Glennon Seminary. Both bishops are considered talented recruiters of men to the priesthood.
In February, the archdiocese announced it had raised $61 million in a six-month campaign toward refurbishing Kenrick’s physical structure and increasing its endowment. Carlson said $1.6 million came from priests.
In April, he removed Kenrick’s rector since 2002, Monsignor Ted Wojcicki, and later assigned him to be the pastor at the 4,000-family Immaculate Conception Parish in Dardenne Prairie. Carlson assigned an interim rector at the seminary while he conducts a national search for Wojcicki’s replacement.
Carlson cited two reasons for the move: He needed someone with Wojcicki’s talent to manage a church the size of Immaculate Conception, and “I thought it was time to bring someone in with new ideas.”
In the last year, 15 other dioceses and two religious orders have sent their seminarians to Kenrick. Carlson said he wanted the bishops in those dioceses to have a chance at sending one of their priests to Kenrick to be rector.
“We may very well decide on someone from St. Louis,” Carlson said. “But if you’re going to invite 10 or 11 or 12 or 15 dioceses — as we do — to send their people (to Kenrick), then you better let them know that it’s OK, every once in a while, to take over the leadership there.”
[On St. Stan’s]
“I initiated some outreach, but unfortunately, it’s not near being resolved yet,” he said. “My goal is to get it resolved as soon as we can because I think churches have to be about reconciliation. But we’re not there yet.”
[On Management Structure]
Carlson made news soon after arriving by naming a lay woman to one of the most important positions in his administration. By making longtime aide Nancy Werner the archdiocesan chancellor, Carlson broke a 174-year-old tradition in the archdiocese of naming a priest to that job.
Carlson has also begun putting together “ministry teams” of employees from different departments to try to get ideas flowing bottom to top, and laterally, rather than top-down, he said.
[On Communication with Priests]
Carlson cribbed an idea from the late Cardinal John O’Connor, archbishop of New York, that has been a hit with priests, he said. On most Fridays, Carlson opens the bishop’s residence on Lindell to priests from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
[On Catholic Schools]
Carlson, a former youth minister, said he was focused on the health of the Catholic school system in St. Louis. That system, he said, is the largest in Missouri and the seventh-largest Catholic school system in the United States. The archdiocese is only the 38th-largest diocese in the country.
“We have that tremendous system, but how are we going to continue that into the future?” he said. “That’s obviously something that’s on my plate, big time.”
[On Adjusting to St. Louis]
The archbishop said that fitting into the St. Louis way of life was easy, and that “the roots of the faith” here “are very deep.”
“Just because I thought people may want to know who I am, I wore my Roman collar to the ballpark the first few times I went. People would come up to me and say, ‘Are you the new bishop?’ I’d say, ‘Yes, I am.’ And they’d say, ‘Welcome to St. Louis.'”
A follow-up story on Monday in the Post contained this rather noteworthy excerpt:
…Carlson said the relative quiet he’s experienced in his first year, compared with the controversies addressed by his predecessor in St. Louis, Archbishop Raymond Burke, was partly “the luck of the Irish.” But he also said his management style has contributed to the calmer waters.
“If you listen, if you work with people in developing strategies, if you’re concerned about reconciliation — things which have always been important to me as a pastor,” he said, “then I think, it’s not that there’s not issues to face, or problems to be addressed, but you do it as a team. And when you do that, I think you have greater peace.”
Burke had a strained relationship with St. Louis University’s president, the Rev. Lawrence Biondi. He resigned from the board of Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center Foundation over the appearance of singer Sheryl Crow at a benefit concert because of her support for embryonic stem cell research. And he battled the leadership of St. Stanislaus Kostka parish in St. Louis over ownership of the church’s assets and property throughout his tenure.
Carlson said Sunday he’d been working toward reconciliation on those fronts.
“I’m working very closely with St. Louis University,” he said. “I’m back on the board at Cardinal Glennon. I’ve been a promoter of reconciliation between St. Stanislaus and the archdiocese. We’re not there yet, but every journey begins with a first step. Maybe that would characterize my year.” […]