Church moves meeting outside to allow rabbi to attend


As they had for the past several years, parishioners at St. Cronan’s Catholic Church had invited Rabbi Susan Talve of Central Reform Congregation to teach at the Advent Vespers service at their south side house of worship.

“We love having Susan and (Rabbi) Randy (Fleisher) with us because the text for the Christian church during Advent is Isaiah. Who better than our Jewish rabbi friends to break open the Isaiah text and to teach us something about it?” said Sister Louise Lears, a member of the congregation’s pastoral team.

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This year, however, there was a hitch. Days before the service, church leaders said they received a call from Archbishop Raymond Burke requesting that Talve’s invitation be withdrawn. The Archdiocese had earlier said that it would no longer partner with CRC on interfaith activities after the synagogue hosted an event last month in which two women were ordained as priests in a ceremony strongly condemned by the Catholic Church, which does not recognize the ordination of women.

Lears said that canon law gives the archbishop the right to decide who may or may not teach inside the Archdiocese’s buildings.

Still, the congregation did not wish to exclude Talve.

“We could not have said, ‘No, don’t come, Susan,'” said Marcy Soda, a member of the parish council. “We just couldn’t do that.”

The congregation’s solution to leaving Talve out in the cold?

They went out there with her.

Talve taught and sang at the prayer meeting as usual — but she did so across the street and off church property, beneath a tarp erected to protect her and more than 100 parishioners from the frigid wind and rain.

Joe Connolly, a parishioner who attended the Dec. 12 event said it was not in any way a protest.

“It was a spiritual experience,” he said. “It wasn’t a political experience. It was a human experience of people of two faiths meeting under a tent and worshipping God.”

Tom Mullen, a parishioner at the church since 1990, agreed.

“There was no rancor,” Mullen said. “There was no bitterness or anything like that. It truly was a prayer service.”

Calling the event “beautiful,” Talve said she felt warmly welcomed by the church despite the chilly weather.

“It’s something I’ve done for many years,” she said later. “I was asked to do it and it was a lovely service.”

She also said that there was “no intention in anyone’s heart to hurt anybody or to be insulting in any way.”

“I think one of the things it shows is that we’ve made a lot of friends,” she said. “We’ve made real allies in the Christian community. It was a demonstration of real friendship on both sides.”

Mullen said the event was memorable for more than just the weather.

“I’ve heard her (Talve) before but never quite as eloquently as she was this particular night. She was just magnificent,” he said. “There were people there who I know shouldn’t be there. They were ill but they felt that they had to be there as I did, that it was a very, very important event and it gave us a chance to show our spirit and particularly the spirit of hospitality.”

The Archdiocese had no comment on the service, saying that it did not feel it was appropriate to speak about an event which did not take place on church property.