Input from Our Readers: Pastoral Planning and Dogs in Church

BCI has been asked by readers to cover several topics, and we would like to ask readers to share their perspectives on two of them.

1. Pastoral Planning Plan and Process: If you are a priest or parish employee, how do you feel about the proposed plan and process so far?  By means of an example, one reader posted the following comment yesterday:

“I hope BCI will soon get into the recent week of meetings held in Braintree with various groups of parish employees who serve as business managers, principals, religious education directors, pastoral assistants, etc. regarding Pastoral Planning.  They were a nightmare almost as much of a nightmare as the new payroll company that was imposed on all parishes.”

This is a strong statement from one individual, which may or may not necessarily represent the feelings of everyone.  BCI is hearing very mixed feedback.  We are definitely hearing that the level of angst and anxiety out there is increasing. Some pastors are in a “wait and see” mode and are eager to provide input towards the planning process.  Many pastors are justifiably concerned that pastors will have to resign from their roles as part of this plan. Many of those who are currently pastors will not be pastors in the new plan going forward.  What role the pastors will play in the overall decision-making process is unclear, because there has not been any communication to them about what their role will be. Some pastors feel the plan is a bad one.

If you are a parish employee, priest or pastor, you can share your thoughts anonymously either via comments on this post or via the Contact Us form.  (The Contact Us form asks for a name and email address, but you can  write without using your real name or real email address–we still get the message, but just cannot respond). There is reason to believe the Archdiocese does want input to make this process better, so if you feel something is wrong or broken in the process or plan, please also suggest what you think should be done better or differently.

2. Dogs in the Sanctuary 

In follow-up of this USA Today article, “Pooches Take the Pulpit,” we have heard of two parishes in the Boston Archdiocese where the pastors apparently allow the parish dogs in the sanctuary during the offering of Mass or other sacraments–St. Mary in Charlestown and St. Bridget in Maynard.

BCI likes dogs and has no complaint about there being a “parish dog” who lives in the rectory and performs his or her “business” outside of the rectory or on exterior parish grounds. But BCI does not see where it is at all appropriate to have a dog in the sanctuary at any time, let alone during the offering of Mass or sacraments.

If you are familiar with either of these situations or any other in the Boston Archdiocese where a dog (or other parish pet) is routinely allowed in the sanctuary during the offering of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass or during other sacraments, please feel free to comment or drop us an email.

39 Responses to Input from Our Readers: Pastoral Planning and Dogs in Church

  1. Stephen says:

    Dogs on the alter?
    Do they lick their rectum to relax during the homily?

    I would suggest that this is such an affront that YES it does
    call into question the validity of the Mass.

    • Lazarus' Table says:

      I just hope the ox and ass behaved themselves at the Manger.

      • Anna says:

        Listen, the dogs are going to go or there is going to be a lot of commotion. Oxes and Asses? Don’t even go there.

      • Stephen says:

        Laz baby,
        Informal tradition holds that the ass waited outside and the Ox with its strong muscular presence actually heated the manger with its body heat. It is a beautiful Christmas story actually. Lets get something crystal clear here. Animals are God’s creature they are of a lower order than humans. A live nativity scene is a wonderful thing. The Stories of St. Francis preaching to the animals and even fish ad to our faith. Animals like pet dogs brought into the sacristy in an effort to be inclusive and ‘hip’ is yet another abomination and innovation that has no place at Mass.

        To draw some parallel between a hotel animal policy and reverence in the sacristy is disingenuous.

  2. Mark Frances says:

    “The Telegraph” (British Catholic) 1.06.2012. “Who’s wearing the dog collar”? “More trouble in the Anglican Communion”. A woman priest in Canada gave communion to a dog as “a simple act of reaching out” to a new congregation member and his pet. St. Peter’s, Toronto. Fr. Tim Finigan points out on his blog that Catholics would have a problem due to the modern practice of receiving in the hand.

  3. Lazarus' Table says:

    From a hotel owner when asked about their dog policy:
    When asked if we allow dogs at our hotel, here’s what we generally reply: “Dogs are welcome in this hotel. We’ve never had a dog that smoked in bed and set fire to the blankets. We’ve never had a dog that stole the towels, played the TV too loud or had a fight with his traveling companion. We’ve never had a dog that got drunk and broke up the furniture. So, if your dog can vouch for you, you’re welcome, too!”
    Maybe some dogs are better fit in church than some humans as well!

    Pastoral Planning at RCAB: A classic example of trying to put old wine into new wineskins. The skins will burst and all will be lost. So will our diocese and parishes.

    • Stephen says:

      Dogs are cool, so therefore so are cats? – because of course we don’t want to offend anybody. So the feline sits quietly, but right after the consecration it hops on the alter (table) and tips over the chalice, the wine (sacred Blood) tips over and runs off the alter. The Cat jumps down and starts to lick it up as cats will do. We all have a good laugh, and thank God that we no longer have to sit through a stuffy Latin Mass. …oh ya, then we go off to our pastoral planning meeting and collectively scratch our heads as to why people not longer are coming to Mass.

      • Michael says:

        Don’t forget … we live in Massachusetts … if you let in the dogs and cats, then you have to let in the boa constrictors and soon you will need to make the bathrooms accessible to pigs who identify as being elk. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander!

  4. ACS says:

    As an attendee at one of the Pastoral Planning sessions last week, I can tell you there was significant concern and cynicism about the plan. A few paraphrased comments from the session I attended:
    – If welcoming people home is a prime initiative for RCAB, how can people come home to a parish and/or pastor that they do not recognize? Who will be there to welcome them pastorally?
    – In many areas, collaboration has naturally begun among parishes (e..g, sharing Religious Ed resources and ideas). Why force the parishes into a plan that feels dictatorial? Wouldn’t “organic” collaboration work better?
    – The presentation about the need for PSTs stated there would be only 185 priests available in 10 years. Are those truly accurate figures? We do not believe they include religious order priests or retired priests available for ministry.
    – Criteria to determine PST groups include: 1600 attendees and $500k annual revenue. When you are about to significantly impact the faithful parishioners, do not make the change solely a numbers game.
    – To RCAB: you asked for our input and we came to provide comments in the spirit of consultation. However, to every statement or question from the audience, an immediate answer was given. Are you really looking for our input to make this a better plan, or are you simply holding consultations to cover the letter of the law (particularly if justification is required to be sent to Rome).

    Simply stated, the feeling in the room was extreme concern. I also understand those were the comments at the Business Manager and Principal sessions too.

    Another fact shared at the meeting. They announced that the Pastoral Service Teams (PST) groupings would be announced beginning this week (today) during the “Round Two” consultations with the priests. If they are really looking for input, why in God’s name would they publish pre-conceived lists while they are still in “consultation” phase?

    I can also tell you from personal conversation with some good and holy priests in a few different parishes, that they are extremely worried about the state of the Archdiocese if these PSTs and pastoral planning is rammed down our throats. They have encouraged Boston Catholics to pray, pray, pray for guidance. I believe there is also a feeling among these priests that there is no way they would opt to be a pastor of a PST. There wouldn’t be enough antacid in the world to handle the pain!

    The reality of dwindling numbers of priests, financially unstable parishes and low attendance are indeed problems we need to face together. Are PSTs the answer? This writer doesn’t think so. Should we as the Catholic faithful of RCAB be more vocal and pray unceasingly? Absolutely!

    I’ll leave one last thought. I read a priest’s blog article recently, and I believe he really nailed it. He commented that increased vocations and increased attendance of the faithful arise from parishes that:
    – Encourage Eucharistic Adoration, Confession, Daily Mass.
    – Have had stable pastoral leadership.
    – Pray regularly that God raises up priestly vocations from that parish.
    – Have parishioners who love the priesthood.
    – Are doctrinally faithful.
    – Celebrate the Liturgy with reverence, obedience, and dignity.
    – Preach the Gospel in its fullness.
    – Who see and have regular contact with their priest.
    – Have priests who love the priesthood, are joyful, and obedient.
    – Have priests who exercise good priestly headship and who work well with the laity

    • Plain Patty says:

      The abbreviation PST reminds me of a disease. The use of Pastorial Service Team moniker reminds me of Service Station. Pull in and get your soul serviced.

      Where in the Gospels do we hear of Service. Based on my memory Jesus said, “Love one another as I have loved you; Care for one another as I have cared for you.” That is what needs to be the focus of the RCAB —- Care…..but from everything I have seen and read coming out of Brooks Road it is the furtherest concept from their mind.

    • ACS says:

      Since my initial comments, more information has been posted on the RCAB Pastoral Planning pages: ( The information includes details of the criteria as well as the proposed groupings of parishes on the South Shore. Today, the North Shore will get their lists (I understand parishes were called up one by one to receive their assignment. Isn’t that silly if the full list eventually gets posted on the web?)

      I appreciate the troubling situation of animals on the altar, but folks, keep your eye on the bigger picture. There may not be as many altars for the dogs to inhabit!

      BCI, pastoral planning is too big to be coupled and clouded with the dog fiasco. Please keep up the good work of highlighting the information, but please focus more on pastoral planning before it comes over us like a tsunami!

  5. DHO says:

    Please. Daisy is one of the sweetest dogs and the parishioners LOVE her at St. Mary’s in Charlestown. She’s great with the little ones at the family Mass and the adults adore her. Daisy is somewhat of a rescue dog. If my mind serves me well, she had a very painful birth and Fr. Ronan took her in and theirs is a devoted relationship, for sure. While Fr. Ronan and I don’t see eye to eye on many things; we both agree that Daisy is a wonderful presence at our Masses.

    • Charlestown Catholic says:

      I like Daisy, my wife does too, and my kids adore her. But I find the dog’s presence on the altar disturbing and distracting. I’d rather see the dog after Mass than during Mass. The focus of everyone should be on Jesus.

  6. Dog Lover says:

    After being a parishioner of St. Mary’s for 22 years, I was so disgusted by Fr. Ronan’s dog “Daisy” at such an inappropriate time and place that I am now driving my family to Melrose for Mass and CCD.

    Every day I leave my wife and children and my dog to go to work. I’m gone 10 hours, five days a week and this man won’t leave his dog in the rectory for an hour?

    The chaos of an administration that is unable to, or unwilling discipline his priests is not a place that is safe for children by any stretch of the imagination.

  7. Disgruntled Curate says:

    I am the parochial vicar of a parish where for the Easter Sunday homily, the pastor brought a number of barnyard animals into the sanctuary where the children were seated to pet and play with. The animals ran about the sanctuary and into the aisle. Needless to say, I spent the interval between Masses spraying Lysol around the church.

    The same pastor also brought in a McDonald’s Happy-Meal as a prop during the First Communion Mass, but that’s another story for another time.

    • The Egyptian says:

      Be careful, DC. Your post could get you in boiling hot water. The ‘numero uno’ rule at RCAB for the presbyterate is: “Do not criticize a pastor, especially when the pastor is wrong, heretical, irreverent, unfaithful, etc…”

    • ACS says:

      In all charity, you should report this pastor to Cardinal O’Malley, the Office for Worship, etc. If nothing is done, go to the Apostolic delegate for the US, and in Rome to the Congregation for the Sacraments. We’ve had enough scandals!

      • The Egyptian says:

        Oh, c’mon ACS! Do you *actually* think RCAB will do anything against a renegade pastor such as this? Crooks usually don’t correct their fellow crooks.

  8. Boston Catholic Insider says:

    BCI received an email from an anonymous reader who reports:

    “One more church has dogs in the sanctuary at Mass: St. Joseph in Wakefield.”

  9. Carolyn says:

    The rearranging of pastorates should find these dogs and their owners in new environments by the end of the year.

    Think about this:

    If RCAB works this new plan correctly, parishioners should notice very little change, apart from some religious ed groups getting larger, some priests moving and some Mass times changing. But RCAB has a track record of “ready, fire, aim,” so we might brace ourselves for the unintended damage that ricochets can inflict.

  10. Susan says:

    The feeling of the Pastorial change is one of trying to control what is going on at each parish. If you do not have a good pastor who is over seeing two or more parishes, that can change the dynamics of that particular church. The Pastor of each church no longer can run the parish as they have been trained or deicated to doing. I saw this already happen to one priest, who was given a parish, then to learn that he had a pastor over looking the parish. The new pastor wanted to return the orginal Crusfix (it now has a more modern version) but can not do so because of the pastorial paster.

    As for the pooches, they do not belong on the alter. The alter is for the sacrifice of Our Lord Jesus period. The sacraments belong to Our Lord and not the pooches. I guess it is called respect for the sacriments.

  11. Susan says:

    One more thought on the Pastorial Planning issue. They keep telling us that there are not enough priest. However, there are more priest available in Poland, Africa and priest from the Saintly Order of St. Peter in Pa and Nabraska. The one in Nabrask has had to build more building to accomadate their seminarians. They would satisfy those who want the Latin Mass.

    • CaptCrunch says:

      Excellent idea, there was only one weekly TLM on the South Shore and that priest was transferred. There’s a monthly TLM in Brockton. The few TLMs are on the North shore or Natick.

      The RCAB should bring in a traditional order to try and help with the priest shortage and maybe ignite a little passion in the parishioners. Traditional vocations don’t seem to be shrinking, why not bring in the FSSP, ICKSP, heck even the SSPX. Shake things up a bit. We don’t need a McArchdiocese. …. Just sayin’

  12. q says:

    To ACS;
    “BCI, pastoral planning is too big to be coupled and clouded with the dog fiasco. Please keep up the good work of highlighting the information, but please focus more on pastoral planning before it comes over us like a tsunami!”

    I disagree. The coupling of dogs on Altars and the Pastoral Planning Plan is apt.

    The preamble to the plan has 5 vague “goals” of Evangelisation that might as well have said “I like puppies”. Relation to the new managemant bureaucracy? Nada Nothing Zip. No connection between the goals and what the plan is.

    The answer to the complaint that a mass firing of Pastors and radical merger of established Parishes and programs is detrimental to the faithful’s spiritual life?

    Why do you hate puppies.

    Answer to the complaint that Pastors will be more removed from their flock, more isolated by paid employees, and swamped by 3-5 times more administrative work INSTEAD of doing the ministry they and only they should?

    Why do you hate puppies.

    Where in the Plan is an actual connection to a plan to Evangelize??

  13. RR says:

    The current situation in the archdiocese is that parishes are in survival mode. The first step is to move to a structure that will allow for maintenance and stability. On this foundation we may build solid teams which can be structured to build up each community of faith, tapping into the talents of the most capable pastors and the most talented lay ministers and managers.

  14. Jack O'Malley says:

    I am really offended by the idea that dogs, man’s best friend, and, man, having been made in the image of God, being God’s best friend, whose salvation he desires, may not be present in a novus ordo sanctuary. Why not? Unless they bark during the homilies, their conduct is generally above reproach.

    I have been to parishes where the rectory cats are allowed into the sanctuary during the “service”. Granted, it was novus ordo, but then, there have been many pussies in the sanctuary in that rite.

  15. Katia says:

    I experienced the situation at St. Bridget. The dog was at Mass a few months ago. He followed the pastor around, and sat at his feet while he was reading the Gospel and then giving his homily. Then he started barking during the Consecration and the Pastor, Fr. Prusaitis, stopped and started talking to the dog! The dog is not at Mass all the time, but he does show up now and then. The Pastor takes him to church sometimes after Mass and lets him run around in the Sanctuary. He took him to the cemetery for the committal prayers and the dog urinated on the gravestone. The dog was prancing around in front of the tabernacle in the repository on Holy Thursday. The Pastor has no sense that there is a problem here.

    It is not just the dog. This Pastor is a disaster and it is going to get worse. We have had a wonderful Parochial Vicar, Father Jean-Pierre Aubin, but he is going to be transferred soon. That means we will be stuck with Father Prusaitis, who is an absentee pastor. He goes to the Cape after Mass on Sunday and returns on Wednesday night. He got rid of the Parish Council. We have had only one parish financial report in the six years that he has been here. He will not allow any questions of how he runs the parish. He has destroyed all the committees we have had in the parish. We are told we have a lack of priests, but this pastor can be away from the parish four days each week, the whole month of July, most of August, and for ten days after Christmas and after Easter. When Father Aubin is transferred we will not have a priest at St. Bridget. He will show up for Sunday Mass but that is the end of it. He told us that we do not need daily Mass. We have gone to the Vicar and the regional Bishop but nothing is done about him. He is a “warm body” and that’s all they want. Meanwhile our parish, which used to be vital, is dying. We need help and we do not know where to turn. The dog is a symptom of the dysfunction of this parish and pastor. When you tell the Vicar that the dog was barking during the consecration and the pastor was more interested in the dog than in the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ and nothing is done about it, that tells us that we are in real trouble. Many of us have been in this parish for 30+ years and we hate to see it destroyed by a pastor who really does not want to be a priest.

    • doglover says:

      Since moving to Massachusetts, I have concluded that most breeds of dogs, are friendlier than most people. It is probably the weather and the arrogance of the academic elite who creat this unpleasant environment.

      How mean spirited to do this to this priest on this bog.

      Too bad you lacked the courage to speak with him directly
      and/or keep it within the parish and limit conversation to individuals who have this priests’ best interest at heart.

      I agree, if what you say is true the behavior lacks professional decorum. However, did it ever occur to you that some groups are not professional “whiners”?

      Maybe he just recieved a horrible diagnosis or lost a friend.

      I would prefer to sit next to a well behaved do instead of you.

      • Lazarus' Table says:

        Doglover, welcome to Massachusetts and do not lose heart. “Boston Catholic Insider” did not begin as a “bitch forum” and I hope it never becomes one. Most posters know how to disagree without being disagreebale and how to maintain a level of civility and charity even within animated disagreement. Their parents taught them well. Drop in often enough and you’ll recognize them. You’ll also recognize names that represent the lowest possible denominator of public discourse and do not merit even a “first-read”. The contents of dirty diapers should remain in the diaper not posted online.

      • Boston Catholic Insider says:

        To Lazarus’ Table,
        BCI also hopes that this does not become a forum of the nature you mentioned.

        To doglover, We ask that all those who comment be civil and avoid personal attacks in their comments. Many readers who post comments here have indeed spoken to the people involved and/or their superiors in the hierarchy and are frustrated because they have gotten no response. BCI exists, in part, as a forum to air some of these issues.

  16. doglover says:

    doglover correction:

    I would rather sit next to a well behaved dog and /or a screaming
    baby with a dirty diaper than you.

    • Jack O'Malley says:

      Well said, doglover. I have found that most dogs are infinitely more simpatici than their owners. My dog is of the same mind. 😦

    • Michael says:

      Doglover … you missed the point because of your obvious bias. This discussion was not about the dog.

  17. Stephen says:

    Dear Dog Lover
    Welcome to Boston. You will find that liberal progressives have all but destroyed the Church in Boston and have many techniques. One of those techniques is to assume the victory position and to paint anybody who disagrees with them as ‘intolerant’, out of touch, mean spirited and at the very least old fashioned. For example
    The very tolerant and loveable Lazarus Table when commenting on the the Dog on the alter – goes on to tell us about a hotel animal policy – as if ” certainly any fool knows that a dog on the alter is not a problem!” Meanwhile countless Bishops worldwide would put a Priest on a leave of absence for such an abomination.

    As somebody new in town I’d suggest you discern authentic Catholic’s by asking very pointed questions. Bostonian’s will never claim to be warm and fuzzy, generally we take awhile to get to know.

    Lazarus said
    “You’ll also recognize names that represent the lowest possible denominator of public discourse and do not merit even a “first-read”.

    Typically, Orthodoxy is dismissed out of hand constantly.
    Discernment is a gift from God, may you have it.

  18. CaptCrunch says:

    IMO the dogs should not be on the altar; but this is not a new phenomenon in the Archdiocese.

    While growing up (30 years ago) our pastor at St Pius X in Milton (RIP) always had his two white huskies everywhere he went including the altar.

    • bitsnbytes says:

      This reminds me of the story of Cdl. O’Connell’s dog that mysteriously disappeared at the archbishop’s death. Maybe it can be the “patron saint” for priests who love their dogs too much.

  19. Plumpy says:


    That would show RCAB’s solidarity with all the new PSTs. The Pastoral Center is not essential for the mission; it’s a sign of institutional corruption, arrogance, and opulence. Selling it would be a win-win situation for everyone!!!!

    • FrMichael says:

      Sell the Pastoral Center to the SPCA as a home for dogs and you can kill two birds with one stone.

      Just a Cali priest checking in to see how things are going in the land of my ancestors. Just like the Catholic Church in the Golden State, it appears that things are going to the dogs in RCAB. My deep condolences.

  20. Mack says:

    This matter of the dogs is sad because it shows a fundamental lack of a sense of the sacred. When we dumb everything down to the same level, and invite dogs to the most sacred moment of the Mass, the Eucharist, that’s because we have lost a sense of the sacredness of the Mass.

    Jesus already gave us the answer: “Do not give what is holy to dogs; and do now throw your pearls before swine” (Mt 7:6). If we just followed the Gospel, these silly things would be seen for how foolish they really are.

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