Change is inevitable: Yet much remains the same
Fall has arrived. There is a chill in the air. School is back in session. Parish activities are gearing up.
The change in seasons reminds us that change is always a part of our lives. Yet, much remains the same.
On Sunday we will celebrate Bishop Bullock's 50 years as a priest and nine years as our bishop.
Looking back 50 years, we can see how dynamic our world is, yet much the same. In 1952 when Bishop Bullock was ordained a priest, Harry Truman was president and there was an undeclared war raging in Korea. In 2002, George W. Bush is president, and war remains a major concern.
In 1952, television, with a couple of stations, was just coming into its own. In 2002 there are hundreds of television stations that are being challenged by creative uses of the Internet, which is just coming into its own.
In 1952 Mass was celebrated around the world in Latin. In 2002 it is celebrated in hundreds of world languages.
Same Lord, same mission
Much can happen in nine years as well. When Bishop Bullock arrived in Madison, the Chancery Office was downtown and other diocesan offices were scattered across the city at seven locations.
Now all are together in the renovated Bishop O'Connor Catholic Pastoral Center. The Center hosts hundreds of meetings each year for parishes, diocesan agencies, and nonprofit groups, which was not possible before.
Since 1993, the Offices for Justice and Peace, Stewardship and Development, Hispanic Ministry, and Pastoral Services have been established.
There are full-time directors of the offices of Worship and Communications. A Strategic Plan based on local recommendations is being implemented. In 2004, the first class of permanent deacons will be ordained. Much has changed. Yet it is all in service of the same mission, to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ.
In October the priests of the diocese will gather for our 22nd Presbyteral Assembly. It is a time to pray together, to relax together, but also to learn together.
The main topic will be to review changes approved by Rome on how Mass is to be celebrated. The intention is to assure appropriate explanation so that all of us understand not only what the changes are, but why. Even with changes in celebration, the essence of the Mass, the Eucharistic sacrifice, remains forever.
Past and present are linked
One of the most moving sessions at the Presbyteral Assembly is the memorial prayer service when the names of deceased priests who served the diocese since its creation are read aloud.
I remember my first such service; the names were mostly unfamiliar. Now the names bring back memories of those who have touched my life, and yours. The past and the present are forever linked in the communion of saints.
One major event this fall will be the completion of the Catholic Multicultural Center. If all goes well, the St. Martin House and Centro Guadalupe programs will move from their current temporary quarters to the new facility in late November or early December. This modern facility will allow expanded outreach to those in need and those newly arrived from many cultures in the same way the Church has done over the centuries.
We live in a dynamic world where change is inevitable. Through it all Jesus Christ is Lord - the same, yesterday, today, and forever.
Cutting state jobs: Won't be easy
A predictable feature of campaigns for state office is that candidates promise to deliver a more efficient government by reducing the number of people who work for it.
This year is no exception. Some have gone so far as to suggest the state workforce should be reduced by 10,000 positions over the next 10 years.
But will this solve our fiscal woes? How will it affect our state?
The suggestion to shrink the state's work force over the next 10 years may sound good between now and Nov. 5.
But it will do precious little to close the budget gap that will exist in February, the deadline by which the governor must submit Wisconsin's state budget for 2003-05. Only positions eliminated in the next two years will generate any savings that can be applied to the state's budget deficit, now estimated to be well over $1 billion a year.
Next we must consider that state employees are paid from different pots of money such as motor fuel taxes, other fees, or federal dollars. Of Wisconsin's total workforce of nearly 67,000 employees, only about 36,500 are paid for with general-purpose revenues (GPR) raised via taxes like the income tax and sales tax.
Since it is the general fund that is running the deficit, only cuts in GPR positions will help close the deficit.
So, which of these 36,500 people will we do without to balance the budget?
Most candidates want to be tough on crime. Thus it is unlikely any governor will reduce the workforce of the Department of Correction, which employs about 9,000 staff, to accommodate staffing needs of our exploding prison system.
Nor should we expect to see cuts among the 375 prosecutors in the offices of Wisconsin's 72 district attorneys who are now state employees, nor of the 523 public defenders mandated by law to represent indigent criminal defendants.
This leaves about 26,600 workers. Or does it?
The University of Wisconsin employs just over 19,000 people. While the UW is a tempting target, it is also vital to any strategy to develop Wisconsin's work force at a time of a state labor shortage. The legislature only recently balked at cutting the UW budget by $100 million, settling for cuts half that much. Will the governor elected in November target UW positions?
If we add the UW's 19,000 workers to the "do not cut" list, we are left with a state work force of 7,600.
Of these, over 2,000 are employed by the Department of Health and Family Services, the agency that provides services to the elderly, persons with disabilities, and families with special needs. Earlier this year there was a bipartisan consensus not to cut programs targeted at such vulnerable populations.
By now you have noticed there are not enough employees remaining to supply a reduction of 10,000 in the state workforces. Even if the UW staff took a 10 percent cut of nearly 2,000 staff, it would be necessary to eliminate all but the remaining GPR-funded jobs to get to the magic 10,000 total.
Does this mean that every state job is too essential to be eliminated? No. But these employees deliver programs and services that our people say they want. It seems reasonable that any plan to eliminate state employees be accompanied by a discussion as to what programs we will do without in order to make those cuts.
This is a discussion that should take place before the election, not after.
John Huebscher is executive director of the Wisconsin Catholic Conference.