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Godspeed, Daughters of the Heart of Mary

   Calling all Nardin alumnae -- and anyone else influenced, mentored, taught or scolded by a DHM.

   The Daughters of the Heart of Mary are departing Buffalo after being part of the city for 152 years.

   Please share your stories, insights and observations about this trailblazing group of women who established one of the area's finest schools.

 -- Jay Tokasz

Finding new flocks for former Catholic churches

   Pastor Kenneth R. Winfield was proud to show off the former Catholic church building his congregation, Try Jesus Ministries, purchased in December.

   And why not? The structure boasts beautiful stained-glass windows, pristine oak pews, a new boiler and roof, and a full banquet hall in the basement -- all for $100,000.

   Winfield credits the building's former occupants, SS. Rita & Patrick parish, with keeping it in good condition.

   "A lot of people tell us we got the buy of the year," he said.

   The pastor calls it a blessing from God.

   Try Jesus looked at a few other churches, but Winfield said they were too big.

   "We didn't want to bite off more than we can chew," he said.

   In the red brick church at Fillmore Avenue and Seymour Street, they found a jewel.

   "To build this church from the ground up, you're talking about a million dollars," said Winfield.

   It will no longer be a Catholic church, but Winfield said the role of the building stays the same in the East Side community.

   "It's just a continuation, moving on in the same direction. We all believe in God. It's just changing hands, changing culture, changing worship styles," he said.

   Some Catholics opposed to the closing and selling off of so many glorious churches would argue that diocesan leaders are simply giving up, especially in poor, urban areas, and should work harder to evangelize.

   What's your take on how the Catholic diocese so far has handled the restructuring of parishes, especially the sale of closed buildings?

   Will other congregations worshipping in former Catholic churches thrive in their new locations?

   And if not worship, what other uses might work well for closed church buildings?

   -- Jay Tokasz


Religious 'nones' on the rise in U.S.

   In less than 20 years, the proportion of Americans who said they don't have a religion has grown from 8.2 percent of the population to 15 percent, according to the 2008 American Religious Identification Survey.

   That's more than 34 million Americans in all -- a staggering 138 percent increase since 1990, when 14.3 million Americans said they didn't have a religion.

   A 2007 study by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life on the country's religious landscape had a similar finding: Of the 35,000 Americans interviewed, 16 percent said they were not affiliated with a particular religion.

   Researchers often refer to this group as the "nones."

   But there's considerable debate about exactly who these people are and how accurately the studies depict unaffiliation.

   Some observers say the nones consist largely of nonbelievers and people who have cast off organized religion.

   They point to some other numbers embedded in the new ARIS study: 12.3 percent of respondents said either that there is no such thing as God, there is no way to know or they weren't sure if there is a God.

   But researchers for the Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion reported in 2006 that 10.8 percent of Americans were not affiliated, and they argued that the other studies over-counted the unaffiliated by 10 million Americans because the studies failed to take into account increasingly blurred denominational lines.

   "Most surveys determine the religious affiliation of respondents by asking them to select their religious family or denomination from a list," the Baylor study, called "American Piety in the 21st Century," concluded. "This has become increasingly problematic over the years as more and more Americans are losing a strong denominational identity. The rising number of non-denominational congregations as well as congregations that minimize their denominational ties compounds the problem. The declining importance of denomination, however, does not mean that religion itself is on the wane."

   So which is it, all of you "nones" out there? (By the way, the proportion of "nones" in New York state rose to 14 percent from 7 percent between 1990 and 2008. More localized data isn't available.)

   Do you go pray and believe in God, but don't consider yourself part of a particular religion?

   Are you part of a religious tradition for social or economic reasons, more than faith?

   Or did you grow up part of a religion and now reject or ignore it, for whatever reason?

   -- Jay Tokasz