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Two local men among the authors

Patricia Bartos
Senior Staff Writer

Noted theologian and author Michael Novak joins with businessman-philanthropist William Simon Jr. in writing "Living the Call: An Introduction to the Lay Vocation."

They note that while the number of priests has fallen by some 30,000 over the last 40 years, mostly through attrition, the number of Catholics has grown by 20 million.

During this same period, more than 30,000 laypeople have taken on jobs in parishes to assist pastors, and they are now plentiful too as teachers in Catholic schools, as counselors, financial advisors and liturgical directors.

Simon writes of the U.S. Catholic bishops' document, "Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord," that "it was impossible not to be excited about and inspired by the broad varieties of opportunities for laypeople."

His own parish of St. Monica near Los Angeles, where he serves on the finance council, has laypeople active in 69 different ministries.

Novak has been closely following the influx of lay workers since Vatican Council II in the early 1960s. That gathering called for greater lay participation in the life of the church.

Novak and Simon say that U.S. parishes have increased in size and complexity.

They cite a study by the U.S. bishops showing that more than 20 percent of parishes offer Mass in more than one language.

Some 25 percent rank in size equal to Protestant "mega-churches" and laypeople are completing advanced university courses in pastoral ministries to fill parish roles.

The book's first section includes chapters on nine modern lay "pioneers."

The second section, "The Search Within," covers topics such as the sacraments, retreats, spiritual reading and marriage.

Novak and Simon conclude by observing "the real work of the church lies in bringing God's love to men and women everywhere, in every occupation, in every state of soul."

One field in great need of attention is the many Catholics who no longer practice the faith. Of some 63 million Catholics in the United States today, just 18 million attend Mass regularly, they write.

"The lay vocation is to change the world," Novak and Simon write, adding "God has made himself dependent on us, his poor and humble laypeople."

"Living the Call: An Introduction to the Lay Vocation," Michael Novak and William Simon, Encounter Books, hardcover, 191 pages, $21.95,

New local authors

Dennis Johnston, sacristan at Holy Sepulcher in Glade Mills, was inspired to write "Your Connecting Flight to Heaven" while on a pilgrimage he and his wife, Helene, made to Medjugorje three years ago.

In the book, he offers reflections on God's love and forgiveness, the importance of the Blessed Mother and prayer, and tells of his Medjugorje experience.

At Holy Sepulcher, Johnston serves as a substitute CCD teacher and president of the parish's seniors club. He is also active in the Knights of Columbus.

He worked for the Federal Bureau of Prisons for 22 years and as a correctional counselor led individual and group counseling, and established programs to help inmates develop a positive mental attitude, goal setting and problem-solving abilities.

This led to his writing the children's book "Right Side Up."

He and Helene have four children and 11 grandchildren. All profits from the book will go to Holy Sepulcher School.

"Your Connecting Flight to Heaven," Dennis Johnston, trade paperback, 69 pages, $7, available via


Patrick McCann finds great joy in being a grandfather. He illustrates his slim new book, "Thank You, God, For This Day," liberally with photos he has taken of his grandchildren and with scenes from nature.

In brief reflections drawn from inspiration or memory with such titles as Morning Solitude, Key West Serenity and Mountain Top, he tells of his "compelling personal quest to share observations about life and God's goodness."

McCann worked as a realty specialist and staff appraiser for the Office of Surface Mining in the U.S. Department of the Interior.

He and his wife, Margie, belong to SS. Simon and Jude in Scott Township. They were the parents of four and have six grandchildren.

A portion of the book's proceeds will aid the Histiocytosis Association of America, in the name of his young grandson, Nathaniel Butschle, who was diagnosed with the rare immune disorder in his first months of life.

Today, Nate is 2 and thriving. His photo appears on the book's cover.

"Thank You, God, For This Day," Patrick McCann, trade paperback, 43 pages, $7.95 plus $3 for shipping and handling, available at 412-343-7271 or via