View from the choir

I am a Catholic layperson and Secular Franciscan with a sense of humor. After years in the back pew watching, I have moved into the choir. It's nice to see faces instead of the backs of heads. But I still maintain God has a sense of humor - and that we are created in God's image.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Dreaded "Clustering of Parishes" Warning

This morning at Mass we got an update on Pastoral Planning for the Gates-Chili area - an update that confirmed what I'd been speculating.

It contained the phrase"clustering of parishes."

The bottom line is that we have five parishes in our region, and we've been informed that due to retirements - and no ordinations for the next three years - we will have only four priests to serve those parishes as of 2010.

We already will already have a pastoral administrator at one parish (St. Pius Tenth) at the end of this month. One parish is currently headed by a priest who is not the official pastor. (at he wasn't the last I heard). Next June, we have another pastor retiring.

The update notes a Catholic Council made up of representatives of the five parishes had been meeting, and "By May it became evident that some form of clustering of parishes would be necessary." A cluster could involve up to three parishes - and who's to say we won't have two clusters - one of two parishes, one of three parishes. Indeed, the update observes, "With the continuing decrease in priests available for ministry and the experience of other parishes in our diocese, it is likely that eventually there will be no single parishes as we now know them."

The update also points out that notes (in bold) that, "For now, and for the foreseeable future, all five parishes will remain open under any of the parish configurations being considered."

For now.

For, as the update admits, "Clustered parishes in our diocese over time generally work toward becoming a single parish, often with multiple worship sites."

There will also be more joint ministries. Will we have one youth minister to serve several parishes? One religious education coordinator? One summer school program? One sacramental preparation program? Will Masses be dropped? Will we have to rotate where we have special Masses, such as Midnight Mass on Christmas, or the Easter Vigil? Will choirs and music groups (such as Rock of Faith) serve multiple parishes? Or will members of different parishes join together for a cluster choir located at one church?

I'm sure I could come up with more questions if I wanted to.

For now, we are waiting to hear the actual plan.

The update says the timeline sets a goal of September for a draft plan to be developed by parish councils and staffs, and by the Catholic Council; for parish town meetings in October to suggest ways to improve the plan; for revisions of the plan to take place in November and December; then for a final plan to be sent to Bishop Clark in January or February of next year for approval.

I'm waiting to see what they come up with before I get all worked up.

But boy, we do need more priests here!


Blogger Eileen Loveman said...

PLease know that I say this is the spirit of compassion and love, and not with the intention to sound mean spirited. As the former Pastoral Business Manager for RCC19th Ward Cluster (St. Augustine, St.Monica, Our Lady of Good Council), I regret to inform you that the process has begun for as it has for my beloved parishes. They will ALL close except for one. You may have "multiple worship services" for a short time, but in the end, church as you know it will be done. All that is left for us is St. Monica. Although all the parishoners were rich in spirit, there just wasn't enough of them to support all those buildings. Sadly, it has happened throughout our Diocese - and I fear it will continue.

Good luck and God Bless - I enjoy reading your blogs.

4:01 PM  
Blogger Interstate Catholic said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4:11 PM  
Blogger Interstate Catholic said...

Don't worry, you'll be all worked up before the process is over.

4:15 PM  
Blogger Lee Strong said...

You never know - I might not get worked up!

I'm a pretty objective sort - years of training as a journalist and as a teacher. If something makes sense, even if I don't like it, I don't let it get to me. I just offer it up.

4:30 PM  
Blogger Lee Strong said...

Eileen - I'm sorry you had to go through that. I went to Mass at St. Augustine's a couple of times and liked it there.

As for Gates/Chili - maybe. But the Catholic population is large out here. I don't know if we will get down to one parish. Two or three? Maybe. We'll see. I'm good at wrong!

4:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Prediction for the last 3 years of Clark's tenure:

-Two clusters will form: St. Theodore/St. Jude and St. Pius X, Holy Ghost, and St. Helen.
-The two clusters will be headed by two laywoman Pastoral Administrators, with 2 priests in each cluster serving as the P.A's pawns (sacramental minister). This will mean that not one of the 5 parishes will have a pastor, because bishop Clark wants women to run churches, not priests.
-Attendance will fall dramatically in the clusters.
-Holy Ghost and St. Helen will be closed

This is my 5 star special. Bet the house on it.

5:23 PM  
Blogger Interstate Catholic said...

I suspect that as the retirement of priests accelerates, so will the closing of church buildings. One is related to the other, pastoral administrators or not.

Unfortunately, the closing of churches in the City of Rochester has not lead to an increase in attendance at the "surviving" churches, such as St. Monica, Holy Apostles, and the Cathedral.

6:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If these parishes close, I pray that these disallusioned parishoners considered either going to Our Lady of Victory or the Latin Mass at St. Stanislaus. I will pray that these parishoners don't leave the Catholic Faith, but try a "straight up" Catholic church. Who knows, the HOly Spirit may awaken the flame of faith within you again. The flame that has been dimmed by the sometimes heretical teaching.

Remember, they may have the buildings, but we have the faith and God will lead us. You will have excellent Catholic priests either at OLV or the Latin Mass.

Pray harder for vocations to the priesthood.

9:42 PM  
Blogger David Marciniak said...

This process tore us apart in Buffalo. Still hurting.

9:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12:32 AM  
Blogger Lee Strong said...

Yes, St. Helen's for the priest who is not the official pastor.

Yes, Father Nellis is the priest who will retire next year.

As to some of the other comments -

There are good priests and good parishes out there besides the ones you always seem to cite. I like Father Steve at St. Theodore's, for example. And good things are happening out in St. Leo's (Hilton) with Father Catanise.

I get tired of this claim that Bishop Clark WANTS female adminstrators rather than priest pastors. Unless you have from the Bishop some documented statement to that effect, you are straying into calumny.

5:49 AM  
Blogger Lee Strong said...

Anonymous - I accidentally deleted your post. I had comment moderation on and hit the wrong option.

Whatever, despite your inuendo, my motive is trying to be fair and stating the truth, not rehashing talking points and aping what other says.

Criticism is fine, but not imputing people's motives when those motives have not been stated by the accused.

If you think Bishop Clark is appointing only women administrators, please prove it. Provide a list of all the recent cluster and administrator apppointments. ALL of them. I think you will see there is a mix.

Or provide the evidence that I originally called for - show me Bishop Clark saying he is carrying out what you accuse him of thinking.

Here in Gates, we have a priest as an administrator, and lay man as the administrator at another pairish (a parish for which no priest applied). I know of clusters elsewhere where priests have been serve as the pastors.

3:32 PM  
Blogger Lee Strong said...

Here's the latest appointments:

Father Felix Dalimpuo to pastor, St. Michael, Newark, from temporary parochial administrator of the parish.

* Father John DeSocio to pastor, St. Mary Southside, Elmira, from parochial vicar, Blessed Trinity/St. Patrick, Tioga County.

* Deacon Gary DiLallo to pastoral administrator, St. Francis of Assisi and St. Hyacinth, Auburn, from faith-formation coordinator, Blessed Trinity/St. Patrick, Tioga County. He replaces Father Eugene Dobosz, pastor, who returned to his native Poland.

* Father Richard Farrell to pastor, Blessed Sacrament, Elmira, from pastor, St. Mary Southside, Elmira. He replaces Father Walter Wainwright, who is retiring.

* Deacon David LaFortune to pastoral administrator, St. Mary, Bath, from parish deacon, St. Mary of the Lake, Watkins Glen, and St. Benedict, Odessa. He replaces Deacon Raymond Defendorf, who is retiring.

* William Rabjohn to pastoral administrator, St. Pius Tenth, Chili, from pastoral associate at the parish. He replaces Father Daniel Holland, who is retiring.

* Michael Sauter to pastoral administrator, St. Luke the Evangelist, Livingston County, with concurrent duties at SUNY Geneseo, from temporary pastoral administrator of the parish. He replaces Father William Kamau, pastor, who has moved back to the Diocese of Murang'a, Kenya.

Let's see, three priest pastors, two deacon pastoral administrators, two laymen pastoral administrators.

Nary a female in the group - and the ordained outnumber the non-ordained 5-2.

4:13 PM  
Blogger Rich Leonardi said...

Nary a female in the group - and the ordained outnumber the non-ordained 5-2.


Leaving aside the dubious canonical status of lay pastoral administrators, people get understandably worked up about them because of their two "poster girls": Joan Sobala and Nancy DeRycke. Both are vocal proponents of women's "ordination" and both have turned parishes under their care into shrines to doctrinal dissent and liturgical abuse.

4:19 PM  
Blogger Lee Strong said...

I'm not arguing about the two of them, Rich.

What I'm responding to are blanket statements that Bishop Clark's agenda is to replace priests with women adminstrators.

4:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How many of the total lay Pastoral Administrators in the DoR are female versus how many are male?

4:52 PM  
Blogger Lee Strong said...

Anonymous 5:52 - How many are female? I don't know - I don't have a diocesan directory. Anyone have one who's willing to do some lo0king?

5:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The answer to all your questions Lee is "yes".

As a former member of the Roman Catholic Community of the 19th Ward, I can tell you it's the begining of the end. I agree with everything Eileen wrote in her post. I'd like to add that I had lunch on Saturday afternoon with three of my closest friends I met as a parishioner of Our Lady of Good Counsel and they said that St. Monica's church is scheduled to close temporarily for 7 months for renovating and modernizing the Church. In the meantime, St. Monica and Emmanuel Church of the Deaf parishes while hold Masses temporarily at a hotel in Rochester. When parishioners suggested to use the now closed St. Augustine Church for a temporary worship space, they were told that once a Roman Catholic Church is formally closed, it is against canon law to use it again for Mass. The total weekly attendance of St. Monica is about 300 to 400 each week. It will be interesting to see how many parishioners return after the construction is completed and they re-open St. Monica's for worship again. Many parishioners believe that they will lose membership during the construction phase and eventually close for good. I hope not. It's such a beautiful Church and it's a big asset for the Genesee Street area.

This is my gut feeling. Within ten years from now there will be no more than five or six mega Catholic Parishes left in Monroe County. I could be wrong, but I feel the following Catholic Churches will be left standing: St. Pius X in Chili, St. Lawrence in Greece, St. Joseph's in Penfield and St. Louis in Pittsford and Sacred Heart Cathedral.

I know I'm going to get hate mail for saying this, but I think that there are plenty of priestly vocations in our Diocese and elsewhere if the Church would allow women and married men in the priesthood. I also support the appointments of lay pastoral associates.

7:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Why couldn't Saint Monica's parishoners use Saints Peter and Paul's Church temporarily. The Egyptians have often said they would welcome back the Roman Catholics to use SSPP for Mass. SSPP is now an Egyptian Orthodox Church.

Also, correct me if I'm wrong, but a good source told me St. Monica was allowed to stay open because they receive a huge $3 million donation. Maybe that money is being used for this upcoming wreckovation.


11:27 PM  
Blogger Lee Strong said...

I did a quick survey of 15 parishes on the West side of Monroe County - Gates, Greece, Spencerport, Hamlin, Hilton, Chili, Churchville.

The tally:

Priest pastors: 11
Priest administrators: 2
Male Lay Administrators (as of June 30): 1
Female Lay Administrators (as of June 30): 1

There may be changes in the works that have not been announced, and there are parishes I couldn't get information on.

Across the diocese, I've heard of 6 Female Lay Adminstratrors. I only know of one Male Lay Administrator - but there may be more of both.

With fewer priests available, and many deacons working in the world and not able to take on full-time parish leadership, it gets tough.

7:41 AM  
Blogger Eileen Loveman said...

St. Peter & Paul Church is also closed, Lee.

10:15 AM  
Blogger Rich Leonardi said...

I'm not arguing about the two of them, Rich.

I know you're not, Lee.

But like I said, those two are "poster girls"; they are very visible emblems of that position.

2:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Eileen,

SS Peter and Paul is still open. It is now an Egyptian Orthodox Coptic Church and no longer a Roman Catholic Church.

All the best!

Jim H

4:13 PM  
Blogger Lee Strong said...

Founnd a second Male Lay Administrator!

4:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jim H, I don't know if SS Peter & Paul was on option. If you go to St. Monica's website you can view their meetings/discussions about the issue. SS Peter & Paul's is another beautiful Church.

8:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

8:30 PM  
Blogger In the choir loft said...

Dr K -

I notice on the list that it lists Sr Alice Cooney as pastoral administrator at St. Joseph's in Rush. She is no longer there. She is at Monroe Community Hospital.


11:14 PM  
Blogger curiouscatholic said...

Sr. Alice Cooney is no longer in Rush. Fr. Jim Hewes is the Parochial Administrator of St. Joseph's Church. Otherwise the list is current and correct.

11:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11:48 AM  
Blogger Barb, sfo said...

Lee, I've just gone through this. We're a year into our "parish merger" of 2 parishes into one. You can feel free to email me for more details on how it's worked.
I have to say that in our deanery, of the 3 clusters formed, ours has gone the smoothest BY FAR.

I am hoping that down the line they don't close one of our buildings. They say that's not going to happen...

7:46 PM  

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