Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Vatican, Closed Parishes, And Diocesan Reorganization

I have recently been exploring a Catholic news website called Vatican Insider. It is sponsored by the Italian publication, La Stampa. I came across a post reporting on a Vatican document being prepared, which will provide guidelines to American bishops on how to reorganize their dioceses. It specifically addresses the closing or merging of parishes, and the sale of Catholic hospitals.

The reason for the creation of this document is the number of dioceses that have been closing parishes, and the controversy it causes in the Catholic community, and the economic impact it has on the American dioceses. It is being reported that one possible recommendation is that while a parish may be closed, the church itself could be maintained by a responsible lay family or group, with a priest coming in to celebrate Sunday Mass.

This could be a partial solution for the situation that exists here in the Archdiocese of Boston. There have been churches of closed parishes that have been occupied for years by former parishioners, who refuse to let go of their church. But a parish is more than a church, it is a community of clergy and laity, active in charitable works, a place where persons, child or adult, is formed in the faith. And most importantly, it is a community that comes together and encounters Christ in the Eucharist. We are seeing now, and will see in the future, that some parishes will no longer have the resources, either in people or finances. All bishops and parish communities will have to face that fact, and address it.

Hopefully, the guidelines that will come out from Rome, will provide a common structure and procedure that could lessen the pain, the sense of loss, that people feel when a parish is closed.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Sale of Closed Parishes in the Archdiocese of Boston

There has been a lot of local television and radio air time dedicated to Archdiocese of Boston announcement that six closed parish churches are to be sold, after all sacred items have been removed. Some of these closed churches have been occupied by the former parishioners since their initial closing. And all the former members of the closed parishes are promising to fight the proposed sales, and are appealing to the Vatican. They are taking encouragement from the fact that the Vatican had, in at least one case, overturned a bishop’s decision to sell a closed church.

My heart goes out to these people; my own parish was threatened with closure. It was averted only because we made a strong case for keeping it open. But I also realize that times are changing, just recently a report was issued, showing that soon there will not be enough priests to service all the existing parishes. That there will be fewer, bigger parishes, or, as the Archdiocese is exploring, a cluster of churches under one pastor and staff.

There is no question that the past closure of parishes in the Archdiocese was poorly planned and executed. Any future “reconfiguration,” must be based on a clear set of criteria, the process must be open and transparent, with public input from the laity.

The sad truth is that some parishes will have to be merged or merged for the health of the Catholic community of greater Boston. And there is nothing in the short term that can be done to avert that reality.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Help From Thomas Merton

Life seems to have been tossing on one mishap after another; increasing the stress level day after day. Then I came across this quote from Thomas Merton:

We do not see the way that lies ahead for us. It seems dark, but God is the Master of all destinies and His will is love. Let us then put aside everything else and trust ourselves completely to Him, giving ourselves to His love, asking Him to enlighten and guide us in the way of positive action, if any such action is feasible. For the rest, we must have great patience and sustained fidelity to His will and to our ideals.

Letter to Evora Areca de Sardonia, Witness to Freedom (Taken from The Intimate Merton)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Kip Tiernan, Friend of the Poor, May She Rest In Peace

Last Saturday, the poor of Massachusetts, especially poor women, lost a great advocate. Kip Tiernan passed away on July 2, 2011, at age 85.

Inspired by the life of Dorothy Day, she walked away from a promising advertising career, to become a voice for the poor in Boston. In 1974, she helped found Rosie’s Place, which began as a day shelter for homeless women, a place where they felt safe and wanted. It has since grown into a multi-service organization, still dedicated to serving poor women.

I heard Ms. Tiernan speak about Rosie’s Place several times. I also saw her at gatherings of Catholic women who were advocating for a greater voice in Church affairs. She always had on a battered hat; she always wore a rumbled jacket. And she always wore a cross. As Christ gave His all for us; Ms. Tiernan gave her all for the poor. She will be missed.