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Today is the “Closing Mass” for St. Thomas the Apostle

November 14th, 2010, Promulgated by Dr. K

A day we have long dreaded has finally arrived. Later this morning, at 9:30 AM to be exact, the “closing” Mass for St. Thomas the Apostle will be  celebrated. These closings Masses have become a regular fixture in the Diocese of Rochester as the diocese has contracted from 159 parishes in the mid-1990s down to 123 today. With all of these closings, there has been pain and sadness. To lose one’s church is like losing a member of your family. Our parish church has been the site for many of the memorable moments of our lives, including Baptisms, first Communions, marriage, etc. Today the people of St. Thomas stand to lose their home in the Catholic Church.

Unlike other closings in this diocese, where parishioners have accepted that their parish is going to close and that nothing can be done, the people of St. Thomas view tomorrow’s “closing” Mass a bit differently. In the words of an active St. Thomas parishioner, “I call tomorrow’s Mass our “temporary” last Mass.” This belief is shared by the congregation. When other DoR parishes have closed in the past, they often have a large meal afterward, much like when a family has a meal after a funeral. Following the St. Thomas the Apostle “closing” there will be no meal. Rather, the people will simply gather together for a coffee hour.

The people of St. Thomas have invested much time, money, and effort into the defense of their church’s right to remain open. These people firmly believe that their church should continue to exist, and they have proven that they are willing to challenge the bishop”s decision (or lack thereof) for as long as it takes. While we certainly don’t know how this appeal will turn out, we must have faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ that the appeal will be successful, and that St. Thomas the Apostle church will continue to serve Northwest Irondequoit into the future. I repeat, we must have faith, for with God “all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).

Msgr. Burns, beloved Pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle who is buried outside this house of God, pray for us!

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20 Responses to “Today is the “Closing Mass” for St. Thomas the Apostle”

  1. avatar Anonymous says:

    Thank you for your kind words Dr. K. St. Thomas will definitely live on. We just have to wait until “regime change.”

  2. avatar Anonymous says:

    I was recently listening to Catholic radio and the host was commenting about the school closings in NYC. He said that 40+ years ago, Catholics had 5.5 children. Today, that number is 2.2. Is it not inevitable that schools and churches will close. Poor leadership, less children to educate, poor catechesis, low Mass attendance, etc. We are bearing the fruits of our choices. I am not saying anyone in particular. God bless those who were able to see and live truth with God’s grace through these troubling times. Continue to witness with your lives, no matter what the outcome. We can all agree that our children are the victims here and parents suffer a great deal. God has called us to be witnesses to the truth in these times, even if it means suffering.

  3. avatar Dr. K says:

    Attendance is not why St. Thomas is being closed. The STA attendance numbers of 450-500 are comparable to a number of area parishes, including Our Lady Queen of Peace, Church of the Resurrection, Holy Name, St. Mary downtown, etc.

  4. avatar benanderson says:

    Dr K is right. While:

    Catholics had 5.5 children. Today, that number is 2.2.

    is true and it means the Catholic population is increasing as it had been, it doesn’t mean that the Catholic population has decreased. It’s actually stayed about the same. The “demographic shift” theory of why parishes and schools must close, why priestly vocation #s are down, etc. is a red herring.

  5. avatar Jim says:

    I am a life long member of St. Thomas the Apostle Parish. Today’s Mass was really beautiful, but oh so sad. Looking up at the colorful mosaic windows, the architecture, the marble altar, the carved statues, hearing the choir sing, seeing all of the altar boys process up onto the sanctuary and all of the families that I’ve known for so many years, brought me to tears, knowing that today would probably be the last time! When I went up and knelt at the Communion rail, I didn’t want to leave, and just held onto the rail for a few extra seconds. I feel as though I’ve lost a really old and dear friend. I just hope and pray that someday, common sense returns to our diocese, and that St. Thomas the Apostle may reopen again! Msgr. Burns, pray for us!

  6. avatar Faithful says:

    I sympathathize with you over loosing your parish.

    Nevertheless many dioceses are going through this, and it is necessary to prune the Church structures so future life and growth can happen.

    It seems it has not dawned upon anyone that the structures as they exist in the North East of the country were designed during an era much different from the one we find ourselves in: namely an era of heavy growth. For better or for worse that era has passed. We can sit around and blame the bishops, Vatican II, liberal nuns, etc- and some of it may or may not be true. The point is this: the blame game gets us nowhere. The only way the Church is going to grow again is if people are willing to move forward and accept that certain parishes have to be shed. If the people work on vocations, evangelization, and practice meaningful and substantive stewardship, the Church will come through this, churches will be built, and schools will re-open in the future.

    I have more to say but I will comment later.

  7. avatar benanderson says:

    The only way the Church is going to grow again is if people are willing to move forward and accept that certain parishes have to be shed. If the people work on vocations, evangelization, and practice meaningful and substantive stewardship, the Church will come through this, churches will be built, and schools will re-open in the future.

    @Faithful – it seems once again you are making assertions about topics you know little about. No one is disagreeing w/ your overall assumption that times change – any idiot knows that. However, you can’t apply general stereotypes to each particular situation. The STA parishioners have presented a case (I’m no expert on it, but I’d say the evidence seems to support them) that this particular parish is not being closed for the reasons you listed. It seems it is being closed for its orthodox bent. If STA parishioners had another parish to go to that was similar to STA, I don’t think you’d hear nearly as much complaining. But the fact is, they no longer have a parish in the area that has the same reverent worship. They are being forced to either drive further distance to one of the few safe havens for orthodox Catholics in the DOR or they must deal w/ the “spirit of v2” gone wild.

    Instead of making assertions like this, you might want to ask questions first.

  8. avatar Anonymous says:

    Is it possible that if the St Thomas Apostle parishioners move into these other parishes with their love for the Eucharistic Jesus and their piety towards reverent worship, that they might just influence those who forgot how beautiful the Holy Mass is? It is our role to sanctify the world. It is apparent that the Church has been infiltrated by secularism. We must reclaim our heritage. Continue to approach the altar with awe and reverence. Make visits to the Blessed Sacrament. Organize prayer services/adoration/benediction/catechetics, etc. I will never forget after 30+ years of a gradual watering down that I saw a priest consecrate as if he really believed it was the Body and Blood of Our Dear Lord. It was a turning point in my life of faith.

  9. avatar Faithful says:

    Benanderson,

    In this partcular case, maybe your parish is being closed becasue of it’s orthodox bent which would be unfair. The fact still remains that parishes in many places in the East Coast in many dioceses are closing for other reasons. My experience in general is that

    1) The people are acting shocked- like they never saw this comming in a million years. (As if the shortage of priests, the lack of meaningful and substantive contributions, and the population shifts were some huge secret to them. Anyone who was paying attention over the years would have seen this comming.)

    2) The people are acting like the Faith begins and ends with their parish Church. They are acting as though keeping open Churches at any expense is the mission of the Church. The people forget that the Faith trancends the building they worship in, and that no matter what building they worship in, it is the same Eucharist. To be sure, parishes are indeed important, but when the mission of the Church begins to take a back seat to real estate- something needs to change.

    3) The people want to have their cake and eat it. On the one hand they don’t want their Church closed, and on the other hand they want a full time priest to serve them, and they don’t want to contribute in any meaningful or substantive way for the upkeep of the property. The economy is bad, we are on a fixed income- etc are all reasons people give. In many places in the Northeast weekly offerings of a dollar or two still rule the day, then they wonder why the parish has hundreds of thousands of dollars of outstanding debt! The whole point of a parish consolidation is precisely to COMBINE resources and make the burden of supporting the parish easier on the people and also provide them with a priest who is not divided running three and four parishes. In short, the Dioceses and bishops involved in this are inflicting wounds for the purpose of healing and bringing future life and growth.

    This is why when I hear complains about “Our parish was closed unfairly, we are appealing” I read such statements with a grain of salt, a hermenutic of suspicion. Often times these statements rather then reflecting the unfairness of the Diocese reflect the rampant denial of the people over the serious issues confronting the Church in 2010.

    I know little about Canon Law, but what I do know is that unless you can prove your bishop is shuttering the parish simply becasue it is orthodox, it is doubtful you will have a case. It is going to be an unhill battle trying to prove the bishop is closing your parish solely becasue it is traditional minded/orthodox.

  10. avatar Jim says:

    I don’t know who you are benanderson, but it is pretty obvious to me that you are a stranger to the goings on in the Rochester Diocese! I could probably fill at least ten pages of firsthand accounts of Bishop Clark’s revenge against pastors, assistant priests, schools, churches, and seminarians in this diocese, over the past thirty years.(The people and situations I could name are individuals I know personally) I will pray for you, and hope that you will consider all of the facts, before painting over everything with your broadbrush. Remember, if you continue to live in a bubble long enough, someday that bubble will burst!

  11. avatar Jim says:

    My apologies to benanderson…the preceeding remarks were meant for faithful. It really has been a long weekend!! My bad!

  12. avatar benanderson says:

    @Faithful,
    You’re painting a picture that might be true as a broad generalization, BUT again you can’t apply broad generalizations to each particular situation. To do so is presumptuous. And I don’t think the STA parishioner’s need to be lectured. They’ve been fed this message for many months now. If they didn’t buy it the first hundred times they heard it, they’re not going to buy it now.

    is going to be an uphill battle trying to prove the bishop is closing your parish solely becasue it is traditional minded/orthodox.

    again, I plead ignorance – others are much more informed than I. However, I think it’s a good assumption that the parishioners who are battling this know what they’re getting themselves into. They are willing to fight an uphill battle. I’m not sure they need to prove the bishop’s intention, though. I’m guessing they’d just need to show that there is no valid reason to shut them down.

  13. avatar benanderson says:

    @Jim – no worries.

  14. avatar Faithful says:

    Benanderson,

    I am painting with a broad brush indeed. Perhaps what I said does not apply in your situation.

    As for your comment: “I’m guessing they’d just need to show that there is no valid reason to shut them down.”

    I admit I am speaking from a limited knowledge of Canon Law, however when people “appeal the decision” of a bishop to close a parish, they are not appealing the DECISION persay. In other words, it is not a case of “The bishop said close the parish” we are going to go to Rome and make a case for why Rome should over-ride the bishop.” In order to have a parish closing reversed, the people must prove the bishop failed to follow the Canonical Process in the supression of a parish.

  15. avatar Jim says:

    “Faithful”…you gotta do your homework…If you followed the workings of the Irondequoit Pastoral Planning Group, over the past year, you would see that indeed, the parishioners at St. Thomas have more than ample reason to appeal to Rome. The bishop, Fr. Tanck and the Irondequoit Pastoral Planning Team did not follow the Canonical Process in suppressing Masses at St. Thomas. Thus, the appeal.

  16. avatar Dr. K says:

    To the person whose post I just deleted: Don’t ever post here again. Your racially charged and insensitive diatribe has no place on this site. Your attempt to spam your post by reposting it after it was deleted means you no longer have the privilege to post comments on this site.

    This will probably be deleted.

    Perhaps the one thing in your hate-filled post that I can agree with.

  17. avatar dmf says:

    I understand the points Faithful is trying to make. However, if the decision were really just about consolidating resources and helping the dwindling number of priests, then the obvious choice in Irondequoit would have been to close Christ the King, St. Cecelia, St. Margaret Mary, and St. Salome. With seating for 1000 and an ample parking lot and other facilities, St. Thomas the Apostle could easily accommodate the all Irondequoit Catholics. Objectively, the Irondequoit decision is also obviously flawed when the only two Churches closed are the only Catholic Churches in northern Irondequoit and the three open Churches are all south of Titus and all within four miles of each other.

  18. avatar Faithful says:

    Jim,

    Then you will have an appeal. I was simply pointing out that when appealing you are not appealing the DECISION, but the PROCESS.

    Many people are under the impression when they file an appeal it is like “I don’t like what the bishop decided, so I am going to go to Rome to try to get him reversed.”

    Rome does not decide cases on whether the people like what the bishop did, or agreed with it. Rome decides cases on whether the Canonical Process was followed. If as you say the Canonical Process was not followed in this case, and you can prove it, then Rome will reverse the decision.

  19. avatar Jim says:

    We certainly hope and pray that they will!

  20. avatar Jim says:

    dmf makes some excellent points. If the diocese is crying about a priest shortage, then why did they send Fr. Beligotti and Fr. Abass packing, and tell the two retired priests (in good health and able to celebrate Mass) at St. Margaret Mary’s that they have one year to find another place to live, because they can’t stay there anymore?


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