Cleansing Fire

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St. Thomas Parishioners Fight Back With Their Wallets

July 23rd, 2009, Promulgated by Dr. K

It would seem that the recent decision to recommend St. Thomas the Apostle for closure is not being taken very well by the parishioners of St. Thomas. The people of St. Thomas are beginning to explore options to fight back against this decision, and one of these appears to be, at least this week, withholding collection money. According to the most recent cluster bulletin, the collection total for STA was only $2,823. This may not sound all that interesting, but when you look at recent collection totals, and take note that attendance is relatively unchanged over the past month and a half, a significant drop is noticeable.

Here are the recent attendance and collection totals for St. Thomas-

Date: attendance – collection
7/19: 475 – $2,823
7/12: 429 – $4,169
7/5: 485 – $4,491
6/28: 483 – $4,650
6/21: 470 – $4,185
6/14: 439 – $4,099

The average collection before the (potential) closing announcement was $4,318. The collection total in the first full week after the announcement was $2,823. This represents a difference of $1,495. Fr. Norm Tanck, the cluster Pastor, also noticed this sudden decline in donations by the St. Thomas parishioners. He offers his opinion on the situation in the bulletin:

“I know that there are a lot of conversations going on, that groups are meeting and letters have been written. As you can see from our collection report this week, some are protesting by withholding their usual donations… Rather than being signs of hope some of these reactions are self-destructive and may become self-fulfilling prophecies of further decline and death than helpful ways forward… To withdraw or withhold one’s presence, involvement or donations will only break down and divide our communities leaving bitterness and anger that will take generations to heal.”

Fr. Tanck speaks a lot of truth in his statements, but he also doesn’t seem to recognize what is causing this anger. First, withholding donations may in fact accelerate closure. Then again, if closure is going to occur anyways, the people might as well leave as little money as possible for Christ the King to enjoy and seek parishes more compatible with their traditional style of worship. He is also correct that division, bitterness, and anger may soon occur. The reason, however, is because the people of St. Thomas have not been treated fairly throughout this pastoral planning process. Most attempts by the St. Thomas parishioners to save their parish, and to make arguments for it to remain open, have been brushed aside and ignored by the planning committee. The people of St. Thomas have brought up several reasonable ideas such as fund drives, reopening their former school, and bringing in St. George Lithuanian. All of these have been rejected by the committee. The people have also made strong arguments to keep their parish open over another, including the fact that St. Thomas would be the only parish to remain open north of Titus Avenue to serve the north Irondequoit Catholics, the large size of St. Thomas church building, and the Msgr. Burns fund to strengthen the parish and keep it afloat. Again, these have not been given consideration. Excuses have been made by the committee to slap down every possibility to save St. Thomas. If the cluster does not want bitterness and division, perhaps they should treat each of the cluster parishes with respect, and allow them each a fighting chance to keep their respective churches afloat.

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23 Responses to “St. Thomas Parishioners Fight Back With Their Wallets”

  1. avatar Anonymous says:

    The people at St. Thomas should send their collection money to Our Lady of Victory to send the bishop and the planning group a message: If you close our church, not only will out money go to OLV, but we will as well!

  2. What about this — a swap — the diocese gets the Msgr. Burns fund money and STA gets Father Antinarelli as pastor? He would pack the place. What ya think?

  3. avatar Dr. K says:

    Wasn't St. Thomas the Apostle Fr. Antinarelli's first assignment as a priest? I bet he wouldn't mind returning home.

    ~Dr. K

  4. Not sure, Dr. K. If I remember, I'll ask him on Sunday. His home parish as a kid was Our Lady of Mt. Carmel.

  5. avatar Anonymous says:

    Fr. Antinarelli could save any parish, anytime, anywhere.

  6. avatar Anonymous says:

    Good, I hope they don't give Christ the King a single penny. We know what the outcome is going to be, so stick it to them. I agree with the poster up above, send your collection money to Our Lady of Victory.

  7. avatar Anonymous says:

    Why would they want to do that? To continue creating communities consumed with hate and anger instead of a community filled with Jesus' love and mercy? I don't think that is the kind of Church Jesus had in mind or I would like to raise my children in.

  8. avatar Bernie says:

    Fr. Richard McBrien suggested in one of his columns that the most effective way for the faithful to express its opinion is to withhold money from the Sunday collection. It's the only real vote most people have –that, and using their feet. So, the two suggestions offered –withholding contributions and "taking a walk"– seem most appropriate to me. I would be much surprised if St. Thomas were to be actually left open when all is said and done. Very sad.

    (I fear that our persistent promotion of OLOV and Fr. A may have negative consequences. I'm not sure about that but the thought does worry me. Am I being paranoid?)

  9. avatar Gen says:

    Well, we don't have a direct relation to OLV, but I can see your concern regardless. From what I've heard, the diocese doesn't dip it's chalice into our metaphorical "pool of wisdom."

    My main concern is this: if, in this .001% chance that Fr. A is moved away from OLV to save St. Thomas, what will the people of OLV do? Will they stay, will they leave? Will another traditional priest be put in? Would the chant stay? Would there be a lay administrator? Would there be a lay preacher?

    Disturbing images all. Let's pray that OLV remains as it is now: an out of the fire maintainer of the status quo.

  10. avatar Dr. K says:

    "Fr. Richard McBrien suggested in one of his columns that the most effective way for the faithful to express its opinion is to withhold money from the Sunday collection."

    He means if the priest is orthodox, right? 🙂

    ~Dr. K

  11. avatar Dr. K says:

    "My main concern is this: if, in this .001% chance that Fr. A is moved away from OLV to save St. Thomas, what will the people of OLV do?"

    They would hop on the bus to St. Thomas!

    In seriousness, it would likely cripple OLV. How many traditional priests are there really out there to serve this personal parish? Not too many in the DoR.

    ~Dr. K

  12. avatar Dr. K says:

    From the April 19th OLV bulletin:

    "The 20th marks my 35th anniversary of priestly ordination. That?s right: I was ordained at the age of 4. I ask the help of your prayers, that I may be the kind of priest Christ wants me to be. I recall the day I was ordained at Blessed Sacrament Church, by the late Bishop Dennis Hickey. My parents were so happy and proud! I offered my first Mass at St. Thomas the Apostle, with the late Monsignor Richard Burns as archpriest."

    According to this, Fr. A offered his first Mass at St. Thomas, but it doesn't indicate whether this was his first assignment. Hopefully someone out there can obtain this information.

    ~Dr. K

  13. avatar Sed says:

    I'm proud of my fellow brethren at St. Thomas. Don't take their abuse lying down, fight back with all that you've got.

  14. avatar Bernie says:

    "Fr. Richard McBrien suggested in one of his columns…"

    Yes, Dr. K, a feeble attempt on my part at irony! Sorry.

  15. avatar Anonymous says:

    The priest needs to stop passing blame and the IPPG needs to stop passing blame. It is THEIR fault. They forced this clustering on St. Thomas, which caused a massive decline in attendance. It is their fault.

  16. avatar Mike says:

    Dr. K.,

    According to the 1977 edition of The Official Catholic Directory Fr. A. was assigned to St. Spephen's in Geneva as of December 31, 1976.

    That's just 2 1/2 years after his ordination, so I suspect it was his first assignment.

  17. avatar Dr. K says:

    Thanks.

    Is this book available in the Rochester library?

    ~Dr. K

  18. avatar Mike says:

    Dr. K. asked, "Is this book available in the Rochester library?"

    I wouldn't know but I suspect not. Libraries – at least local ones – tend to keep only the latest editions.

    However, we saw a few puff pieces appear to mark the bishop's 30th and I suspect there will be many more as his retirement looms.

    And so I've been accumulating older editions of the OCD to be in a position to present DOR's true history over the last 35 or so years as the need may arise.

    Thus far I have editions from 1977, 1979, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1990, 1994, 1999, 2004 and 2007.

  19. avatar Tony says:

    Where does one go about getting a copy of The Official Catholic Directory?

  20. avatar Mike says:

    Tony,

    The 2009 edition is available from the publisher (see here).

    Used book dealers will sometimes have copies of older editions.

  21. avatar Anonymous says:

    Never fear……hasn't anyone witnessed the presence of Father Peter Abas on the scene at STA and CTK (as well as St. Salome?) Nothing bad can come out of that, don't you agree?

  22. avatar Tmac says:

    Good post, Dr K. I still think you, DOR Catholic and Rochester Catholic are closet Voice of The Faithful members. 🙂

  23. avatar Dr. K says:

    Oh no, not VotF, haha

    Thanks for the encouragement.

    ~Dr. K

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