Cleansing Fire

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The IPPG Documents – The Letter To Bishop Clark

February 11th, 2010, Promulgated by Dr. K

The Irondequoit Pastoral Planning Group has just published on their Web site a few new documents pertaining to the proposed closures of St. Thomas the Apostle and St. Salome churches in the town of Irondequoit. We will take a few posts to take a look at some of the important statements made within these documents. All of the documents (Letter to Bishop Clark & addendum, St. Thomas addendum, and St. Salome addendum) will be sent to the bishop by the IPPG for his review in making a decision about what churches to close.

In this post, we will take a look at the centerpiece document, the 11 page letter of the IPPG to Bishop Clark. The format that will be used in this particular series is to quote the letter, and then follow each quote with some commentary.

The letter: “Catholicism in Irondequoit will be best preserved and grown by the creation of a single parish, led by one pastoral staff, combining the resources, ministries, and talents from five former parishes with three worship sites spread throughout our town, at Christ the King, St. Cecelia, and St. Margaret Mary.”

Commentary: Hasn’t the IPPG already tried this merger strategy before? Christ the King, St. Thomas the Apostle, and St. Salome were clustered under a single pastoral staff. The end result of this decision was the weakening of all three parishes, though felt significantly harder at St. Thomas and St. Salome. This process failed once before, what indication is there that it will not fail once they attempt it again with the remaining parishes?

The letter: “The group [IPPG] was without parish representatives from St. Salome and St. Thomas the Apostle for several months, Father Tanck reporting that it was difficult to find people at those parishes who were available to serve on the planning group.”

Commentary: You can’t serious expect us to believe that, can you IPPG? We’re supposed to believe that the people of St. Thomas would fail to step forward during a period of critical decisions such as the 2006 clustering? The way the people have responded to your plan to close their parish (a 19 page addendum which will be reviewed in another post) suggests to me that these people would have jumped at an opportunity to serve on your IPPG.

The letter: “After the October 2008 Mass counts were reported, it was obvious that attendance and contributions continued to decline and we needed to address the vitality of our parishes.”

Commentary: You may not like hearing this, but when you combine the three remaining parishes into one parish, you’re probably going to see a decline once again. Change = less attendance. Less Mass times = less attendance. Different leaders who don’t respect your parish’s traditions and has loyalties elsewhere = less attendance. To the people of St. Cecelia and especially St. Margaret Mary: Don’t be shocked when you’re in the same position as St. Thomas a couple of years down the road. The IPPG will decide once again that parishes need to close, and yours will be next. Christ the King is not going anywhere with their large campus, school, “Vatican II” facilities, and leadership of the Basilian fathers.

The letter: “…a recommendation would made only after parishioner input, followed by consensus of the pastoral councils”

Commentary: And did that happen? Were parishioners voices really hard? Did not the St. Thomas council decide against this plan? Just because you throw these words out there doesn’t mean that the whole story is being told (accurately).

The letter: “Financially, income is insufficient to cover existing expenses. There is no surplus to pay for necessary maintenance that has been deferred due to parishes covering ongoing operating expenses, such as building costs, staff expenses, school subsidy and CMA, let alone having funds to set aside as reserves for future capital expenditures.”

Commentary: The necessity of said maintenance is dubious, as the people of St. Thomas have suggested in their addendum. To reduce staff expenses, one need only cut the bloat of unnecessary lay ministers. Interesting about the CMA… I thought the CMA is to help “Keep the Spirit Alive.” More like this tax is killing parishes.

The letter: “Administratively, a three parish cluster, with very diverse communities and cultures, is a tremendous drain on the time and energy of the Pastor, the Parochial Vicars, and the staff.”

Commentary: How will a new three site parish work then if it’s so difficult to do it with Christ the King, St. Thomas and St. Salome? This new three-site parish will include even more people than the present one. The comment about the diversity of the communities being a drain is very interesting. This suggests to me that the leaders do not appreciate the different culture that is present at St. Thomas and St. Salome compared to Christ the King. This suggests that they will not maintain St. Thomas’ traditions in the new parish.

The letter: “All our parishes would still act as separate parishes, trying to stay alive with limited people and resources. The vitality of our parishes is waning — we need to spend our energies and efforts to reverse this trend, which requires collaborative effort.”

Commentary: 500 people is hardly limited. Also, were each parish to fight for their own existence, people would want to stick around knowing that they have a chance to keep their parish going. Look at what happened at Holy Name in Greece when they were issued a challenge to address their debt. The people stepped up, and they got the job done. This is all the people of St. Thomas wanted; a chance to fight for their right to exist. The diocese and the IPPG has other plans, however. Where were these “energies and efforts” to improve attendance in the Christ the King/St. Thomas/St. Salome cluster? NOW the IPPG parishes are finally going to try? Would have been nice if they would have tried beginning in 2006 or earlier. Also, if a collaborative effort will mean success, how come it didn’t for the CTK/STA/SS cluster?

The letter: “We determined that it is preferable to utilize buildings that do not require modification or repair to meet the needs of our new parish”

Commentary: The plans I have read involve St. Cecelia’s requiring an addition to the church of some 250 seats. Why is that not mentioned in this document? St. Thomas can hold 1,000 people; no addition is necessary.

The letter: “…the projected 20% decline in members and revenue”< br />
Commentary: I love how the loss of Catholics and souls is just a statistic to these people, instead of something that needs to be considered before anything else. When you close parishes, you lose people. It’s a simple proven fact that can be seen by looking at the closures that have taken place in the DoR so far. Some of these people go elsewhere, some of the older parishioners go to the parish that remains open, and still others get so disgusted with the Church that they stop going to Mass. If only they cared enough to keep these people in the Church instead of worshiping the almighty dollar.

The letter: “The sale of the closing sites must be addressed. The sacred places at St. Salome and St. Thomas the Apostle, including the Shrines to the Unborn, Msgr. Burns’ grave, and the Adoration Chapel, as well as statues, windows, furniture and other property, must be addressed respectfully and sensitively. It is our belief that our communities must work closely together to incorporate certain properties of those worship sites that close into the presence of those that are part of the new parish.”

Commentary: Talk is cheap, I want to actually see action regarding this should these parishes indeed be shut down. Bringing a token statue or painting isn’t going to do it. At St. Thomas, the altar rail carries significant meaning to the people and to their traditions. The altar rail will need to be brought to one of the remaining three parishes. St. Margaret Mary is the most logical choice based on the marble altar and pulpit, which would go well with the marble altar rail.

The letter: “In order to give everyone a sense of rebirth, we request that parishioners be involved in the recommendation of the name of the new parish. Also, would it be possible for the new parish parishioners to participate in renaming the worship sites, if so desired?”

Commentary: I’ll answer the second part first- no. The diocese is not going to go renaming churches. Second, how is giving a cutesy name for this new parish supposed to make people feel better? Call you parish “Peace of Christ”, “Light of Christ”, “Happy Happy Joy Joy”… it means nothing. All you’re doing is attempting to push people to forget their native parishes, and also to destroy the traditional Catholic practice of naming parishes after SAINTS, not catchy slogans.

The letter: “We must ensure that the diverse cultures at each of our parishes, and the communities that have sprung up with the various Masses and ministries at each separate parish, respect and work together to create the new parish.”

Commentary: I don’t see that going well if the IPPG does not begin to demonstrate some true respect for the people of St. Thomas. If the IPPG is not planning on bringing the altar rail to a parish, and not planning to have at least one reverently celebrated Mass with altar boys exclusively, you can forget about your Utopian dreams of everyone getting along singing kumbaya around the altar.

That’s it for tonight. Tomorrow we’ll take a look at St. Thomas the Apostles 19 page addendum. There is a lot of good stuff in there, I promise.

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5 Responses to “The IPPG Documents – The Letter To Bishop Clark”

  1. Anonymous says:

    So many good points. Thank you.

  2. Persis says:

    Yes, wonderful points. I am looking forward to the rest of this series.
    One comment regarding the lack of representatives from STA & SS. I know from experience, that it can be very difficult, for a plethora of reasons, to find people to commit to a project like this. I left my parish a year ago and my position on the planning committee is still open.
    I am not trying to make excuses for anyone in Irondequoit, I just know what I have seen and experienced.
    In many cases (not just in the church)once a decision is finally made, by the people who had stuck it out the longest,and put the effort into trying to make the best decision possible for everyone involved, then a bunch of others come out of the woodwork to point out what they did wrong and "how we could have done it better," etc.
    I have seen this happen too many times to count, and my only question to them has been , "Well, where were you when we started this?", and that is wehn the excuses start rolling, "I'm too busy", "there's no point", "the decision has already been made, this is just a BS feel-good manuver", etc., etc., etc

    There is a song from Counting Crows called "Big Yellow Taxi". One the lines is
    "don't it always seem to go, that you don't know what ya got til it's gone"
    it seems to me that this a lesson we in the DOR have not yet learned!

  3. Mike says:


    You make a good point.

    I was involved in the Eastern Greece/Charlotte incarnation of PPNM for 7 years. Each of our 6 parishes was supposed to have two parishioner representatives on the Steering Committee, one a parish council rep and the other a parishioner-at-large.

    Four of our parishes usually had no trouble coming up with their 2 parishioner reps, but the others always seemed to be short one, with their pastors usually reporting a difficult time finding people to commit to long term programs.

  4. Vere Dignum says:

    How someone's tune has changed from the "they deserve what they're getting" lunacy of a couple months ago.

  5. Dr. K says:

    Alright, Vere, the past is the past.

    ~Dr. K

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