Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

Diocesan Politics

August 27th, 2010, Promulgated by Dr. K

I was browsing through the bulletin of the St. Thomas More/Our Lady Queen of Peace cluster when I noticed something that has managed to escape my eye until now. First, let me preface what I am about to say by reminding our readers that these parishes are not the most well-attended in the diocese. Both of these Brighton churches average between 450-525 people per weekend (side note: St. Thomas More’s attendance has plummeted by over 300 people in just a couple years since a laywoman, Margaret Ostromecki, was installed as pastoral administrator). If you doubt what I say, below are the attendance figures from this past weekend.

Anyway, what caught my eye was the rather high number of Masses offered at these two parishes. While communities such as Peace of Christ, the Gates-Chili cluster, and others with three church sites have to split six Masses among three churches (in a 2-2-2 arrangement), this cluster has the luxury of seven Masses divided among just two parishes. Rather strange if you ask me, especially when one takes into account that their attendance totals are significantly less than the numbers in any of the Gates-Chili cluster parishes.

Below are the weekend Masses offered at the two parishes:

Our Lady Queen of Peace Masses

St. Thomas More Masses

I want you to focus specifically on the number of Masses offered at OLQP. This parish, which as I said earlier averages 450-525 people each week, has the privilege of four weekend Masses. That’s a bit much with the current priest shortage we have in Rochester, don’t you think? OLQP is averaging approximately 100 people per Mass, or using around 33% of its worship capacity. Hardly a good use of facilities, hardly a “vibrant” community, and hardly worth the inappropriate distribution of Mass offerings. How come St. Thomas the Apostle in Irondequoit, which has roughly the same attendance figures as OLQP and STM, is about to be stripped of all its weekend Masses and shut down, while OLQP gets to chug along on its merry way with four weekend Masses? The answer, my friends, is diocesan politics.

As you may or may not know, Fr. Joseph Hart, STD, one of Bishop Clark’s two hand selected Vicars General for the diocese, is the “sacramental minister” of Our Lady Queen of Peace and now St. Thomas More. Fr. Hart is basically the #2 man in the Diocese of Rochester. He has A LOT of pull with Bishop Clark, let me assure you of that. Thus, because OLQP is his little pet parish, this church is in no danger of closure, and Fr. Hart appears  able to remain there in perpetuity since he is no longer the pastor, and thus no longer bound to Bishop Clark’s maximum of 12 years in any one parish for a pastoral leader.

St. Thomas the Apostle, on the other hand, enjoys no such luxury of having a Vicar General of the diocese on staff. STA doesn’t even have a real pastor, but rather has been assigned to the pastoral care (“care” not the word I would use for what they have received) of the Christ the King pastor, Fr. Norm Tanck CSB. When it came time to consolidate the five Irondequout parishes into one large parish, this priest was nowhere to be found with respect to the defense of St. Thomas and St. Salome, because his loyalties were elsewhere.

Isn’t that really the difference between St. Thomas and OLQP/STM? The cluster of  OLQP/STM has a diocesan big tuna on staff, while St. Thomas has a pastor of another parish in charge who wants to be rid of this burden placed upon him. Diocesan politics are very much at play in keeping certain churches open (St. Mary downtown, Resurrection, OLQP/STM, Our Lady of Lourdes/St. Anne) while others have to shut down because of this so-called priest shortage.

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