Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

Posts Tagged ‘Church Closings’

Bishop Matano to offer Mass at St. Thomas the Apostle Church

June 16th, 2014, Promulgated by Diane Harris
St. Thomas the Apostle

St. Thomas the Apostle

On the Feast of St. Thomas, July 3, 2014, at 7:00 in the evening, Bishop Salvatore Matano will offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass at St. Thomas the Apostle Church.

Such an event is indeed a blessing to those who have prayed so diligently for their Church, and who miss it so much!

Here is a link to the Facebook Event page and details:
Please mark your calendar and join in such a special event!  Many people  look forward to attending, especially those who have offered stalwart support and prayer for years.  Please pray for this event to lead to meaningful unity in the Catholic Church in Rochester, and a binding up of wounds.   Continue to keep the situation in your prayers.  (This is NOT the time to stop praying!)
In 2011, Bernie posted on Cleansing Fire a touching witness to The Windows of St. Thomas the Apostle.  One of the pictures is shown above.  The entire post can be accessed here:

St. Thomas Parishioners Locked Out

July 31st, 2013, Promulgated by Gen

Just when it seemed that the situation in Irondequoit had reached some sort of equilibrium, Fr. English reminds us that this is not the case. After having instructed parishioners of St. Thomas (sorry…St. Kateri Tekakwitha at St. Thomas the Apostle) not to pray their daily Rosaries there, the administration of the “parish” decided to change the locks on the doors to the church. This was done without any prior notification of the parishioners, adorers, or other visitors who sought to visit Our Lord in His holy place. 398574_10150600168381842_509333251_n

Simply put, Fr. English has locked his own parishioners out of their own church. Remember: St. Thomas the Apostle has not been closed. It is an open church, consecrated and fully able to minister sacramentally to the people of the city, presuming, of course, that her priest(s) choose not to shirk their duty to do so. The parish has been stripped of its Masses, its confession schedule, and all devotions, and for no other reason than a warped sense of political expediency. This is not pastoral planning; this is pastoral vengeance.

The people of St. Thomas have been fighting for years to maintain a presence in their own church. They ought never to have needed to do so, based on their stable finances, demographics, and campus upkeep. Indeed, of all the Irondequoit parishes, St. Thomas was in the best position to facilitate a gentle transition to a prosperous worship community. This was overlooked by many, though. Every individual in a position of authority lorded that authority over the people of St. Thomas, and did this only because of one reason: St. Thomas the Apostle rejoices in its Catholic identity. The same cannot be said of Christ the King, where the casual observer finds himself asking, “is this really a Catholic church?”

The willful and deliberate targeting of St. Thomas has been an unquestionable trend for the past several years, and this most recent transgression refreshes in our minds the memories of past injustices. The manner in which the parish of St. Thomas the Apostle has been “dealt with” bears a striking similarity to the Jews’ treatment of Our Lord in his final days. The Diocese, like the High Priest and his minions, hides behind flawed interpretations of Canon Law, and bends the Law to suit its own agenda. The machinations of the priests took place in darkness, hidden from the light of day, from the light of Truth. Fr. English, I think it is fair to say, is not acting entirely dissimilarly in this matter.

76079_461342011841_6916584_n We should ask of him several questions, to see what possible justification he might have in locking his parishioners out of their worship site. Primarily, why now? What happened to prompt him to seal shut the doors of one of his own churches? Was there theft? Was there mistreatment of property? Did someone say their “Hail Mary” a little too loudly for his liking? Next, we should ask what part of Canon Law allows a pastor to lock his flock out of their church? He might say that locks are changed frequently, and for all sorts of reasons. And this is true. However, in most instances when a parish has its locks changed, the pastor sees to it that the faithful actually have access to the church, and don’t find themselves left out on the steps. His defense might be that “we don’t use St. Thomas for Mass any more. We worship at St. Cecelia, Christ the King, and St. Margaret Mary.” Yes, that is true. But St. Thomas is not closed, and being in that state, cannot be locked to the faithful. The Vatican ruled that it could not “save” St. Thomas because, on paper, St. Thomas is not in any need of being saved. It is officially open. There is no doubt about this. And, maybe I just don’t understand, maybe I don’t speak English too good, but isn’t an “open” church actually supposed to be open?

As of this writing, the canon lawyer representing St. Thomas has been contacted, and is working on resolving the situation. Let us pray for a resolution that is just and equitable for the parishioners. But remember: our politically-motivated priests don’t operate with a focus on the Faith, on objective Truth. No. They can’t focus their eyes on anything, living and operating as they do in the shadow-lands of legality. Do not expect, dear friends, to be dealt with by those in charge with any semblance of respect or charity. But stand firm, be vigilant, do not yield. The Office of Compline tells us, “Be sober and watchful, for our adversary, the devil, goeth about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. But resist, ye, strong in faith.” Take this to heart, and approach this issue prayerfully, with composure, dignity, and certitude.

A picture is worth a thousand words

October 17th, 2012, Promulgated by Dr. K

Below is a collage of photographs detailing the 33-year tenure of Bishop Matthew Clark, and the downward spiral of the Diocese of Rochester that took place during his reign. Have fun identifying the various events and personalities. To see the full size collage, click on the image below.

Click on the image to enlarge

Rome Reverses Bishop Lennon’s Closing of 13 Churches!

March 9th, 2012, Promulgated by Diane Harris

The “really big news” from the Vatican this week is the Congregation for the Clergy’s reversal of Bishop Lennon’s Closing of 13 churches.  This was not a minor administrative correction; it is a real come-uppance for a Bishop’s ignoring direction from the Congregation.  The appeal didn’t even have to go to the Apostolic Signatura for the decision. 

The following has been amended since the original post:

Of course, Bishop Lennon can now appeal to the Signatura, but there is dancing in some Cleveland streets this week.  This appeal has been 3 years in process; so perhaps St. Thomas Apostle can still hope!

Here are some links to explore the media stories:

The last of the above links has the Decree with respect to the St. James parish.  Cleveland Diocese says it now has a copy of the Decree from the Congregation for the Clergy, but is making no comment until they study it.

Notice some of the hi-handed ways that churches were closed.  Kind of reminiscent of DoR’s approach.   Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a similar letter directed to the sites of pain in the Diocese of Rochester?  Let’s pray.




It’s Just a Building

September 30th, 2011, Promulgated by Gen

“How lovely are your tabernacles, O Lord of hosts! 3 My soul longs and faints for the courts of the Lord. My heart and my flesh have rejoiced in the living God. 4 For the sparrow has found herself a house, and the turtle a nest for herself where she may lay her young ones: Your altars, O Lord of hosts, my king and my God. 5 Blessed are they that dwell in your house, O Lord: they shall praise you for ever and ever. 6 Blessed is the man whose help is from you: in his heart he has disposed to ascend by steps, 7 in the vale of tears, in the place which he has set. 8 For the lawgiver shall give a blessing, they shall go from virtue to virtue: the God of gods shall be seen in Sion. 9 O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer: give ear, O God of Jacob. 10 Behold, O God our protector: and look on the face of your Christ. 11 For better is one day in your courts above thousands. I have chosen to be an abject in the house of my God, rather than to dwell in the tabernacles of sinners. 12 For God loves mercy and truth: the Lord will give grace and glory. 13 He will not deprive of good things them that walk in innocence: O Lord of hosts, blessed is the man that trusts in you.” (Psalm 84)

This is, without a doubt, my favorite of all the psalms. Whenever I read it, whenever it appears in the Mass or the Divine Office, even when it is referenced in passing on the internet or in my other reading, I always feel profoundly touched by it. I can’t help but think, “This is my prayer.”

And then my thoughts expand, and I come to realize that it is the prayer of so many of my friends, my acquaintances, my fellow Catholics in the Diocese of Rochester. Of course, all Catholics, and probably all Orthodox Christians, too, find this psalm particularly beautiful. We have maintained in our worship a sense of the sacrifice of old. When we go to Mass, we see the unbloody re-enactment of Calvary and then receive our risen Lord in Holy Communion. Upon the altar of sacrifice, our King deigns to come down to dwell with us. It is in our churches, be they grand or not, modern or old, beautiful or ugly, we see the sacrifice of that Worthiest of Lambs, and not for His own gain, but for ours.

It is for this reason that churches are sacred, for they become our Calvaries, they become the tomb, they become the tabernacles of the Most High. We spend our Sundays, not in our pew or in our seats, but at the foot of the Cross, keeping vigil with Our Lady. When we return from Communion, we are retracing the steps of St. Mary Magdalene, with the news “He lives!” in our hearts. When we leave the church and head to the parking lot, we become like so many disciples who traveled to the ends of the earth to spread the Gospel, inspired and emboldened by that Miracle of Miracles, the Holy Mass.

Why, then, are we told that when our church closes, when it succumbs to schism and dissent, that we mustn’t worry? “It’s just a building.” Yes, it is “just a building,” and Our Lord is present in the tabernacle down the street, but the church serves a purpose more Godly than merely existing to give shelter to the faith community. When we move, there is a sense of loss, be it great or minor, but it’s there nonetheless. The memories of the old house, the musty apartment, the basement “pad” suddenly seem like a precious commodity, something that is special and cherished, not so much because the recollections are so great, but because they can never be augmented. They are the only things linking us to what we have experienced for the past five, ten, twenty, or forty years.

The same is true of our churches. Rationally, yes, we can start worshiping in another building. It’s the same Mass, the same Lord, the same Faith – just a different building. But there is something more profound about losing a church than, say, moving across the city or relocating to a different state. “It’s just a building,” that beloved phrase of our pastoral planning committees, dismisses the richness of our experiences that we had at our spiritual homes. It is offensive that these people think that summarizing such a complex situation into such a trite phrase might actually heal our wounds. When we experience spiritual pain, when our churches are ripped from us, when our parishes become havens of heresy, the pain we experience is profound. Just as our Lord cried out in the Garden of Gethsemane, “My soul is sorrowful unto death. Is there any pain like unto my pain?” so too do our souls cry out in bitter anguish.

And we are not pierced by sorrow for the loss of a building – we are crushed because our nest has been thrown down and trampled upon, our tabernacles ransacked. “The sparrow has found herself a house,” but we find ourselves exiles. When the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed, do you think that the scribes and pharisees said, “It’s just a building”? No – they saw it as sacrilege, that the House of God should be thus treated by vandals and enemies of Faith. They didn’t fall back upon cheap platitudes like, “God’s everywhere, just look around.” No. They wept. They mourned. They were scattered.

For some of us, this might seem overly dramatic. Others, though, will understand. When you give your heart to God, you must know that in doing so, you take your place beside Our Lady, looking upon her suffering Son. And no two of these personal Calvaries are the same. It doesn’t matter where you experience it, for it is certain that at some point, sooner or later, you will. When you love the Church, you must be ready to have your own heart pierced like Our Lady. You must be ready to embrace the cross wherever it is given to you, and to accept every splinter that enters you.   “Blessed is the man whose help is from you: in his heart he has disposed to ascend by steps, in the vale of tears, in the place which he has set.”

Some people who are intimately acquainted with such things are forced to be out of necessity – the church is closed, either legitimately or because of some imagined debt, ecclesial or financial. Other people are given a altogether different experience, wherein the building itself remains, but becomes a den of sacrilege. But like the psalm says, one day in the courts of the Lord is, indeed, better than a thousand elsewhere. I speak only for myself when I say that I cannot endure the willful dissent of people who profess to defend the Church, but whose actions betray a sinister agenda. Administrations come and go, churches are closed and built, but disobedience has always existed and will always exist. And it will exist everywhere, be it in Rochester, New York, Billings, Montana, Miami, Florida, or even Columbia, South Carolina. If one were to leave one city for another, it isn’t to escape the cross, but it ought to be realize that it is in order that he might pursue it. Likewise, when people leave a parish whose building is intact but the administration has changed, they leave because they cannot stand the pain of seeing the lance thrust into Our Lord’s side. They leave because, like Our Lord, their souls are “sorrowful unto death,” wounded through love of Him who loves us so much.

Do not condemn those who flee as cowards. Do not see their departures as abandonments. All they are doing is responding to their call as best as they know how. We are not all called to suffer in this way, but for those who have apparently been called to do so, we must realize that we “have chosen to be abject in the house of my God, rather than to dwell in the tabernacles of sinners.” It isn’t about playing the part of the martyr, or following the easy path. Nor is it about going where things are prettier, or hearing Mass where it looks nicer. What it is about is responding to that constant urging in your heart to follow Him. When Catholics leave a parish, a city, a diocese, they leave their spiritual home. For some, their vocations may have been nurtured on the steps of their parish church, or roused to liveliness in the pews. To leave that home is not an easy thing, nor is it desirable, but it is often necessary in order to answer what God desires, and put the desires of our fellows in their appropriate places.

And so, when we are told that we shouldn’t weep, that we shouldn’t protest, that we shouldn’t complain when things don’t go our way because, “it’s just a building,” know that we are right. We aren’t so stupid as to think that the Faith is restricted to a building or a diocese. We do know that the Faith is restricted to those who observe it. Faith is dead when individuals proceed to alter it for their own satisfaction, and churches die when this mentality reigns. We know it’s not about the building – it’s about Him whom the building exists to serve.

For God loves mercy and truth: the Lord will give grace and glory. He will not deprive of good things them that walk in innocence: O Lord of hosts, blessed is the man that trusts in you.”

Bishop Clark on His Retirement

September 13th, 2011, Promulgated by Gen

Earlier this month, Bishop Clark wrote an article which appeared in the Catholic Courier in which he spoke at length about the many questions surrounding his inevitable retirement. As a reader pointed out, it seems that the more that the faithful point out errors and demand their correcting, the more His Excellency reflects on his retirement. Some people will probably raise the objection that, “hey, you’re making the poor guy feel burdened and besieged.” Well, is it really so bad to make a Bishop of questionable orthodoxy squirm a little at the consideration that maybe, just maybe, he has made some unexplainable mistakes? When I went through the Catholic school system here, we were taught that we must all accept responsibility for our actions, and not shirk our duties but “carry them through conscientiously.” I can’t help but realize that there is very little accountability (in the here-and-now) for people who cause as much confusion on the part of their faithful, especially when the people in charge hide behind the same canons that they warp and use for their own devious purposes. As a very wise old dead Roman once said, “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” “But who then shall guard the guards?”

This all being said, we need to realize that our Church has been developing organically for two thousand years, and has dealt with much bigger problems than our current Bishop. It survived the French Revolution. It aided in the downfall of Communism. It endured the process of Italian Unification. It stood as a silent witness to the fall of pagan Europe, and then humbly helped rebuild a new Europe in the shadowy uncertainty of the Dark Ages. So, no matter how bad we may have things in Rochester for the time being, and no matter how long the recovery takes, the Church goes on and is always victorious. Bishop Clark’s retirement isn’t going to be as dramatic as the beginning of the Renaissance, or as terribly awe-inspiring as the fall of the Roman Empire, but it serves to remind us that, no matter what, the Church as She is (and not as others would make Her) will go on through the ages. We have endured suffering, but nothing like what our brothers and sisters are enduring in places like China and the Middle East. We languish under the current administration, yes, but we know that it will have a definitive end. That is a blessing not all of the faithful can count on when facing their own calamities.

“A diocesan bishop who has completed his 75th year of age is requested to present his resignation from office to the Supreme Pontiff, who will make provisions after he has examined all the circumstances.”

These words from Canon 401 of our church’s Code of Canon Law are particularly meaningful for me, and for all the people of the Diocese of Rochester, as my 75th birthday is July 15, 2012. On that date, I will submit my letter of resignation to the Holy See after 33 years as your bishop.

On the personal side, I will do so with all the emotions you might expect: sadness that the privilege of serving you as bishop of this wonderful diocese must come to an end; hope that Christ will smile on the work we have done together (will He smile on “us” when “we” lost an entire parish to heresy, closed more than half of our schools, several dozen parishes, and sought to bring “new meaning” to His holy sacraments?); wonderment and anticipation about the journey God will take me on in the years to come; and the ways my ministry will continue. Yet I also will willingly submit my resignation and embrace this new phase of my life with a happy spirit. I am comfortable with the church’s wisdom that the bishop’s office is a demanding one in this day and age, that at age 75 our energies are not what they once were, and that more time for rest, prayer and contemplation is a blessing indeed.

I hope I also will be mindful then, as I am now, that this is not just about me by any means. This will be a significant time of transition for our diocese — for all of us. Quite naturally, we will all have questions, curiosity and interest in what the future will bring.

Already, as I travel around the diocese, people are asking me how the process of naming a replacement unfolds and speculating about the changes or adjustments we may be asked to make under new leadership.

Such questions and interests are the most natural thing in the world and emerge in every diocese at times like this. Reactions vary, of course. Some love change, finding it challenging and exciting; others find it onerous.

Then there is the more personal element. For people who have been pleased with my tenure, this time of transition means one thing; for those who will welcome a new approach in pastoral leadership, it means something quite different. (Recently, a parish staff member at a city church said that “we’ll ride this wave as far as we can” when someone pointed out that norms will actually have to be followed under a new Bishop.” Yes, change will mean something “quite different.” It means obedience.)

But no matter our general dispositions or personal opinions, change is coming. How we move through this time of transition as individuals and as a community of faith is, I believe, of great importance. If we approach it with lively and open faith in God and with prayer for all involved in the process, I am sure we will all be richly blessed. I do believe deeply that it will be a time of special grace and renewal for all of us. With that in mind, I thought it might be helpful to offer a few of my own thoughts about this process and touch on some questions people have asked me about it.

First of all, I must tell you that I do not know who our new bishop will be, or precisely when he will be named. As indicated, my letter of resignation begins a process through which a successor is chosen. Recently, that process typically takes 10 months, although it is not unheard of that it can take 15 months or longer. Once the letter of resignation is sent, the process and its timing are solely in the hands of the Holy See, which, I can assure you, works prayerfully and carefully to provide good leadership for a given diocese.

Secondly, I pray that this period of transition will be a time of renewal for our diocese. It will be a privileged time for us to remember our story, to name our blessings, to consider how God calls us to further conversion, and to put in good order any matters that aren’t where they should be or where we’d like to have them.

Thirdly, it can be a time in which we can convert our questions, worries, hopes, longings and fears into constructive thought, prayer and dialogue about important themes of common interest that give rise to the questions: How do we understand the office of bishop? (Answer: a successor to the Apostles.) What can we legitimately expect from him, and he from us? (Answer: Obedience to Rome and to the richness we find in Scripture and Tradition.) What is the bishop’s relationship to his priests? (Answer: Priests? What are these “priests” which His Excellency speaks of? Might he mean “sacramental ministers?”) To parish communities? (Answer: Parish communities tend to function better when not prematurely closed or clustered.) How does he link communities together? (Answer: Not by closing churches and rennovating the cathedral at the same time. Not by replacing an altar with an organ. Not by sending heretics into our churches to run them and ruin them. Not by closing thriving schools and churches. Not by engaging in ecumenical prayer services when your own flock has unmet needs. Not by having a mistress-of-ceremonies whose words have stifled more vocations in this Diocese than we can possibly imagine.) Are there ways in which we can prepare ourselves so that when he arrives the new bishop will come to know a diocese actively engaged and not passively marking time until his arrival? (Answer: Yes. We can actually meet the Holy Father half-way and show him that, contrary to what our Ordinary does, we will follow him.)

Next month I hope to delve into some of these areas in more depth. Let it suffice for the moment to say that I think we will be well-served if we make this a time of peaceful and prayerful examination of ourselves, our parishes and other places of ministry. How are we doing? What ought to change? (98% of what we see in this Diocese ought to change.) What is God asking of us?

To that end I have set some priorities to which I want to devote time and energy in the time remaining:

* To leave our diocese in as stable and positive financial condition as we can manage. Just now I have been quietly raising funds working to strengthen our financial resources for the education of our seminarians and the support of our senior priests.

* To continue to work together daily in our common quest for a deeper spiritual life. One common goal here, I hope, will be our very best effort to receive and celebrate the new Roman Missal this coming Advent.

* To be responsible in meeting the challenges of the day and not leave to my successor difficult problems because they are too hard or too unpopular to take on.

* To keep working at the interfaith and ecumenical work we have undertaken and to encourage others to join us in this work.

* To maintain our tradition of supporting our sisters and brothers in need, through direct human service and advocacy.

* To work toward creating as honest, warm and hospitable an environment as we possibly can manage, as we welcome our new bishop.

A bishop is a successor to the apostles whether retired or not. Under the church’s traditions and laws, leaving office removes from an individual bishop his power and jurisdiction over a diocesan church, but he remains a bishop forever with bonds to the universal church and College of Bishops, and certainly with a special bond to the diocese of which he was shepherd and to those faithful who were once entrusted to his care. It is not retirement in the usual sense of the term.

So, as “bishop emeritus” — the title given bishops after leaving office — I intend to be as helpful as I possibly can to the church of Rochester and to the new bishop, in ways still to be discussed and determined.

I will relinquish the bishop’s quarters at Sacred Heart Cathedral to make it ready for the new bishop when that time comes, but it is my hope and intention to remain in the Greater Rochester area. I have not as yet settled on where that might be. Personally, I am hoping to continue ministering in the Diocese of Rochester visiting parishes, supporting our pastors and sharing in the Eucharist with our people. I would welcome opportunities such as confirming our young people; helping our ministry in our nursing homes and health-care facilities; and offering whatever spiritual counsel I can in retreats and spiritual-growth projects, a role I have come to enjoy every much.

One important task I already know that I can and will fulfill is to pray constantly for the concerns of each of you individually and of this wonderful diocese as a whole. It has been said that one of the most cherished activities of a bishop emeritus is a “ministry of intercession,” that the closest bond and most important responsibility before God that a bishop emeritus has toward those who were once entrusted to him and to whom he has devoted his life is that of prayer. I could not agree more.

I will write more about this theme over the next months as July 2012 approaches, and I will try to keep you as informed as I can about this transition time.

This will be an interesting and unsettling time, but I pray you will remember that we are guided in every journey by the Holy Spirit. As we enter this new journey together, pilgrims on a new venture for Christ, let us be radically open to the Spirit and to each other’s dreams for the future.


Unfair Pastoral Planning Results

September 5th, 2011, Promulgated by Diane Harris

In spite of all the lip service given to fairness and input from parishioners, consensus and “no secret plans,” the DoR pastoral planning process has been rife with manipulation, secrecy and results that scream “unfair!”  In the issue this week of It Really Matters, the newsletter principally for parishioners of the Westside of the 700+ square mile Our Lady of the Lakes Parish (OLOL, aka “oh well, oh well” or “oh hell, oh hell”), we printed another evidence of DoR’s unfairness.  We share the following information from that issue:

More Pastoral Planning Unfairness

Over the years we’ve had many indications of the unfairness of the Diocese of Rochester’s (DoR’s) pastoral planning process.  For the moment, we won’t rehash what was done against the Catholics in closed or soon-to-be-closed parishes but, rather, we’ll look at how DoR’s pastoral planning has failed society as a whole, people of all faiths and of no faith.

If one believes that by virtue of our baptism we have an obligation to bring our faith to those without it, to answer the Holy Father’s call to a new evangelization, to be present where we are needed, and to witness to the great gift of faith we’ve been given, then it would follow that abandoning our post is dereliction of duty.  Yet, that is exactly what seems to have happened in the 12-county Diocese called “Rochester.”

We use two sources of data: 1) the website has a map of the Diocese.  By using the cursor over the map, we can find how many parishes (not churches) are in each county.  2) the 2000 and 2010 census data provide information on total population by county, and its change over the last decade.  The census does not have a breakdown of people by faith, but a most vital point in missionary zeal for spreading the Word of God is that it is meant for all people.  Thus, there should be reasonable proportionality of parishes to total population. 

If pastoral planning had any aspect of fairness to it, one would expect a fairly consistent ratio of total population per parish, with perhaps even a lower total population per parish in the remote areas, where distances are greater.  But just the opposite is true.  Dividing each county’s 2010 population by the #parishes in that county calculates the total population per parish.  The table lists these data by county; DoR averages 10,140 total population of people per parish.

County    #Parishes        #People       People÷Parishes

Cayuga        14               80,026                5,716

Chemung       7               88,830              12,690

Livingston      9               65,393                7,266

Monroe         65           744,344                11,451

Ontario          13           107,931                  8,302

Schuyler          2             18,343                   9,172

Seneca            5             35,251                  7,050

Steuben        14              98,990                  7,071

Tioga*           1               51,125               51,125

Tompkins        5             101,564              20,313

Wayne         13               93,772                 7,213

Yates           1                 25,348               25,348

TOTAL       149            1,510,917              10,140

*Note: DoR reports “4 churches” in Tioga, but Blessed Trinity Parish bulletin lists those churches, so we identify it as one parish.  Other than this one correction, we did not attempt to verify that what DoR publishes as a total number of parishes per county is correct.  We did not slog through the directory or other bulletins to confirm that DoR was reporting its own data correctly.  We simply used what DoR furnished, except for the obvious correction for Tioga, which was the only county for which DoR published # of churches instead of # of parishes.

Some will try to argue that it is the number of open churches, not parishes, which matters, but those in more rural areas especially know that once every activity of significance moves to the “headquarters church”, the continued vitality of the satellite churches is in great jeopardy.  Thus, we consider the number of “parishes” to be significant of the Catholic Presence and activity for the general public, usually where the pastor resides and where everything from RCIA to Youth Programs is held.

The table above shows that Tioga suffers the most, with over 51,000 people in its general population for  a single parish; Yates is next in too high population for the # of parishes, with over 25,000 for just one Yates OLOL, which parish also draws from Ontario County (where St. Jan and St. Theresa are located) and from Steuben (where St. Patrick is located), making the  ratio of population to parish even worse.   The DoR average is 10,140 total population of people for each Catholic parish in the Diocese.  If  Tioga and Yates results are left out, the average total population per parish in the remaining 10 counties is 9758 per Catholic parish, which is only 38% of the population to parish of Yates County, and 19% of the population to parish of Tioga County.  Said another way, the Tioga parish has over 5x as many people in general to be concerned for (and the Yates parish has nearly 3x as many) as the average of other parishes in the DoR.

Double Unfairness:  The double unfairness to people in rural areas  is  1) greater distances to travel PLUS 2) fewer parishes, resulting in a ratio of population to parishes far above what is served by other areas of the 12-county diocese. 

 By the way, we note that both Tioga and Yates are where Fr. Ring was engaged in pastoral planning.  Is it even possible to say with a straight face that there wasn’t a plan from Buffalo Road systematically implemented against the Catholics and their neighbors in these rural areas?

St. Andrew Church Sold, Will Close Soon

July 20th, 2011, Promulgated by Dr. K

Updating on what was previously a rumor, St. Andrew church on Portland Avenue has indeed been sold to a Pentecostal community which currently worships near the Genesee Brewery at High Falls. We have been informed that religious art from the church is gradually going to be removed and stored at St. Michael for possible sale or relocation.

From what we hear, Annunciation isn’t in good shape either. Allegedly the community has overspent its budget to make miscellaneous repairs to the tiny old church building. Our readers have told us that the possibility of closing Annunciation has been discussed in recent months. If this happens, St. Francis Xavier Cabrini will have decreased from five (St. Michael/Corpus Christi/OLPH/St. Andrew/Annunciation) down to two churches (St. Michael/Corpus Christi). This five does not include the several area churches to close prior to the formation of SFXC.

This is a sad time for the people of the former Light of Christ parish. Please say a prayer for them and for all those who benefit from their outreaches.

Upcoming Guidelines for Closing Churches

July 9th, 2011, Promulgated by Dr. K

From a reader comes some very interesting news on the Catholic Culture site:

“The Vatican is preparing instructions for the reorganization of American dioceses that are facing severe financial pressures in the wake of the sex-abuse scandal, according to a report on the new Italian web site Vatican Insider.

The report says that the Congregation for Clergy is working on a document that will provide guidelines for the closing or merging of parishes. The Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, the Vatican body that handles questions of canon law, is now reviewing the text, Vatican Insider reports. The document may be released in the fall of this year, the report indicates.

In recent weeks the Vatican has ruled against the closing of several American parish churches. While recognizing the authority of diocesan bishops to allocate resources, Vatican tribunals have indicated that churches should remain open as sites of worship whenever possible. The Vatican rulings have complicated planning in many dioceses where, after paying enormous legal settlements to sex-abuse victims, Church officials are struggling to meet regular budget expenses.

The forthcoming Vatican document could also address questions about the sale of Catholic hospitals. In Boston, the sale of a Catholic hospital system raised serious questions about preserving the Catholic identity of the institutions, which are now under secular corporate management.”

Vatican Insider Excerpt 6-30-11

June 29th, 2011, Promulgated by Diane Harris

“The tsunami of child abuse cases has devastated the life of the American Church”

By Marco Tosatti Vatican City

“The huge wave of child abuse scandals has dramatically altered the life of the American church. Not only from a moral point of view – as is obvious and right – with an examination of conscience that has been going on since the 90s when US bishops met in Rome in front of John Paul II and, at the time, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Joseph Ratzinger. But also, and above all, from an economic point of view.

The lawsuits brought forward demanding tens of billions of dollars in damages, which have enriched the victims of abuse from decades ago and the team of specialised lawyers in the field have forced several dioceses to seek judicial protection for bankruptcy. The first was a diocese of great importance, Portland, followed by others, including Spokane, Delaware and Wilmington. There is great concern in the Vatican. Not just because the United States, historically, has always made large contributions to the Holy See’s budget, a budget which receives very little revenue and so is normally in the red without the contributions of the dioceses of the various donating countries throughout the world, among which the most important are the U.S., Germany and Italy. The Holy See, however, also fears that economic problems could lead to repercussions on religious life and even on maintaining the basic living conditions for priests, especially pensioners. For this reason, the Congregation for the Clergy in agreement with other departments has prepared a specific document,  which will be released after the summer, possibly in October, that is specifically dedicated to the reorganization of American dioceses. The document is currently being examined by the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, chaired by Archbishop Francis Coccopalmerio. Obviously the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is also interested in the matter. It will provide guidelines on how the U.S. Bishops’ Conference, and each individual diocese must act to rebuild its presence in their area.

A “classic” negative example of the reorganisation linked to the economic problems is that of Cleveland, where the Holy See has decided to send an apostolic visit, or rather, an investigation to look into whether the decisions taken by the Bishop Ordinary Gerard Lennon were adequate. He announced that 29 parishes will close and another 41 will be merged. The restructuring plan which will cut 52 parishes out of 224 is already in effect. Other cities in which word about closure has been heard are Camden, New Jersey, Allentown, Pennsylvania and New York City. The reasons that prompted the decision to close parishes in Cleveland have been the flow of population to outlying areas, the financial difficulties that have seen 42% of parish budgets finish in the red and the shortage of priests. Now this last point is questioned by the Vatican and the apostolic visit will serve to ascertain the facts. The Vatican has asked Lennon to stop his policy of savage cuts. In Boston, amongst many other controversies, he closed 60 parishes. So far the Vatican has not had any luck. The protests of the faithful against these cuts have been numerous and loud and have even reached the Vatican.

This uprising inspired the creation of a document which is based precisely on the nature of participation at the grass roots level that the Church in the United States has, therefore giving an important role to the laity. The philosophy is that of making a distinction between parish and the church. A diocese in difficulty does well to reduce the number of parishes, but must maintain churches and chapels where they exist, perhaps entrusting the care to families of the faithful who are willing to look after them and keep them open. Then on Sundays it is easy to send a priest to celebrate Mass. This solution would take into account various factors, the first being the singular issue of distances, which in the United States are so large. Outright closure of places of worship often oblige the private faithful of the parish to take long journeys to participate in the holy Sunday service.

A second problem that the document will take into account is the sale of and management changes at Catholic hospitals. The first recommendation is to preserve an ethical perspective in the case of a change in management. If this is not possible, then one can sell, but must anyway favour organizations and institutions that are ethically sound.

Finally – and this will not be in the document, and will probably be part of recommendations provided to the individual bishops, there is great concern about the consequences of the payment of damages for the abuses. Some dioceses, such as Boston, led by the Franciscan Cardinal O’Malley that have been particularly affected by the abuse phenomenon, are extremely generous. But they may run the risk of not being able to pay for pensions and healthcare assistance to elderly priests. The document will advise the creation of a guaranteed safety net for people such as these who are particularly vulnerable.”


Church Sales News

June 29th, 2011, Promulgated by Dr. K

First, from our friends at Saving Our Parish comes excellent news that Providence Housing has withdrawn their purchase offer to buy St. Vincent in Corning. Read here for more details.

Second, the rumor mill is rumbling that an offer has been made to purchase St. Andrew church and property in the city of Rochester for over $1 million. As we reported previously, the church was being shopped for $1.2 million by the diocese.

We’ll continue to follow these stories.

From Five to Two?

May 23rd, 2011, Promulgated by Dr. K

The following comes from a reader. We will let you know if we hear anything more about this proposal:

“This evening at Annunciation (Hall),at 7 P.M., there is a meeting regarding the future of St. Francis Xavier Cabrini Parish at Annunciation.We have heard that the D.o.R. is entertaining the thought of not renovating Annunciation and just shutting down both St. Andrew Church and Annunciation.”

I don’t think anyone viewed Annunciation as a long-term solution given the small size of the church and the several costly upgrades required to make it serviceable. In addition to the congregation numbering only ~150 persons, there are few young people who attend Masses at this church. The only reason the diocese might choose to keep it open and renovate the building would be to increase its value for sale.

Why not shut down Annunciation and keep St. Andrew open? That’s right, there are groups interested in purchasing St. Andrew.

Money, money, money…

Irondequoit Easter Attendance 2011 vs. 2010

April 28th, 2011, Promulgated by Dr. K

We have written here before about lower attendance in the new Irondequoit parish (Blessed Kateri) since Masses were eliminated by Fr. Tanck at St. Thomas the Apostle and St. Salome churches. As of March 14th, attendance was averaging about 705 less this year than in 2010 when all five Irondequout Pastoral Planning Group churches will open. In this article, we will take a look at the Easter attendance totals for the five Irondequoit parishes in 2010 and compare these numbers with the 2011 attendance figure for the unified Blessed Kateri parish comprised of three remaining churches.

From the Blessed Kateri bulletin:

2010 parish-by-parish on Easter

Christ the King: 2,048
St. Margaret Mary: 1,291
St. Cecilia: 1,195
St. Thomas the Apostle: 804
St. Salome: 352

2010 Easter total: 5,690

2011 Easter total: 4,104

Difference 2010/2011: 1,586 less people this Easter

Isn’t it about time to “reopen” St. Thomas the Apostle church, Fr. Tanck?

It Doesn’t Take a Rocket Scientist

April 25th, 2011, Promulgated by Dr. K

Here is a view of  the standing room overcrowding at yesterday’s Easter Mass at St. Margaret Mary church in Irondequoit:

The image is further proof of why St. Thomas the Apostle must remain open and be utilized by the Irondequout parish. Blessed Kateri is going to lose all three of its parochial vicars come June (they will drop from four active priests down to one if no replacements are assigned). Fewer priests plus fewer Masses equals greater overcrowding. That is unless Fr. Tanck finally realizes that it is necessary to make use of the largest church building in Irondequoit; the 1,000 seat St. Thomas the Apostle church. As of today the smaller St. Margaret Mary, Christ the King, and (much smaller) St. Cecilia churches are being used by Blessed Kateri. This configuration will not work going into the future.

Must families be forced to stand throughout the Mass because of this priest’s stubbornness?

How About a Little Compassion?

April 14th, 2011, Promulgated by Dr. K

Blessed Kateri has released the liturgical schedule for the 2011 Easter Triduum. As was the case on Christmas, the 1,000 seat St. Thomas the Apostle church will once again not be utilized by the parish.

Blessed Kateri’s attendance continues to average 400 less people than last year, when St. Thomas and St. Salome were still used for Masses.

Update: A reader points out that Blessed Kateri regularly offers 10 Masses per weekend, yet they will only offer 7 for one of the most attended days of the Church year. There is room for at least one Mass at St. Thomas.

Let’s build a parish in Irondequoit

March 26th, 2011, Promulgated by Monk

After demolishing five parishes in Irondequoit, Fr. Tanck wants to build a new one. He destroyed parish communities and relationships that took decades to build. How insulting to the Catholic community of Irondequoit! “Join the construction crew.” Ya right.

Click to enlarge

How is Blessed Kateri Parish Doing?

March 14th, 2011, Promulgated by Dr. K

Last fall the five Irondequoit parishes of Christ the King, St. Salome, St. Thomas the Apostle, St. Margaret Mary, and St. Cecilia were merged by Bishop Clark into a single canonical parish comprising three churches: Christ the King, St. Margaret Mary, and St. Cecilia. I thought it might be interesting to see how well this new Irondequout community of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha has performed since Fr. Tanck eliminated all Masses at two of the churches in the parish. In order to discover the answer, I compiled the attendance figures so far this year for Blessed Kateri and compared these figures to those from the same period of time last year. No surprise; Blessed Kateri parish has lost a number of weekend Mass attendees.

Here is a chart comparing early 2010 to early 2011:

Note: Two weeks of data are missing for St. Margaret Mary in 2010 and one week of data for St. Cecilia in 2011. These weeks were not included in the final calculation. The Masses on Jan 2/3 were not included because they appear to be outliers due to significantly lower Mass attendance compared to the other weeks.

Based upon the available data, Blessed Kateri averaged 3,426 people per weekend in 2010. In 2011, after Masses were eliminated at St. Thomas and St. Salome, the parish has averaged 2,720 people per weekend. The difference from 2010 to 2011 is a decline of 705 weekend Mass attendees in Irondequoit!  This 21% decline is a significant drop in attendance which should not be ignored by Blessed Kateri, the diocese, or the Vatican.

It is worth pointing out that the combined average attendance for the “closed” churches (STA and SS) last year was 777 people. Unless the remaining churches (CTK, SMM, SC) experienced sizable declines despite remaining open, it is reasonable to conclude that most of the 705 lost attendees would have come from St. Thomas and St. Salome churches. What this means is that at worst 91% of the parishioners of St. Thomas and St. Salome have avoided the new Irondequout parish. That is a putrid retention rate of 9%. Now, the actual percentage is probably not that high, but the number of lost STA/SS parishioners is likely north of 70%. This is a far cry from the 2010 IPPG projection that the new parish would lose 20% of St. Thomas and St. Salome parishioners while retaining 80%. In fact, what was actually occurred in Irondequoit is the opposite!

The people of St. Thomas the Apostle predicted this outcome which, for whatever reason, was so difficult for the Irondequout planning group to foresee. Below is a passage from the St. Thomas addendum to the IPPG plan which accurately predicted a 70%+ loss in STA parishioners:

The solution to this problem is clear in my opinion; Masses should once again be offered at St. Thomas the Apostle and, if possible, at St. Salome. As has been stated countless times on this site, STA can financially support itself. They also have ample parking, excellent facilities, and enough dedicated parishioners to keep their church open and vibrant for many years to come. The only Sunday obligation Mass offered at St. Thomas since the “closing” Mass last fall was the very well attended K of C Pro-Life Mass, which was attended by at least 600 people. If this diocese cares about souls, they will demand that Mass be offered once again at these churches.

Eight Allentown Churches to Reopen

March 5th, 2011, Promulgated by Dr. K

It happened again.

A few weeks ago the Vatican ruled that three Massachusetts churches closed by the bishop of Springfield should remain open. Today it is being reported that eight churches in the Diocese of Allentown will be able to reopen after parishioners have successfully appealed the bishop’s decision to close these churches to the Vatican.

This victory should provide hope for those fighting to keep open St. Thomas the Apostle in Irondequoit, as well as a few other area churches, as it would seem to indicate that bishops no longer enjoy the power to close churches at their own personal whim.

Excerpts from the AP article:

“Three years later, Lutkus and parishioners at eight other shuttered churches in Pennsylvania’s Allentown diocese have persuaded a Vatican panel to overturn the bishop’s decision to close them down — an exceedingly rare reversal that experts say may signal a policy shift on U.S. church closures.

“This is a thunderclap. I am absolutely floored,” said Charles Wilson, executive director of the Saint Joseph Foundation, a San Antonio, Texas-based group that helps Catholic laity navigate church law.

In a series of decisions that parishioner groups began receiving in January, the Congregation for the Clergy — the Vatican office in charge of the world’s 400,000 Catholic priests — said the bishop had failed to come up with a “grave reason” for shuttering the churches as required by Catholic law.The panel ruled that parishioners must be allowed to use the padlocked buildings for worship.

“It does not bring the parish back to life, but it puts on the table what could be a workable compromise: to physically re-open the locked-up church as a Catholic place of worship,” said prominent Catholic activist Peter Borre of the Council of Parishes, which has spent years appealing church closures in the Boston area.

Around the same time as the Allentown decisions, the Vatican also rejected attempts by the diocese of Springfield, Mass., to convert three church buildings from holy to secular use.

While a spokesman said the Allentown diocese is seeking clarification about the Vatican decrees, Wilson and other experts said the decisions should give hope to other parishioner groups fighting to save their places of worship.

Then-Allentown Bishop Edward Cullen had cited a growing shortage of priests in his decision to close 47 churches [Sound familiar? It appears that a shortage of clergy is not a “grave” reason for closing a church]

Barres, who succeeded Cullen in 2009, said he was in “complete accord” with the decisions of his predecessor and adopted them as his own.

Parishioners at 14 of the churches appealed to the Vatican. Some parishioners complained bitterly about the process used to decide which churches would close. They also questioned why newer, more modern buildings were targeted while older churches were left alone.

Traditionally, bishops have been given a free hand to make decisions about church closures, consulting with parishioners but ultimately having the final say even as church law requires them to obtain the consent of “those who legitimately claim rights for themselves in the church.” [I believe this includes those who helped fund the construction of churches slated to close]

It appears the Vatican panel, in overturning the decisions in Allentown and Springfield, has ruled that the bishops should have considered the rights of the laity in deciding to close the churches, according to Nicholas Cafardi, a law professor at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh and an expert in canon law.”

Nod of the miter: Saving Our Parish

What May Happen Next In Irondequoit

February 26th, 2011, Promulgated by Dr. K

The following is my prediction of the blueprint that Fr. Tanck and co. will follow in Irondequoit as a result of the recent announcement that the parish is in financial trouble:

1. It is highly unlikely that Blessed Kateri parish will be able to eliminate the deficit, especially the one caused by the CMA tax.
2. In order to eliminate this deficit, Fr. Tanck will propose cost-cutting measures to make the parish financially viable. As part of these measures, Fr. Tanck will propose eliminating unused or underused facilities in the parish. This will include the St. Thomas and St. Salome campuses. How convenient that would be since he eliminated all Masses there, making these churches underutilized.
3. Fr. Tanck, in collaboration with hand-selected lay persons, will make a recommendation to the bishop that the STA and SS properties be sold in order to pay off the debt caused by the other churches in the parish. He will throw out the usual fluff, that we are all in this together as one parish, that we should all work together for the survival of Catholicism in Irondequoit, and that we can’t be paying to operate facilities we don’t need (again, it was his own doing that St. Thomas is not being used right now when it can and should be).
4. Bishop Clark will support the decision by deferring to the recommendation of Fr. Tanck and his hand-selected lay persons.

In order to preempt this likely progression of events, it is my opinion that parishioners of St. Thomas should recommend that STA be used in place of one of the other costly churches if the financial burden is as serious as it sounds. We knew all along that St. Margaret Mary and St. Cecilia were not financially viable.

Also do not forget that costly expansion is still required at St. Cecilia. STA is ready to accommodate extra Catholics without any expansion. STA and SS should not be sold in order to (temporarily) bail out two debt-ridden churches. We’ll be right back where we are now in a few years, and the resentment this would cause will lead to even further departures and less collection income.

Providence Housing May Purchase Two Rochester Churches

February 15th, 2011, Promulgated by Dr. K

From the Catholic Courier:

“This month Providence Housing Development Corp., an affiliate of diocesan Catholic Charities, submitted an application to New York State’s Homes and Community Renewal agency and its Housing Trust Fund Corp. for affordable-housing funds for a project at the Holy Rosary campus in Rochester, said Monica McCullough, Providence’s executive director.

The agency also is mulling an affordable-housing project at the St. Vincent de Paul campus in Corning, McCullough said.

Providence has entered into purchase offers to buy both the Holy Rosary and the St. Vincent de Paul campuses, but both sales are contingent on Providence receiving affordable-housing financing, McCullough said.

Under Providence’s plan, the school, convent and rectory on the Holy Rosary campus would be converted into affordable-housing apartments, and the church — which closed as a worship site in 2008 — would be reused as a community space, she said [Not exciting news at all, to see a Catholic church become a community center. Still, better that than a mosque]. The plan also would add new three- and four-bedroom units of affordable housing on scattered sites in the neighborhood around the Holy Rosary campus. The entire project would add about 60 units of affordable housing to the neighborhood.

McCullough said Providence is in the process of drafting concepts for the Corning site, and details of how buildings would be used have not been finalized [The parishioners are currently fighting efforts to sell their church. Read here and here for more details]. An application for affordable-housing funding for the St. Vincent de Paul project is still in development and will not be submitted this month, which is the deadline for applications for the most recent round of affordable-housing funding, she said.

Parish officials have said that the sale would take several years to close [The longer it takes, the better the chance it can be avoided].

“(The sale) will substantially reduce expenses, move the parish towards one quality worship site, and strengthen the Catholic community in our area [Evidence of this is lacking from other DoR consolidations],” stated an Oct. 30 letter to parishioners from parish leaders. “It is one big step toward averting financial collapse.””