Making All Things New Update

+ Feast of Blessed Junipero Serra

I was actually dreading the meetings of yesterday and today…

Attending these all-day sessions were the priest council members, the vicars, and the working group for Making All Things New, our strategic pastoral planning process.  The only steps left after this would be, as required by Church law, the views of the College of Consultors, and then my decision.  So, these were very important gatherings.

Over a year of consultation, meetings, conversations, criticism, and intense process, involving all our parishes, had preceded these two days.

The agenda for the ten hours of meetings was a vote of approval, or disapproval, of the list of recommendations from the cluster groups and the advisory committee about the future of our 365 parishes.

Why was I dreading these sessions?  For one, this was the first time I ever saw “the list” of recommendations about which parishes should close, merge, or cooperate more closely.  Of course, the cynics claim I’ve had “the list” of parishes I wanted to close for over a year, and that all this exhaustive “process” was a sham.  All I can do is assure you again that the first time I ever saw “the list” of parishes proposed for closure or merging was yesterday morning.

The second and more ominous reason I had heartburn anticipating these meetings was fear of fierce controversy.  I could envision arguing, lobbying, and protests.

I should have listened to Jesus tell me, “Fear is useless…what is needed is trust!”  The gathering was uplifting, uniting, and enlightening.

I left with some clear observations:

For one, the process has worked!  The data gathered was most comprehensive, the pastoral needs of God’s People was convincingly presented, and the participants in the meeting were seen frequently to be nodding in assent as the recommendations were reviewed.

Two, the priests on the council, and the vicars, were wonderfully invested in the conversation, asking insightful questions about where the people would go if their parishwere closed, or if a merging were logical and do-able.  In a few cases, the recommendations of the clusters and the advisory committee about parish mergers were not accepted.  However, 90% of them made eminent sense, and got the council’s support.

Third, the reasons given for approving (or, on occasions, turning down) a recommendation were all pastoral: conserve and better-use our priests; utilize the churches and parish properties that are better maintained and in much better shape; sensitivity to our elders, and our poorer people who depend on walking or public transportation to get to Sunday Mass and parish activities; changing demographics of parishes, with either the flight or influx of Catholic people into the area; and, in many cases, special considerations for unique groups.  For instance, one parish suggested to close was also serving the deaf community, another welcoming people who desire the Latin Mass, another the Vietnamese Catholics, all of whom, while not living within the parish neighborhood, were still in need of pastoral care and a spiritual home.   The priests wanted to make sure they were not forgotten.

After the meeting; I did not even need the Alka Seltzer I had brought along!

Now, to decide, and I must do so by the end of September.

At that time, I’ll show you the entire list of recommendations, and, more importantly, will let you know of my decisions.

All I know is that I am very grateful to Bishop-elect John O’Hara, the clusters, advisory committee, and staff.

All I know is that the process is working.

All I know is that it’s going to be neuralgic to see some parishes close.  But, as we’ve often all observed, while the closing of a parish is always painful, it’s less painful if there has been extensive, patient, consultation.  And these last two days assured me that’s the case.

Stay tuned…please pray!

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16 Responses to “Making All Things New Update”

  1. Ryan says:

    For your consideration, I have a solution to your parish closings…establish a team, priests, layman, or whoever, go door to door, block by block and get the catholics back in the pews. Convince them of the necessity of going to Mass and use of the Sacraments. We have to be a proactive church. What is the new evangelization? People no longer come. The fact that the second largest denomination in the US is made of “ex-catholics” says enough. If you wish to discuss further with me, I’d be happy to share my recommendations. I am a businessman who knows how to run a company. Plus it is just common sense. We must get the church back on track, and when the people are back, the pews will be full and these churches need never have closed. I feel like I am in another dimension as every Catholic I talk to has no clue about church teachings on a whole range of things. At what point do the prelates stand up and say enough is enough, and teach the people the faith once again? When the salt loses its flavor, then what?

  2. Laura says:

    Hi Father,

    I implore you to keep the doors open at the Church of St. John the Baptist and Holy Innocents.

    St. John the Baptist, in addition to its generous service & support group schedule, has a food pantry program that was struggling last holiday season, but by the grace of God, is doing better now and meeting the needs of its members. The Wednesday afternoon food pickup actually has become a sort of social hour for the elderly as the church opens up its basement community area; they count on this time. A LOT of people make that pantry work – don’t shut them down! I have also participated in one of their many outings – my first religious pilgrimage was to the Padre Pio shrine in Barto, PA and it was organized by this church. You probably also know that they have a shrine to St. Pio, complete with a sock and glove that covered his holy wounds. In recent years the people of this church (and of other churches!) have donated money for the St. Pio shrine, which has a new statue. Please don’t take this away!

    As someone who practices both the TLM & Novus Ordo, Holy Innocents is an irreplaceable gem in this archdiocese. PLEASE come to a Latin Mass! If you could see how dedicated the priests are, how dedicated the servers are, the people. The TLM needs a home – and Holy Innocents is that home; the daily Mass is especially important. We can receive the sacraments in Latin here; please protect this sacred practice. In addition, HI hosts a thrift shoppe and religious articles shoppe in their lower level community area. I understand this church supports itself, although certainly I don’t know much about that. Please, before making any decisions, come and visit these churches. We need them both!

    Many thanks and I pray that God will continue to bless you. Thank you for being a priest!
    Laura

    PS: Bishop-elect O’Hara is a fine man. I’ve never heard a priest say the Creed with such conviction. Great choice!

  3. Martha says:

    It should be an easy decision, just close all the dissident parishes like the ones who cater to LGBT’s. Simple, keep open the ones thatare really Catholic and no the CINO ones.

  4. KS James says:

    Your Eminence, would you also clarify the consideration of merging potentially closed parishes with the openly Gay supporting Church of St. Francis of Assisi? Also, why is such openly public support for homosexuality allowed on their website, etc. Is active homosexuality not a reason for refraining from reception of the Eucharist? Those of us in the pews are more and more confused and upset by the lack of leadership from the hierarchy of the Church. Thank you.

  5. Martina Lynch says:

    Your Eminence, I pray that you will make the right decision and save St. John The Baptist Church, Piermont. Our response to the preliminary recommendation has been strong, positive and passionate with continuing local TV and newspaper coverage, online and paper petitions and hundreds of personal letters being sent to the Archdiocese. A huge envelope was hand delivered to the office of Fr. O Hara who has been very gracious and eloquent in answering my questions about the process. I pray that you will have the time to read people’s sentiments about what the church means to them. We have faith in your Eminence and will continue to pray to God and to the Holy Spirit for guidance as you make the final decision. We will not give up the fight to save our church. May God bless you and bless St. John’s for many years to come!

  6. Ann Plogsterth says:

    I’m also concerned that Holy Innocents has just spent a great deal of money restoring the murals by Constantine Brumidi–now what will become of them? (He is the artist who did almost all the paintings in the Capitol in Washington, D.C.)

  7. Gabriel says:

    Hopefully the Holy Spirit will protect his faithful.

  8. Catholic located in Taiwan says:

    I think that it is a huge mistake to close any Catholic Church in Manhattan. Each Catholic Church building is a constant reminder to the local people who pass by that the Church is there to help their spiritual needs. The existence of a Church building in many ways serves the same purpose as a bill board serves to remind and enforce a particular product in a persons mind. Further the hope is that with God’s help, people will return to the Church over time. The Church properties should not be sold for immediate cash, but rather all of the Churches should remain open and the Church staff perhaps must tighten their own belts.

    I am familier with most of the Churches in Manhattan and have seen the massive changes in both the interiors of the churches as well as the service since the late 1950′s.

    St. Francis of Assisi on West 31 and West 32 Street is a far cry from the way it was in the mid 1960′s, with its beautiful centerpiece relic as well as roof fresco’s, which were painted over at some point. The changes are not only physical but also in the way the mass and services are conducted.

    St Francis Xavier on West 16 Street is as beautiful as ever, but caters to the recent influx of Gay’s and seems to have stopped promoting Church teaching regarding the practice.

    St John’s on West 31 Street is still wonderful, but they also have slipped to a degree in that they offer communion in the hand.

    The Church of the Holy Innocents is a special church and stands out from the rest of the Churches in that it practices the age old Catholic liturgy.

    Do everything humanly possible to keep all of the Churches open and particular, keep The Church of the Holy Innocents open and please do not put up road blocks and prevent them from continuing their important task of promoting the Catholic Church. The influence of the Church of the Holy Innocents is felt way beyond Manhattan. It is possible that this one church is the catalyst for the rebirth of the Catholic Church.

  9. Kevin says:

    Please do no close Holy Innocents. There is no reason to close it. The parish is not running a deficit, and the diocese needs a stable home for the latin mass community/devotees. I am only age 19 and I prefer the extraordinary form, it is not just for the elderly. Please respect Pope emeritus Benedict XVI’s wishes and allow for the extraordinary form to be preserved. Thank you.

  10. Valeria Kondratiev says:

    Your Eminence, Catholic Located in Taiwan raises a very important point, that Catholic Church buildings in busy parts of the city are a form of apostolate, as they show that our faith is out there in our lives, not just in our bedrooms or homes. As for Holy Innocents, this particular Church building is an irreplaceable piece of New York’s Catholic history, with Brumidi’s largest religious mural, the Return Crucifix, as well as the memorial chapel for unborn children. Losing all these treasures would be a crying shame, especially as the parish is not in any debt and is maintaining itself.

  11. Michael Floyd says:

    Greetings from Canada, your Eminence. I believe that, right or wrong, for many of us who appreciate the generosity of spirit shown by Summorum Pontificum, your decision regarding Holy Innocents will be a bellwether. I think that many of us are scared to death that the renewal inspired by the motu proprio is quietly being suffocated, and are looking for, and praying for, any signs of hope.

  12. Robert Emprimo says:

    Your Emminence,

    Please keep the doors open to holy innocents, the latin mass is a wonderful expression of faith in a town that could use some counterculturism. That parish reminds people about of an apostolic tradition and an outfit that doesnt change with the prevailing breeze.

  13. Eddy Toribio says:

    The Church of the Holy Innocents is not an inactive parish at all. It is very easy to find evidence of this all over the internet and by simply visiting the church. The traditional Mass community has revived and re-energized the parish life of Holy Innocents since 2008. This is an undeniable fact.

    When Ms. Valeria Kondratiev wrote your Eminence a letter to express her concerns about Holy Innocents, your Eminence responded that the main reason why Holy Innocents was recommended for consolidation was because the Archdiocesan Advisory Group (AAG) said that Holy Innocents “is not an active, vibrant community of faith.” This is a very inaccurate statement and it is complete misinformation that was given to you.

    The Cluster for Holy Innocents submitted an 8-page supplement outlining all the liturgical, social, spiritual, charitable, etc., ways in which Holy Innocents is vibrant and thriving. For the AAG to set this aside and recommend consolidation with complete disregard to its vibrant activities is *absolutely shocking*.

    Additionally, as many people have mentioned already, Holy Innocents is the spiritual home to the traditional Mass community in NYC. It is a true home and of exceptional spiritual benefit because, unlike St. Agnes Church, it offers the traditional Mass *every single day*. The Archdiocese should rejoice at the fact that it has such a parish within its boundaries and that a parish like Holy Innocents nourishes people from Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, New Jersey, Connecticut, Westchester, and people from other States and other countries, and it does this on a daily basis.

    At Holy Innocents, Priests are helped to learn the traditional Mass, servers are trained to serve It, singers are taught to sing It, collections and donations for candles help the parish pay all its bills and there is no debt. Additionally, there are a lot of younger people and families attending the Mass, attendance in general has increased tremendously, all the Sacraments (except for Ordination) are available at Holy Innocents according to the traditional ceremonies (so far in the year, we have had 6 weddings, 5 of these were all traditional).

    If all of this was not part of the data the AAG used to formulate its recommendation to your Eminence, they missed a lot, and in the process put the spiritual nourishment of so many people at Holy Innocents in unnecessary suspense, thereby generating untold fear among its parishioners.

  14. Andrew Miller says:

    Your Eminence,

    My wife and I are both in our mid-20s and while we do not exclusively attend the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, we do attend regularly. The main reason for our attending it is the respect and reverence of the priest and laity. It is a unique experience these days to be at Mass with other Catholics who want to be there and worship the Lord with such earnestness.

    For this reason, I ask that you do not close Holy Innocents. As a convert, I can tell you the best form of Evangelization is the authentic and fervent practicing of the faith. No parish does it better than Holy Innocents in NYC.

    My prayers are with you as you make these very difficult decisions.

  15. Cyntha Smith says:

    Your Eminence,

    Pease keep Holy Innocents opened. Almost three years ago, I converted to Catholicism and Holy Innocents has been instrumental in keeping me rooted to my faith. The beautiful Latin Mass nurtures my soul and the coffee hour afterwards has allowed me to be part of a caring, faith-based community.

    Latin vespers is solemn and beautiful and the beautiful polyphony on Sundays is other-worldly.

    Finally, every first Friday, there is an all-night vigil. What can be more profound than watching parishioners, after a long day at work, stay awake all night, praying before the Blessed Sacrament.

    Please leave Holy Innocents opened.

  16. krystyna says:

    Your Eminence please keep churches open. Please keep Holly Innocence Open. It is special church and stands out from the rest of the Churches in that it practices the age Old Catholic liturgy. This is the place where my teenage children go for Liturgy. This is the place which made my children pray more. This is a place where my Buddhist friend is considering going back to Catholic Church. This is the place where my coworkers who did not go for confession in 30 years finally did. This is the place where I go during my lunch break and have nice gathering in the hall below the church or quiet time during Mass.

    As Pope John Paul II said
    “Do not be afraid. Do not be satisfied with mediocrity. Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”
    Keep the churches open and people will come.