|Msgr. Cummings at St Thomas More Parish|
Friday, December 19, 2014
There is a most distressing story in the December 14 issue of the New York Times. We have taken the liberty to include a portion of that article below. The question that comes to mind is why these parishes are being closed that are vibrant and solvent other than solely for the real estate value the diocese hopes to glean from their sale. This is a prime example why many in the church are now beginning to feel that the local parish should have complete ownership of the property they build and maintain.
“The sweeping reorganization of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, set to take effect next year, is likely to involve the merger or the closing of significantly more parishes than was originally announced last month, archdiocese documents show.
Church officials said in November that 112 of the archdiocese’s 368 parishes would be consolidated to create 55 new parishes, the largest realignment of the parish structure in the history of the archdiocese, which stretches from Staten Island to the Catskills. In 31 of those new parishes, one or more of the original churches would no longer be used for regular services, effectively shuttering those churches by August.
But the documents show that Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan has now proposed that an additional 38 parishes merge, to create 16 new ones. ...
The parish reorganization is being driven by a shortage of priests, financial troubles and declining weekly church attendance, which hovers at less than 15 percent of the archdiocese’s Catholics on an average Sunday, according to the archdiocese. But church officials have been reluctant to comment on the reasoning behind specific mergers, which can be especially frustrating to parishes that appear to be flourishing.
Among the parishes that are now endangered ... is the Church of St. Thomas More on the Upper East Side, which parishioners call vibrant and strong, with about 3,500 members and Sunday services that are filled with young families. The parish covers its costs and has $1.5 million in cash reserves. Its intimate sanctuary was the setting for John F. Kennedy Jr.’s memorial service, because it had been Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’s parish.
The parish has one of the highest per capita donor profiles in the entire archdiocese, Christopher E. Baldwin, a trustee, said. It recently finished an $800,000 round of improvements to the church’s buildings. Its community space hosts a highly regarded nursery school and accommodates some 400 community meetings per year.
Shocked by the archdiocese’s recommendation, the church’s pastor, the Rev. Kevin Madigan, told his parishioners in a Nov. 23 letter that he pressed church officials for the reason St. Thomas was being recommended for closing. He was told, he said, that “since St. Thomas More will eventually close some day, it is better to do it now rather than later, when there is presently a momentum within the archdiocese to merge parishes.””
There is much more to follow in this most distressing chain of events.