mergers likely as part of the diocesan pastoral planning process, one
major concern is how parishioners will handle changes to their daily
and weekly traditions.
Though the teachings and lessons will remain the same, the setting and
faces may not.
One way to diminish hurt feelings and ease the transition, according to
lay leaders, is through the ancient and customary Catholic practice of
is key,” said Doreen Wright, coordinator of faith formation
at St. Luke's parish in Schenectady. Mrs. Wright works with teenage
students at St. Luke's, and her biggest concern regards families.
want to make sure families are as comfortable as possible,”
she said. Certainly many will wonder, especially the first Sunday at a
new church, where to put the car. “We're going over parking
procedures as we speak, so there's no stress on the parents’
end,” she added.
are a key factor in this process, said Mrs. Wright. “You're
looking at teenagers as well as seniors who are losing the Mass they're
used to and we need to help them.”
The youths will be an important component of any new outreach.
you look at the percentage of kids that leave the faith as they grow
older,” she continued. “We're hoping to give them
more of an opportunity to learn and want to remain in the Catholic
religion as adults.”
an effort to be more hospitable, St. Luke's has invited families of St.
John the Baptist parish in Schenectady, which may be closing, to a Mass
at their annual Harvest Fest.
Simone is the religious education coordinator at St. John the Baptist.
She feels that, while it may be hard for parishioners to adapt to the
change, a hearty welcome might help.
in touch with people and making sure that their needs are [met] can
really help,” she said. “Things can get better if
we put all of our strengths together.”
Ms. Simone said that as long as some traditions remain, the transition
might be easier for the entire community.
very beneficial if everybody takes the things they're best at and
merges them into one,” she said.
Simone has already acted to keep the members of St. John's and St.
still volunteering there to make sure that people get to different
places, like their faith formation program. I'm making sure they're
getting what they need.”
what they need may certainly be an assurance. Betsy Rowe-Manning, the
parish life director at St. Vincent de Paul in Albany, feels the needs
of the parishioners must be the main focus. To her, the attention
should be focused more on the people than on the changes of the Church.
need to help people grieve their loss,” she explained.
“If we can provide them a whole sense of welcoming, I think
it would offer much help.”
Rowe-Manning suggests using creativity and fun as a solution, such as
her parish has employed on “Name-tag Sundays.”
a good way to comfort people because that way everybody knows your
name. They don't have to try and recall who you are and how they know
Rowe-Manning also suggests making everyone feel part of the celebration
by inviting them to perform such acts as bringing gifts to the
offertory. “Anything to make them feel welcome,”
the Called to Be Church process has not been easy, there has certainly
been no lost hope.
applaud the efforts the Diocese is making," said Rowe-Manning. "We
don't really have a choice. The population is diminishing and we cannot
financially afford to keep the Churches together."
asked if it is a right step in the direction for the Church, Donna
Simone replied, "I think it can be. I can see where there can be
benefit from it."
Wright also added, "It's a joint effort for all of us for hospitality
and with it, we can provide a stronger program for the members of our
it may be a difficult challenge for many parishioners and others
closely connected to the Churches, perhaps it is only the beginning of
a new chapter. Betsy Rowe-Manning described it best when she said,
"While it may be painful, I feel it is a necessary pain for the healing
(Currently in the
Called to be Church process, the Pastoral Planning Review Commission is
reviewing plans to merge, connect or close parishes. They will present
their findings, comments and recommendations by Nov. 21. Bishop Howard
J. Hubbard will then consult with the Presbyteral Council, which
represents priests, and others before making his final decisions in