Response to Parish Merging Questions and Comments
To my surprise, I have received very few comments and questions in the question boxes placed at the back of each of our churches… only four to be exact! Still, there were points raised in each that I thought would be good to address. While there are a few other questions, I will take up one big one for now.
Q: Where did the idea of merging our parishes come from?
R: The short answer to that question is that it came from me, your pastor. That said, I think it is fair that parishioners hear my reasons for exploring this as a possibility for our communities. First of all, I invite you to try to see things from my perspective – the perspective of a pastor. As the pastor of these three parishes, it is my duty to seek the greatest (spiritual) good for ALL of my parishioners.
For the past two and a half years, I have been observing the workings of our three parishes, and I have often felt a discomfort about how we were using our resources. Our volunteer, personnel, and financial resources are in many ways maxed out in an effort to operate and maintain three small and completely separate parishes with three separate pastoral and finance councils, three separate religious education programs, and three separate campuses. At one time, the number of practicing Catholics in our area sustained all of this, but as the years go by, this is becoming less and less the case. Looking at the declining number of baptisms and marriages in each parish, these challenges are likely only to increase in all three of our communities as the years go by. Also, the simple fact that we already share things like one priest, our administrative assistant staff, a common bulletin, and the fact that there is relatively little distance between our churches, with only one Mass at each church on the weekend, leads me to ask: why aren’t we one parish already?
The good I desire for my parishioners is that they belong to a community of faith that is structured so that it is capable of thriving, and not constantly struggle to merely survive. While a merger will not likely solve all our challenges immediately, I, along with the members of the Exploratory Committee believe it may be a step in the right direction. As a pastor, I do not wish to see a parish over which I have pastoral care fizzle out and be forced to close due to a lack of resources. For when that happens there is greater hurt, and we fail to reach out with the Gospel, and we risk losing souls. If we are able to pool our resources and work together as one community of faith with a common goal, we can determine how best to use our resources together and more responsibly. Working together and developing our sense of being part of a parish community, and developing a greater sense of stewardship, I believe it is possible that we can also continue to maintain our three church buildings.