Wednesday, March 29, 2006

NY Parish Closings

The Gray Lady reports:
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York announced plans yesterday for the most sweeping reorganization in its history of more than 150 years, recommending the closing of 31 parishes and 14 schools throughout the metropolitan region.

The closings would hit the archdiocese the hardest in its southern parts — the Bronx, Staten Island, Manhattan, Yonkers and central Westchester. The Bronx and Manhattan alone accounted for 17 of the 31 parishes that are to be closed.

The announcement had long been expected. For more than two years, archdiocesan officials have been studying how to deal with a growing shortage of priests, coupled with the changing demographics of the archdiocese, which in its entirety stretches from Staten Island in the south to the Catskills in the north. Some churches in the northern suburbs have been bulging at the seams, while others in the city have struggled to get by, often requiring large financial subsidies from the archdiocese.
Change is difficult. I understand the heartbreak of long-time parishioners. Though it's been years now, I would still grieve the closing of St. Augustine's Church in New City. I attended 5th through 8th grade at the parish's school. I received confirmation there. The parish sponsored my boy scout troop. Most importantly of all, St. Augustine's was home.

However, the Archdiocese can't think only of parishioners in dwindling parishes. It must consider the needs of all Catholics within the diocese. When the Archdiocese of New York subsidizes parishes in Mahattan that draws 400 people for Sunday Mass, it can't spend that money supporting a a Rockland County parish with 2,800 communicants. When Cardinal Egan directs the resources of all Catholics on parishes that no longer grow, he directs them away from other needs that many Catholics have.

As painful as it may be for parishioners to say goodbye, they can take heart in this: They are Roman Catholics. The end of their parish is not the end of their church. Christ's communion with his disciples does not end with the dissolution of any one parish.

Cardinal Egan may be fairly criticized for many policies in his administration of the ADoNY. The proposal to close these parishes doesn't appear to be one of them.

And the story is not finished.