Saturday, January 20, 2007

Parish closings, mergers announced in New York.

The Archdiocese of New York yesterday announced a number of parish closings and mergers as part of a multi-year realignment process initiated in response to changes in demographics and the declining number of available priests in the United States' second-largest Catholic diocese. Reflecting the growing Catholic population in the suburbs north of New York City as well as a declining number of urban churchgoers, the realignment plan includes the establishment of several new parishes and construction of new church buildings for growing suburban congregations as well as the closing of a number of inner-city churches. As an article in today's New York Times notes, some parishes that were recommended for closure last year were left off yesterday's list and have apparently been reprieved. However, a majority of the parishes on last year's list - 21 out of 31, to be precise - will be closed or merged with neighboring parishes.

Among the 21 New York churches still marked for closure or merger is Nativity Parish on the Lower East Side, a storied Jesuit parish whose expected demise I wrote about last March and again in November, when the last Jesuit pastor stepped down. Also on the closing list is St. Vincent de Paul Church in Chelsea, a French national parish established in 1841 and still serving a francophone congregation - a congregation that has grown in recent years as the parish has drawn many French-speaking African immigrants. When announced last year, plans to close St. Vincent de Paul attracted notice in the French press and raised the ire not only of parishioners but also of preservationists, who feared the destruction of a 19th-century church building that has seen a lot of history (including one of Edith Piaf's two marriages). Though the Archdiocese intends to find another home for St. Vincent de Paul's francophone parishioners, many will still be saddened by the loss of their historic home. Of course, similar emotions are also being felt by parishioners of all the other parishes marked for closure. My prayers are with them in this time of great loss, and I hope yours are too. AMDG.


At 1/20/2007 10:29 PM, Blogger Lisa said...

Sad news, indeed! I will have to look at the article to see the rest of the list. Although St. Vincent's was not one of the city churches I frequented, I often passed near it and know it's presence in Chelsea.

At 1/20/2007 10:32 PM, Blogger Lisa said...

I found the link to the list of closures, but not to the list of mergers... ?

At 1/22/2007 6:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 1/22/2007 11:26 AM, Blogger Joseph Koczera, S.J. said...

Lisa -

There's a PDF file attached to Archdiocese's press release on the closings that breaks down the churches impacted by status - parishes that will close outright, parishes that will merge, etc. To be honest, I don't see a great deal of difference between "closing" and "merging" parishes in this context. Based on the language that the Archdiocese is using, the "merged" parishes seem to be different from closing parishes only in that another parish has been designated to receive their parishioners and, in some cases, in that they will continue to have their own worship site (in some cases, the actual church building, and in some cases an entirely new chapel). In some instances, this might allow impacted parishioners to retain a sense of connection to their former parish in that they continue to worship on the same site. However, in many cases I suspect the practical effect will be the same regardless of whether a parish is officially being "closed" or "merged." St. Vincent de Paul, for example, is supposed to merge with another parish with a new chapel to be established (I'd heard they were going to demolish the present church and put a smaller chapel on the site that would allow them to redevelop the rest of the parcel for other uses). However, the community that makes up the greatest share of St. Vincent's parishioners - the francophones who attend the 11.30 am Mass on Sundays - are purportedly going to relocate and will not be part of the "merged" parish (St. Columba's, I believe). I suspect things will play out differently in each of the affected parishes, but I offer the St. Vincent's example to suggest that the closing/merger distinction is not particularly clear-cut.

At 1/27/2007 5:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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