An article appeared today on the Catholic Courier web site calling the proposed closings of three suburban parishes "an unprecedented step."
The Irondequoit Pastoral Planning Group has voted to recommend that both St. Thomas the Apostle and St. Salome Churches be closed, while the Eastern Greece/Charlotte Planning Group will recommend that Our Lady of Mercy Church also be closed.
From what I can glean from folks I know at OLM, there just aren't enough people still attending Mass there to pay the bills. As DOR planning liaison Karen Rinefierd is quoted in the article, OLM
has no money. It's a wonderful, warm community, but they truly have run out of money.
Over on the east side of the river the decision to recommend the closure of two parishes does not seem to be particularly unexpected. What is causing controversy, however, is which two of the five possible candidates should get the axe.
The Catholic Courier article gives none of the reasoning behind the selection of St. Thomas the Apostle and St. Salome for closure and blogger Eugene Michael is reporting that the planning group's internal selection process seems cloaked in secrecy, despite claims that it was "open and honest."
Eugene also raises some very interesting financial questions regarding, among other things, a $300,000 fund at St. Thomas which the deceased donor specified could be used, if necessary, to save the parish from closure. See Eugene's post (here) for full details.
Finally, in a glaring refusal to acknowledge the presence of the 800 lb. gorilla in the room, the article attributes these potential closures, as well as all those that have already taken place, to "demographic and economic change as well as the declining number of priests" and that "reaching this juncture punches home the reality that all parishes are facing the same issues."
While changing demographics certainly have played a large role in the closure of many city parishes, there is absolutely no evidence of which I am aware that Catholics are leaving the suburbs, especially Greece and Irondequoit.
What is happening is that many Catholics have stopped attending Mass in Greece and Irondequoit (and the rest of DOR), but that is not the same as moving away.
What DOR really needs - but refuses - to do is to reach out to all those AWOL Catholics (over 27,000 in just the last 8 years) and invite them to come home.