Saturday, June 16, 2007
DOWNSIZING IN CLEVELAND
Four Akron parishes in the North Hill area:
They are neighbors. They shop in the same stores. Their kids play sports together.
The members of the four North Hill Catholic churches are united by their faith, community and traditions that date back decades.
But these bonds soon will be tested as representatives of the churches -- Christ the King, St. Anthony of Padua, St. Hedwig and St. Martha -- decide which parishes and schools should remain.
This group of churches was among the hardest hit by the Diocese of Cleveland's recent announcement that 23 of 69 parish clusters must downsize. The North Hill cluster must go from five priests to four, four churches to two, and two schools to one. The diocese left it to the churches to decide how to make these reductions.
Church leaders acknowledge that the process will be difficult and say the parishes must work together.
The article doesn't do it, but let me put this in context.
St. Hedwig is the Polish Church. Mass is still said here in Polish. My husband brought his mother down from the Cleveland area to hear Mass in Polish here not long ago.
St. Anthony of Padua is the Italian Parish. Confessions are heard here in Italian. I assume Mass is said in Italian as well, though I have no confirmation of that. The picture of the church interior on the website shows that the communion rail is still in place. Sometimes parishioners from my former liberal parish would go to St. Anthony of Padua for relief.
St. Martha is the gay friendly parish in Akron. The gay ministry was started here. The priest who started the ministry has since moved on to St. Bernard, in downtown Akron, where he heads the Newman Center for the University of Akron. There is no indication on the parish website that St. Martha is gay friendly, but you can find that information on the list compiled by the Conference for Catholic Lesbians, Inc. as explained in this Catholic Online article.
Christ the King is a typical American parish. The pastor from Christ the King says Mass every Sunday at the parish where I am still officially registered. Will this merger mean a reduction in Masses at my old parish?
Further merger is required of the schools according to the article. Christ the King school merged with St. Martha school in 2003. Now further disruption of the parochial school system in these parishes is required.
There are four priests to remain. Yet despite a priest for each parish, these four parishes must merge into two. The decision of which parishes to close is being left in the hands of the parishioners.
I do not see a peaceful outcome for this merger. What are old Italian and Polish ladies going to make of gays and lesbians in their church?
We have had 40 years of chaos in the Church. Now further chaos is being proposed. How many will leave Roman Catholicism entirely over these mergers? What will remain of Roman Catholicism when they are completed?
Meanwhile I reflect on the full seminary in Bishop Bruskewicz's diocese, and on just where the fault for this new chaos lies. And I reflect on he who bears the ultimate burden of responsibility for our priest shortage which has arisen out of the lavender transition in the priesthood--a transition documented by the Cleveland Seminary rector Donald Cozzens in his book THE CHANGING FACE OF THE PRIESTHOOD.
Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us!