In the continuing saga of how to reopen parishes that have closed, there was a meeting earlier this week called by Bishop Lennon for those pastors whose parishes will be affected by the reopening. Also in attendance were experts in civil and canon law, finances, and Church procedure. It was a very congenial meeting but one at the end of which one priest said, “We are just so tired,” which was met with a groan of approval around the room.
The main concern by the pastors was the fate of many of the parishes that surround those that have closed. There is a fear that the reopening will ultimately cause the downfall of more parishes. It is something like this: You have three infants and hopefully enough food to feed two. It is a terrible decision to make but you did and so hope for the best for the two infants. Now all three must be fed and there is a real concern that diluting the proportions that thinly could possibly cause the death of all three. When it comes to parishes, while not the case for all that surround the twelve, it is for a significant number.
There is also concern about where the priests will come from to staff these new parishes. There are three men being ordained this weekend for the diocese. This will not even come close to covering those who will be retiring. “We just can’t go out and dig up twelve new priests,” one person said. “You just might have to,” came the reply.
There are other problems also. The lack of funds being one major obstacle. Five of the seven parishes had no funds when they closed.
It also needs to be remembered that the parishes are being reopened, not restored. It would be impossible to restore the parishes. Priests have moved on, people have moved on, others have died, services were taken over by other parishes and so on. The newly reopened parishes may feel very different from when the parish closed. There is simply no way to avoid that.
It is not all gloom and doom however. True, these are mighty obstacles but at least there is the chance now to overcome them. Reopening was the first obstacle to overcome and I dare say I did not hold my breath for it to be conquered. So who’s to say the rest cannot be overcome? New pastors will have to be terribly clever and innovative – and hopefully work with their surrounding parishes that might suffer because of their success.
My greatest happiness is that there are a few examples of the best of Diocese of Cleveland architecture that are getting a second chance at life. My prayer is that whatever happens, a new pastor starts making the building viable for whatever outcome. Once gone – these buildings will be gone forever.
That being said, do not look for the reopening of any parish to happen next week. Besides this meeting there are meetings with parish representatives and potential pastors or administrators. Once that is finished there is quite a bit of civil and canon law hoops through which we must jump. It will take a month alone to bring stored artifacts of each of the parishes from the secure warehouse back to their proper locations.
This is all rather historic. Keep abreast of it because something like this may not ever happen again. This will be talked about for many years to come. To exemplify this the bishop said, “You are expected to be leaders. There is no blueprint however and no clear cut path, but you will be expected to lead none-the-less.”
Please keep the congregations, the priests, all those involved with the process, and the bishop in your prayers.