Monday, October 25, 2010

"The need for closure: When a parish shuts its doors" U.S. Catholic/ downsizing of churches/ movement to house churches

Judy Lee, RCWP ministers to youth in
house church in Ft. Myers, Florida

The need for closure: When a parish shuts its doors

Thursday, September 16, 2010

J.D. Long-GarcĂ­a

"According to the Code of Canon Law, a diocesan bishop can entrust the pastoral care of a parish to a layperson so long as a priest directs that pastoral care. Parish life coordinators run about 4 percent of parishes in the United States, but such appointments appear to be less popular in recent years. There seems to be reluctance on the bishops' part..."

Suggesting alternatives such as parish life coordinators is fairly common among parishes threatened with closure or merging. And for some, the shortage of priests has fueled discussion about ordination of married and women Catholics. "We don't believe the priest shortage is a valid reason to close parishes," says Sister Chris Schenk, C.S.J., of FutureChurch, a national network of parish-based activists. "We're closing parishes rather than opening ordination. Why couldn't we open the conversation to the married priesthood?..."

"...I get the sense that we've gone from a ‘family-owned business' to a ‘corporation model...'

WASHINGTON POST: "A Special healer is called when the church itself needs saving"

(Washington Post, Oct. 24, 2010) by Michelle Boorstein

Researchers say that there is a decline among white Catholics, mainline Protestants, and non-Orthodox Jews. Even among growing nondenominational Christianity, younger Americans are nowhere to be seen. They are much more alienated from organized religion than young people were in past years. Robert Putnam said in his book "American Grace" that organized religion is suffering particularly among people in their 20s and 30's -from being too closely tied to divisive political issues, "I don't think that new hymns or new seating will help until the overall public association between intolerance, as young people see it, and religion fade.

The article went on to report that churches are hiring consultants to help them reach out. The central question is what nurtures you spiritually. Everything is put on the table including whether they congregation closes the building and moves to a store house or to home churches. In these tough economic times, there are many who don't want to upkeep church buildings. "The rejection of institutionalized religion by many America, in the view of Phyllis Tickle, a consultant, is experiencing "evidence of a major upheaval she believes happens in Christianity about twice a millenium. Right now, she says 'church' is a "middle-class institution in an economy that's becoming increasingly polarized.'

Bridget Mary's Reflection:

Catholic parishes are shutting down in record numbers, some faithful parishoners have occupied church buildings for years in places like Boston. Young adults are missing in churches including the Catholic Church. Yet the newest trend is house churches, where people meet in small groups, share faith, and pray together. There between 6 and 12 million Americans who attend house churches. (SEE article in blog on house churches/NBC's program. Sounds like a return to our beginnings in early Christianity. Read Romans 16:3-5, and note that Paul greets the church that meets in the homes of prominent leaders like Prisca and Aquila. The Church gathered in their home in Rome, Corinth, and Ephesus. (see also Acts 18:18, 2 Tim:4;19, 1Cor.16:9)

"Pastoring" in not about title but about function, it is about nurturing and caring in context of a faith community.

Roman Catholic Womenpriests are now serving grassroots communities in 23 states in the U.S. Our communities are inclusive and welcoming to all. Sounds likes the Holy Spirit speaking loud and clear to me as we head back to basics- women and men, partners and equals, proclaming the Word, sharing faith around the Eucharistic table and building community.

1 comment:

The Catholic Apologist said...

Bridget Mary,

It is NOT simply the priest shortage which is fueling the closing of parishes. What is left out of your post either intentionally or unintentionally is the other factors:

1) Decline in revenue and donations to keep the parishes running. I realize it is all well and good to say things like "The Church is not a corporation" or "The Church is people, not money" or whatever.

However the stark reality is that the Church IS a business, and must make decisions based on the bottom line just like everyone else.

Pastors and administrators cannot simply call the utility companies and say "Don't send us any bills, becasue we are a church, and have no money. We are not a business." They can't simply ignore maintenance concerns or tell plumbers and electricians "Don't charge us becasue we are a Church have no money. The Church is the people, not money." They can't simply tell the staff who have families and themselves to support "You have to work for free becasue we are a Church and we are not a business"

2) Population shifts. What were once thriving large parishes are now old and graying. What were once parishes with a few thousand people comming to Mass each week are now parishes with perhaps a 100people, mainly elderly comming to Mass each week. The buildings are large and mammoth, and very costly to maintain.

My question in this regard is "Should bishops keep open buildings based on pastoral WANT rather then pastoral NEED?" Should God's resources keep open buildings that have long since seen their heyday? It is one thing if there is a legetimate pastoral need- but when many people simply have to walk down the block to the next parish- I can't say keeping open a building is a legetimate pastoral need.

It may surprise you Bridget Mary to learn that I am not persey against the ideal of lay administrators. However- at the same time, I see the model as the exception to the rule, and I see the model as not desirable. I see the model as something akin to sticking our fingers in the dyke- that is to say- keep the Church running until things improve. Also, the priest must always retain his authority over matters pertaining to the Mass, and other pastoral needs of the Church. Basically the role of the administrator is to sign checks and take care of the "business" end of things. The leaky roof? That is the role of the administrator. Concerns of the Mass, CCD, hospital visits, etc? That is the concern of the priest.