Skip to comments.New York Archdiocese Sets Biggest Closing in Its 150 Years
Posted on 03/29/2006 6:04:17 AM PST by NYer
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York announced plans yesterday for the most sweeping reorganization in its history of more than 150 years, recommending the closing of 31 parishes and 14 schools throughout the metropolitan region.
At the same time, the archdiocese recommended creating five new parishes in Staten Island, Orange County and Dutchess County and constructing several new church buildings, mostly in northern Westchester County, Rockland County and Dutchess County, where many Catholics who have left the city have relocated.
The closings would hit the archdiocese the hardest in its southern parts the Bronx, Staten Island, Manhattan, Yonkers and central Westchester. The Bronx and Manhattan alone accounted for 17 of the 31 parishes that are to be closed.
The announcement had long been expected. For more than two years, archdiocesan officials have been studying how to deal with a growing shortage of priests, coupled with the changing demographics of the archdiocese, which in its entirety stretches from Staten Island in the south to the Catskills in the north. Some churches in the northern suburbs have been bulging at the seams, while others in the city have struggled to get by, often requiring large financial subsidies from the archdiocese.
"A lot of these are just no-brainers," said Msgr. John J. Jenik, pastor of Our Lady of Refuge in the Bronx and a member of a panel of lay leaders and priests convened by the archdiocese that recently reviewed the reorganization plans. "When you've got diminishing numbers of priests, large cash investments in places, dwindling numbers and economies of scale, it's not wise stewardship."
Each of the parishes and schools on the list of closings will have the chance to discuss their situations with archdiocesan officials.
(Excerpt) Read more at nytimes.com ...
And the conversation goes like this:
Parish official: "But, Bishop, our families need this church, this school. It's been the center of our lives for over 100 years!"
Bishop: "Here's a map to the new church and school. Oh, by the way, tuition will have to go up 25% to pay for all the new buildings. Good day!"
LOL! That is exactly what I was thinking!
Lol ... only 25% ;-)
We've been through the 'purge' up here in Albany and it's not over yet. In one town, 5 of the 6 RC Churches were closed and the entire community combined into one. In their haste to shut these church doors, the diocesan team did not scrutinize the remaining church very well. Only now have they begun to realize that it will cost a ton of money to maintain that one church. Soooooo .... they will probably move the entire congregation into another of the closed churches and shut down this one. Meanwhile, the bishop went down to New Orleans to bring relief to the Katrina victims and lament the sad state of affairs down there. Is it any wonder catholics feel driven from their churches?
You can't argue with changing demographics. Still, this is a sad commentary on the state of affairs in NY (and elsewhere).
When they did the reorganization here they grabbed a bunch of rich donors from the "burbs" and Diocesan yes men (and women of course) to do the job. Some didn't even live in the Diocese, including one Cabinet Secretary who saw it as "get even" time with some of the Priests who weren't cooperative about raising money.
In other cases you had the Vicar Forane unilaterally switch the Parish which had been recommended for closing without telling anyone before forwarding the report to the Diocese.
For proof of the major league probems just look at the number of reversals...I think initially there were supposed to be something like 20-30 more.
Let's hope that they do a better job in New York.
Every time a bishop has to do this, he should wear sack-cloth and ashes for a year afterwards as a sign of his abject failure to increase the flock. If he has to do it more than once in his tenure as bishop, he should be forced to resign in disgrace.
The Schools are in the center of the bullseye, the Archdiocese is picking them off one at a time.
In Somerville they closed one school that was financially solvent at a Parish with no debt then made the Parish take out a huge loan to pay the closing costs. I bet when one of the big donors turns it into 10-20 400k condos (market for that area) there won't be any sort of kickback to the Parish....heck if they throw out the pastoral activities out of the old convent they could build like 50 condos...all with parking, which is at a premium in that area.
A sidebar, the attendance at the parish has plummetted following the closing of the school too.
Parishioner: "It's been the center of our lives, but you would not know it by our actions."
What have the people been doing to increase the flock of Christ? The Bishop is but one man. The people are many millions.
Sad -- NY City is where the catechesis, churches and schools are needed most.
One of the more troubling aspects of these closings is disposition of liturgical vessels, vestments and sacramentals. Many of these churches are filled with beautiful, old windows, pews, confessionals, tabernacles, candlesticks, chalices, et al. When my pastor began looking to purchase a larger church to accomodate his growing congregation, he approached the RC diocese. They turned him down. After acquiring a 150 y/o Methodist/Episcopal Church, he returned to the diocese seeking furnishings from the closed parishes. Again, he was turned down.
This is most disheartening. On one occasion, he was told to come to a particular church on a specific date, only to find wreckers ripping out pews. He had no means to transport them to our new church.
While I sympathize with people whose parishes are going to be closed, it does not make sense to keep parishes open that do not have enough members to keep them going. Diocese in almost every major city in the U.S. are facing the same demographic issue: Catholics are moving out of cities and into the suburbs. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, most Catholics lived in cities. Often, each ethnic group would have its own parish, so it was quite common to have a church on almost every street corner. However, the situation has now changed. The ethnic groups that built these parishes have moved out of the cities, and non-Catholics have moved into these areas. City parishes that used to be thriving are now almost empty.
It is sad but it doesn't look like the Archdiocese of New York has much choice.
I just posted this, one of the few good things to come out of the mess. I was familiar with the old Parish these things came from. It was an old Italian Parish turned into a Hispanic Personal Parish, that was slated to close long before the official reconfiguration.
If the local Latin Rite Bishop refused to sell the Church I'm not suprised (you have Hubbard right?) though that is not always the case.
This Melkite Parish is now located in a former Latin Rite Church:
(they got their Pastor from the Latin Rite too!!!)
Oops, almost forgot, Bishop Muldoon, OFM, a Bishop in Honduras who's a Mass Native got truckloads of stuff to build Churches.
As a sidebar, Muldoon is a very interesting man, he stopped wearing his Franciscan Habit because he felt it made him stand out too much since he was the only one around, he felt it more humble and true to his Franciscan vows to scarifice the habit he loved so much and dress like every other Priest.
It really pained him to do it.
In the case of Albany, it's probably because Bishop Hubbard rightly views the Maronites as competitors, not co-religionists. Bishop Hubbard is in the destruction business.
Don't forget the lack of children.
I don't think anyone argues the necessity of these moves, I think people worry given the errors made in some other Diocese (anyone on here from Cleveland? I've heard stories).
I know in the area my sister lives in in MD, the Churches are bulging at the seems...with many transplants from the Northeast, so I know what you mean. Too bad we can't pick them up and move them to where they're needed.
We've had to go the fundraising route ... quite slow. Last year, after filing a gazillion papers, we were able to have the future church recognized as a national landmark, thus qualifying us to apply for matching state grants. This too is quite tedious and slow but, with God's help, we'll get the needed monies. Of course the major difference between Our Lady of the Cedars and us is that they are moving into a catholic church. We have to totally renovate the interior to create a sanctuary and install confessionals. We also have to replace the 150 year old roof and fix the stained glass windows ... those that are still intact. The console from the pipe organ has to be moved from its present position and the organ itself restored. We'll get there ... it just won't be tomorrow.
Again, thanks for the links!
Valid points, I think an arguement could also be made that the financial aspect goes much deeper.
In many cases around the Boston area when an Archdiocesan run school has closed an independent Catholic School has popped up in it's place.
There is actually a nationwide network of Independent Catholic Schools that do group fundraising.
You should also not discount "hokie" Liturgies driving people away as well....sure they were luke warm to begin with but at least they added to the Sacramental index.
Oh, BTW, I perused your about page: There is actually a Parish named for St. Gabriel Possenti in the Brighton Section of Boston. The plant is owned by St. Elizabeth's Hospital and it's staffed by Redemptorists.
Um, and the "Truth about Touching" in Diocesan schools program which has increased homeschooling.
Build Churches where your coreligionists actually live.
2. Most of these Churches were built for immigrant communities that no longer exist, and now sit on some very valuable real estate in Manhattan. The Archdiocese is doing the right thing.
St. Anthony's aka that big building near Arturo's. ;-)
About a block away, yes. :-)
Did you have 2 sets of twins:)
With any review like this there will always be a few mistakes, which I hope they correct. But I think this basically makes sense.
There are many reasons for the closings. The priest shortage is mentioned. But several other factors are probably more important. One is the disappearance of the old ethnic neighborhoods. Little Italy has gotten smaller. Little Germany has virtually disappeared. There are more blacks and fewer Catholic ethnics. Most of the Irish and Italians have moved to the suburbs.
A lot of young blacks like the kid in the picture have profited from going to Catholic parochial schools. But they are not Catholic themselves, and somebody has to pay for these schools. The NY state teachers unions have been especially vehement against any kind of voucher system, and the liberal judges have frequently shot them down. Same with the hospitals. Catholic schools and hospitals are serving mainly non-Catholics, and that can't continue unless somebody is willing to pay for it.
There are plenty of thriving Catholic churches in NYC. I attended Our Lady of Victories church down on Wall Street, and it was great. But other churches are nearly empty and simply don't support themselves--maintenance, heating bills, and all the rest of it.
As you pointed out, the first catholic settlers lived in 'ethnic' neighborhoods and built their churches to resemble those they left behind. It is not unusual in the northeast, to find several catholic churches within blocks of each other, simply because one was built by the Irish, another by the Italians and yet another by the Poles.
This is also true in the Eastern Churches where their 'ethnic' neighborhoods have also disbanded, though not to the extent of their Latin counterparts. The ongoing persecution of christians in the Near East ensures a constant flow of eastern christians to the west. Here they seek comfort and solace in 'their' catholic churches, to which RCs are also being drawn for the beauty and reverence of their liturgies.
As my pastor recently commented: The Eastern Churches are the same faith, just a different flavor.
Interesting statistic is that the largest concentration of Italian immigrants (aka REAL Italians) in New York is on the Upper East Side. These tend to be wealthy folks in the arts and finance, many of whom are part of the jet set.
Excellent point. Right-On
If sacramentals have to be disposed of properly, shouldn't the church be stripped before, some dude gets his hands on it and wants to turn it into some gothic looking bar or what have you?
Hey, the Limelight, which was converted from an Episcopal Church, was a pretty cool place.
I was delighted to see the beautiful new Melkite church. Down here in the south, eastern Catholic churches normally purchase their churches. Why build when there are existing churches to be purchased? Add an iconostasis and...voila!
I really do wish that the eastern Catholic churches had more of a tradition of evangelization. The western church looks at these inner city churches and older parishes as a liability. An eastern Catholic church would look at that same parish and church wish it had something that nice.
"Here's the thing: ALL of the growth within the Church in the past 20 years has been coming from lay-run and other apostolates which operate quasi-autonomously from the bishops."
Links, gentlemen, links please. Who is doing a good job and how are they doing it?
Funny...the Catholic schools here in San Antonio are expanding rapidly, have waiting lists and are bursting at the seams despite our quick expansion.
The media is searching for a crisis in the world's favorite target...the Catholic Church.
"I have yet to hear or read a sermon, read an op-ed, read a letter to the editor about the subject of vouchers or tuition tax credits from any bishop, priest, or religious clergy. I've also read very little about abortion and nothing about the IVF procedure."
Hmmm. You've just given me an idea.
It's ironic that the eastern churches are almost invisible given that they would be the most likely to speak with a strong voice on issues such as sin, IVF, and abortion.
Nyer....are you thinking what I'm thinking?
I would love to see a diocese do something radical like deed over some unused Churches to the Ethiopian Copts to evangelize among the Africans. Its hard to see how "original African Christianity" wouldn't be a big success in this country if it was promoted.
"I would love to see a diocese do something radical like deed over some unused Churches to the Ethiopian Copts to evangelize among the Africans."
As would I. But why stop there? We've got a bunch of Chaldeans coming to the U.S. and they could sure use church facilities. Other Eastern Catholic churches or even semi-independent Catholic organizations that actually evangelize could use the facilties.
Sad to say, I think many western Diocese would rather see the the buildings bulldozed.
I attended the K of C, 'Bishop's Burse' dinner last weekend. At the conclusion, Bishop Hubbard delivered a rather lengthy 'thank you' in which he encouraged the Knights to march on the State Capitol in support of tuition tax credits, as well as other issues.
Nyer....are you thinking what I'm thinking?
Can you give me a hint?
In Louisville, many churches and schools have closed in the last 20 years. Usually if a school had less than 75 famlies and or the parsish less than 150 active families it was on the block.
Demographics changed and left many of our African American families with fewer churches and haveing to drive further to go to schools due to smaller numbers.
Always a shame, but if people move around, ya gotta follow them.
"Can you give me a hint?"
Nature abhors a vacuum.
If our western bretheren are not taking the lead on issues of concern to the faith, then there is nothing to prevent eastern clergy from doing so.
I think we need to stop thinking of our Priests in the same way that has evolved in the western church. Namely, as a sort of Eucharistic technician. As a practical matter, our Priests end up with much more of a leadership role than their contemporaries in the western church. Often times, an eastern Catholic Priest is the highest ranking representative of not only their sui iuris church, but also of eastern Catholicism in a fairly large geographic area.
Our Bishops have Eparchies that stretch over entire regions of the U.S. if not the entire U.S. Not just a region of a state.
Case in point, your own Priest and Bishop. How many other eastern Catholic priests are there in a 100 square mile area? One? And your Bishop's Eparchy I think includes at least the entire eastern seaboard.