Skip to comments.Cities suffering pain of loss (RC Diocese of Albany releases list of 33 parish closings)
Posted on 01/18/2009 4:19:43 AM PST by NYer
ALBANY Cities across the greater Capital Region will bear the brunt of a massive plan to close 33 worship sites throughout the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, Bishop Howard Hubbard announced Saturday.
Troy will be ground zero in an unprecedented consolidation the 14-county diocese is undertaking to cope with shifting demographics and a shortage of priests.
Hubbard, despite lobbying to change the outcome, decided to close six of the Collar City's dozen Catholic churches. That is more than any other city. And the list of soon-to-be-shuttered Troy churches includes St. Peter's, the state's third-oldest Catholic parish.
Elsewhere, St. Teresa of Avila and Holy Cross will close in Albany. In Cohoes, St. Bernard's, St. Joseph's and St. Rita/Sacred Heart will all shut down. And in Schenectady, St. Mary's, St. John the Baptist and Immaculate Conception also will close.
Altogether, the diocese is closing just under 20 percent of its 190 worship sites, a historic downsizing that is comparable to other consolidations in the dioceses of Buffalo, Syracuse,and Rochester.
The decisions announced Saturday culminated a 2 1/2-year planning process, known as Called to BE Church, that involved thousands of Catholics and 38 local planning groups making suggestions to the bishop.
Parishioners attending Masses on Saturday took the closings with mixed emotions: acceptance, nostalgia, disbelief, resignation, anger.
A livid Dorothy Mall lingered in her pew after the 4:30 p.m. Mass at one of Troy's doomed churches, St. Patrick's. Mall described Called to BE Church as "a farce" whose outcome was known from the start.
"The politics and the hypocrisy of this diocese leaves a lot to be desired," said Mall, 65, of Niskayuna. "This Called to BE Church did nothing but pit priest against priest, parish against parish, and parishioners against parishioners."
Hubbard has publicly rebutted the claim that he knew all along what he planned to do. On Saturday, he empathized with the "painful adjustments" the closures will require of many of the sprawling diocese's 400,000 upstate Catholics, who began to learn the fate of their parishes during Masses on Saturday and will continue to get the news in churches today.
"In fact, my own home parish of St. Patrick's in Troy will be closing the church where I grew up, went to school, celebrated my first Mass as a priest of the diocese, and buried my parents," Hubbard said in a prepared statement.
"But we as a church must acknowledge the social and demographic changes that require change, and remember our church must adapt, just as our ancestors' church adapted to rapid changes in society throughout the 19th and 20th centuries."
Hubbard, who made the rounds of media outlets this month ahead of the plan's release, kept a low profile Saturday. He was unavailable for an interview. He did not attend any public events, said diocese spokesman Ken Goldfarb. Hubbard will celebrate Mass at 11 a.m. today in the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception.
The closure of so many neighborhood landmarks isn't just a Catholic issue. Empty churches create "a hole in our community," said Lynn Kopka, a non-Catholic who heads the Troy's Washington Park Association.
The longer they sit vacant, the more deterioration makes it hard to find other uses for buildings that make economic sense, Kopka said.
The former St. Jean's, closed under a previous bishop some 35 years ago, sits vacant in the block south of Washington Park, Kopka said. Now the diocese plans to close St. Mary's as well.
"It's one more wallop in the head for urban areas that are trying to move forward," Kopka said.
Goldfarb responded to that concern by saying nearly all vacated church buildings have found other community uses and are no longer vacant. He sent the Times Union a church-by-church list of those uses, from a shelter for homeless women to a community arts center.
Other cities beyond the Capital Region's four-county core will also lose churches, including Glens Falls in Warren County, where St. Alphonsus will close.
In Montgomery County, three Amsterdam worship sites will close: St. Casimir's, St. John the Baptist, and St. Michael's.
Some churches, like St. Francis de Sales in Troy, will close as early as next month.
The calendar for the other closings will unfold over three years.
The closures will disrupt important traditions at two Troy churches. The Latin Tridentine Mass will move from St. Peter's to St. Joseph's in Troy, Hubbard announced Saturday. And the Perpetual Adoration Chapel will go from St. Paul's to the chapel at St. Mary's Hospital, also in Troy.
The diocese described Called to BE Church as a project created to realign resources to serve the greatest number of Catholics.
With the exception of Saratoga Springs, the majority of cities in the Albany Diocese have lost between 25 and 39 percent of their population since 1960. Suburban towns have grown by 50 percent or more, according to the diocese.
In Saratoga County, only one church in Mechanicville will close.
Many city churches were built at a time when they served separate ethnic communities whose members walked to worship in buildings only blocks from each other. Today, the combined weekend Mass attendance is about 1,300 at six urban churches in Troy whose total seating capacity is 3,200. A single parish in Ballston Spa or Glenville gets the same attendance.
Still, some fault bishops for neglecting newer immigrant groups who don't come from traditional European Catholic countries.
For example, Pentecostal churches are pulling in large numbers of Latinos, said Peter Borre, chair of the Council of Parishes, a Boston-based advocacy group for parishes in danger of closing.
"This is a massive failure on the part of bishops serving urban areas in the Northeast," Borre said.
The Albany Diocese maintains what Goldfarb described as "a significant outreach program to the Hispanic community." It offers a Spanish language Mass in areas with substantial numbers of Spanish-speaking Catholics: Albany, Schenectady, Troy, Amsterdam Stuyvesant Falls. None of those locations will close, Goldfarb said.
Sad. I’ve gone to the Latin Mass in Troy...what a beautiful church!
Hubbard has presided over the destruction of his own diocese.
City of Albany:
St. John's/St. Ann's and St. James will merge by July 1, 2010, with both worship sites to remain open.
St. Teresa of Avila and St. Catherine of Siena will merge by Oct. 1. St. Teresa's worship site will close.
Holy Cross and St. Margaret Mary will merge by Oct. 1.
Holy Cross worship site will close.
St. Teresa's School and Holy Cross School will merge on July 1 at the Holy Cross School site.
Elsewhere in Albany County:
St. Bernard's (Cohoes) will close by Feb. 25.
St. Joseph's (Cohoes) will close by Feb. 25.
St. Rita/Sacred Heart (Cohoes) will close by Feb. 25.
St. Michael's (Cohoes) to become a territorial parish, will remain open.
St. Bernadette's Mission Church (Berne) to close by Dec. 31, 2010.
St. Mary's (Hudson) and Resurrection (Germantown) will merge by July 1, with both to remain open.
St. John Vianney (Claverack) and St. Bridget's (Copake Falls) will share a pastor, and conduct feasibility study on possible merger and worship site. The findings of the feasibility study are to be submitted to the diocese by Dec. 31.
Nativity/St. Mary's (Stuyvesant Falls) and Holy Family (Stottville) will merge by Dec. 31, with both remaining open.
Our Lady of Good Counsel Mission Church (Roxbury) will close immediately.
St. Mary of Mount Carmel (Gloversville) and Sacred Heart (Gloversville) will merge by July 1, determination of which worship site will close to be made by July 1.
Holy Trinity (Johnstown) to determine by July 1 which one of its three worship sites will remain open.
St. Patrick's (Catskill) to conduct feasibility study of parish facilities by Dec. 31; At that time the diocese will revisit possible merger with St. Patrick's (Athens).
Immaculate Conception (Haines Falls) and Sacred Heart (Palenville) will merge by July 1, with both to remain open.
No church closings
St. Casimir's (Amsterdam) to close by May 3.
St. John the Baptist (Amsterdam) to close Feb. 25.
St. Michael's worship site (Amsterdam) to close by Feb. 25.
Sts. Peter & Paul (Canajoharie), St. James (Fort Plain) and St. Patrick's (St. Johnsville) to merge by July 1. Recommendations on worship site(s) to be submitted to the diocese by July 1, 2010.
Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Mission Church (Edmeston) to close by July 1.
St. Mary's Mission Church (Sharon Springs) to close by Dec. 31.
Blessed Sacrament Mission Church (Springfield Center) to close by Oct. 18.
St. Thomas (Cherry Valley) to become mission church of St. Mary's (Cooperstown) by July 1, 2010 with both to remain open.
City of Troy:
St. Patrick's to close by July 1, 2010.
St. Peter's to close by May 31 (Tridentine Mass will move to St. Joseph's in Troy).
St. Paul the Apostle to close by May 31 (Perpetual Adoration Chapel to move to Chapel at St. Mary's Hospital in Troy).
St. Francis de Sales to close by Feb. 25.
St. Mary's to close by July 1, 2010.
St. William's to close by Feb. 25.
Elsewhere in Rensselaer County:
St. Joseph's/St. John's (Rensselaer) will determine one worship site for parish by July 1, with other worship site to close by July 1, 2010.
St. Bonaventure (Speigletown) and Holy Trinity (Schaghticoke) to merge by July 1, 2010, with both remaining open.
St. John Francis Regis (Grafton) and Sacred Heart (Berlin) will merge by Sept. 1, with both remaining open.
St. George Mission Church (Pittstown) to close by July 1.
Assumption/St. Paul (Mechanicville) will determine one worship site by July 1.
Our Lady of Assumption (Rotterdam) and Immaculate Conception (Schenectady) will merge by July 1 2010; Immaculate Conception worship site to close by January 1, 2011.
St. John the Baptist (Schenectady) to close by Feb. 25.
St. Mary's (Schenectady) to close by July 1.
St. Margaret of Cortona (Rotterdam Junction) will become a mission church of St. Joseph's (Schenectady) by July 1.
St. Joseph's (Schoharie) and St. Catherine's (Middleburgh) to merge by July 1. St. Joseph's worship site to close by July 1.
St. Mary's Mission Church (Schenevus) to close by Feb. 25.
St. Anna's (Summit) to close by July 1.
St. Alphonsus (Glens Falls) will close by July 1, 2010.
Immaculate Conception (Corinth) and Holy Infancy (Lake Luzerne) will merge by July 1, with both to remain open.
St. John the Baptist (Chestertown) and Blessed Sacrament (Hague) will merge by Dec. 31; both to stay open.
St. Joseph's (Fort Edward) and St. Mary's/St. Paul's (Hudson Falls) will share a pastor in July 2010, with both remaining open.
Our Lady of Mount Carmel (Granville) will close by April 13.
Here are definitions of some terms, provided by the Albany diocese:
Church: A building in which Catholics worship.
Parish: The geographic area or population served by a church or churches. A parish may include one or more churches or worship sites.
Merged: Two or more parishes joined to become a single parish.
Territorial parish: A parish in a specific geographical territory.
St. Peter's is a beautiful church. The Latin Mass will now move to St. Joseph's which is equally beautiful. I hope you have the opportunity to attend mass there some day. What is quite upsetting, however, is this.
St. Paul the Apostle to close by May 31 (Perpetual Adoration Chapel to move to Chapel at St. Mary's Hospital in Troy).
My pastor serves as one of the chaplains at St. Mary's Hospital. On the one hand, having an adoration chapel is a blessing for those confined to the hospital. However this is the only adoration chapel in the entire diocese.
This is only true in certain parts of the country. What's interesting to note is which shepherds are closing their churches and ask yourself what programs are in place to encourage Catholics to come home. Two years ago, this same bishop closed 5 of the 6 churches in nearby Watervliet. It was a painful slap in the face for that community. Since then, many of those parishioners have left the Catholic Church and now attend local Evangelical Churches. No effort has been made to call them home.
Where there is good, orthodox Catholicism, there is NO shortage of seminarians!
My own Church here in Southern Md., where the first mass in this country was said in 1640 is closing it’s school and we will be lucky to save the Church, The Jesuits have owned large tracts of land here since the 1600’s and are selling it to the state.
Dwindling enrollmen and the lack of Nuns to teach the schools hasn’t helped, but even the Church has a dwindling attendence at Mass.
The priest scandals cost the Catholic Church horribly ,not only financially but also spiritually, the cost of a decision to hide pedophile priests instead of kicking them out years ago. Somebody sure screwed up with that decision.
You've got it! This diocese has been rocked by scandal, most of it attributable to those candidates approved by this bishop and his predecessor. The current number of priests are aging. The more orthodox among them have had their parishes taken away, replaced by lay ecclesial ministers. The few stalwart 'orthodox' catholics are counting down the days until this bishop's retirement - 5 years away. The next bishop will have his hands full trying to undo the damage from 35+ years of this bishop's destruction.
You know, I don’t think a lot of Catholics REALLY understand just how important it is to pray DAILY for their pastors and bishops. We need to continually ask God to bless them and to remove or change those who are not anointed and appointed by HIM and replace them with those who are. The Lord DOES answer those prayers, sometimes very quickly and more often, after a great deal of time, but He does answer. ;-)
Regarding your comments about the huge job the next bishop will have, it is all the more important to pray for the soul of the present bishop for, as Jeff Miller has stated: “I have often heard the quote of St. Athanasius who said, “The floor of hell is paved with the skulls of bishops.” What is not normally emphasized is that they have plenty of company with the skulls of the laity who failed to pray for them in the first place.”
a falling away?
Not sure what you refer to here....
I am only sure that there is a great need for those who have not fallen away to intercede for those who have.....and to ask God to grant a new and great outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
“Called to BE Church”
Pure, phony, Kumbayaism! Up here there was a similar process and now all five parishes in the town are merged into one with a dwindling Sunday attendance. None of my oldest son’s (age 28) contemporaries, all Roman Catholics, attend Mass. The masses are populated with the 50+ and older crowd.
What’s growing are the fundy protestant groups (well, we are growing too though not with Roman Catholics, except through marriage). They are popping up like mushrooms and the congregations are full of former Latins. The sex scandals and trendy theology delivered by a series of looser bishops with openly gay minions has all but killed Roman Catholicism here. There’s a reason why it is said that the floor of hell is paved with the skulls of bishops.
He's on my list, along with the Catholics who are suffering here and around the country. What bothers me most, though, is a comment he made in a recent interview. Confronted with the suggestion that closing so many inner city churches might be unnecessary since Catholics are beginning to return to the cities, he said he would build new ones. The existing churches are magnificent architectural masterpieces, replete with hand-carved pews and elaborate marble altars. Newer structures in this diocese are cement boxes, decorated with felt banners and devoid of sacramentals.
To cite an example of how poorly this is being managed, my Maronite Catholic pastor approached the diocese to acquire a closed church. He was given the run around and eventually purchased a boarded up Methodist Church. It is a long, tedious and costly process to restore the building and convert it into a Catholic Church. Meanwhile, the diocese sold one of its properties to an Evangelical minister who is desperately trying to sell the gorgeous stained glass windows. It makes no sense.
I say let’s get some of that “stimulus” money for some spiritual recovery. These churches are landmarks and have to be saved.
“Meanwhile, the diocese sold one of its properties to an Evangelical minister who is desperately trying to sell the gorgeous stained glass windows. It makes no sense.”
It makes perfect sense, NYer. The Roman Catholic hierarchs both thoroughly dislike and at the same time fear priests like your abouna and parishes like yours. Its been true for over 100 years. The priests of Non-Roman particular churches in communion with Rome here in the States are a threat and a challenge to the Roman straps. The history of +Alexis Toth and his Ruthenians is instructive in this regard. The evangelical minister isn’t viewed as a threat (though he should be)while your abouna is (and shouldn’t be).
Reminds me of the Parable of the Talents....with Hubbard representing the servant who buried his talent. Matthew 25.
May God have mercy on him.
When there is 35+ years of bad or no teaching it’s hard for me to blame the laity. One of the things that makes it so hard for a good bishop to try to reclaim such areas is the lack of Church teaching that went on for GENERATIONS.
I blame the Vatican for letting areas like this twist for 30 years. When such free reign of bad bishops is allowed in areas with a much less dense historic Catholic population, the effect is even more grim. After a couple of decades of such sheparding the folks don’t really even know they are Catholic much less what the Church teaches.
That’s not to say we shouldn’t pray for our bishops and priests.
That's a perfectly normal reaction and representative of our poor understanding of the Vatican's responsibility. The following article provides a better perspective.
That said, however, this bishop might just as well erect a
sign. He has done nothing to reclaim the Catholics that have left the fold.