Someone (feel free to leave the Faithful priests off the list of suspects) leaked the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis Strategic Plan to the press yesterday and local media had it posted late last night-early this morning. Priests were supposed to be able to break the news to their parishioners. Instead, some priests may be facing angry, shocked and upset parishioners at Anticipatory Masses tonight (if they didn't already see them at daily Masses this morning) before they are allowed a chance to say anything first.
Most parishes remain unchanged and I'm sure they are relieved.
However, my parish, St. Andrew in Saint Paul (pictured above) is one of the 5 in St. Paul that will be closing. We will be merged with Maternity of the Blessed Virgin a few miles to our east. Holy Childhood, to our south will be joining us with Maternity of the Blessed Virgin.
I'm not shocked. I am heavily involved in St. Andrew parish life and committees, including 2 recent terms on the Parish Council (one as Secretary), and those of us who knew the numbers and the reality knew something was coming.
On the North End/South Como area of Saint Paul, where I live, there are many parishes within 5 miles of my house. I can count 10, without too much effort, that I could drive to for Mass in under 20 minutes-including the Cathedral. The Lord's abundance is truly in evidence.
Also, in evidence are the declining and greying numbers of parishioners; the struggles to get volunteers on committees, the fact that funerals far outweigh weddings and baptisms. Yes, the demographic shift to the suburbs has something to do with it. However, that is not the entire story. In my neighborhood, which once almost totally "belonged" to St. Andrew, hardly anyone goes to Church, ANY Church on Sunday-if they are even remotely Catholic at all is another issue. Many people these days don't practice a faith-ANY faith.
I continue to maintain that birth control, even among Catholics, and the complete failure to pass on the Faith to the young over the last 40 years has a large share in the result of the Archdiocese report.
So, here we are, now what?
I said I was not shocked. That did not mean I was not crying this morning. Now what?
After the tempest abated-for now, I'm sure I'll be crying when I go to Mass this weekend-I prayed to St. Andrew about it. St. Andrew, along with his brother St. Peter, left everything, including his own father, to follow Jesus. If we (I) are true follower of Jesus, we (I) will continue to do so.
It could be worse. St. Andrew has shared the school with Maternity for over 20 years. In fact, I believe we were the first consolidated Catholic school in the Archdiocese and we are still going. The school partnership has not been without bumps. However, we've made it work and made it work TOGETHER. The school partnership means a lot of parishioners in both parishes already know each other.
St. Andrew has Eucharistic Adoration on Tuesday and Maternity has Eucharistic Adoration on Thursdays. We already try to schedule parish events around the others schedule. We already arrange our Parish Festival not to conflict with theirs.
Maternity has a solid priest, Fr. Williams and so does St. Andrew, Fr. Juettner. I'm not worried about weird liturgy once again being my friend.
Maternity has a beautiful chapel and a nice newly added Hall (Sirba Hall, named for their former priest and now Bishop, Paul Sirba)
Maternity has a very nice Parish Library. I already know the Librarian-yes, once a Librarian and always. LOL
I'm hopeful but I am struggling. What's going to happen to our beautiful building, rectory (which our priests still live in) and our school building (currently, rented to the St. Paul School District) and grounds? We have beautiful stained glass, statues and Stations-much of which have all been restored or reinstated in the last 10 years. The inside was wreckovated in the 70s but beauty remains.
Even though our church is not fully pre-Vatican II looking, Maternity is definitely a more modern building. Maternity was very respectfully built and I've seen worse but it is newer. When I reverted I started paying more attention to church architecture and how it deepened my relationship to the Sacred Mysteries. I've certainly done a long stint of worshipping in crappy architecture during my dissident days (in a GYM as a matter of fact). It's the liturgy that matters more to me than the setting. However, they are tied together in my worship now. I worry I may start having trouble in the more modern setting. We'll see. I'll try.
At the end that's what my point is: Try. Don't just walk away. I know several parishioners are going to be really angry and upset. Some have been saying for the last several months "If St. Andrew closes, no way am I going to Maternity, I'll go (insert name of other parish here) or away". Don't go away. Fully away. Don't turn your back on the Lord. Give it a chance. Change is hard and some of us don't make new friends easily but the Lord will always be your friend.
For some reason I thought today's (new calender) first reading spoke to us. We are all of us, the Church in Ephesus, Thessalonica, and Corinth. St. Paul speaks to all us thru time. The Church has not changed. Struggle, confusion and change have been with us all along. They survived, so can we.For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers,that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power in us who believe, according to the working of his great might which he accomplished in Christ when he raised him from the dead and made him sit at his right hand in the heavenly places,far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come; and he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church,which is his body, the fulness of him who fills all in all--
St. Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians 1:15-23
A special prayer today for my brothers and sisters in Northeast Minneapolis. Also, a thank you to the Strategic Planning Task Force for their service. I'm sure it has not been easy. To those of you, the happy dissidents, we have a priest for you. Think about it.
Pray for priests! Pray for our Archbishop!