Closing parishes, preparing for the future… Fr. Z rants

I have had a few e-mails in the last couple days about a very painful topic: parish closings.

People are rightly angry and sad when a parish is closed.

Many factors are involved in a parish closing: shift in demographics, economic downturns, need to expand, etc.

So… I have great sympathy with people who are angry.

It irks me that places should be closed when so many people sacrificed for generations to build what is there.

But… but… ff people are not coming… if people are not giving… what is the alternative to closing a parish? 

Do people think that parishes are free?

We are heading into a massive change in our economy and resources.  But bills at parishes still have to be paid.

I have a sinking feeling that many places wouldn’t necessary have to be closed if some creativity was applied.  I am thinking of the fantastic work done by Fr. Philips at St. John Cantius in Chicago.  He turned a dying disaster into a world famous gem.  How did he do it?  He stuck to the Church’s doctrine in his preaching, the texts and rubrics in worship, and used both the older and the newer forms of Mass.  He stressed the Polish heritage of the parish and made sure there was always something going on.

As I write, I am thinking about a scene in the movie Cinderella Man.  During the Depression people gather at the Catholic parish church.  Their parish is the focal point of their interaction and social activities and support in those troubled times. 

They pool their resources to make a single chocolate cake for the birthdays of several children.

Throughout the history of the West, the Church was the powerful agency of support in times of need.  The Church coordinated groups of laypeople in guilds and confraternities for social support and projects of charity, spiritual and material. 

I have always thought of parishes as, among other things, the nexus points for spiritual and corporal works of mercy.

I wonder if we shouldn’t start planning NOW for how to organize for feeding the elderly and creating opportunities for entertainment for young people at the parish.

We need some creative thinking, thick skin and really sturdy backbones.  We must ready ourselves for what is going to come.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Dave says:

    Interesting that you mention Cinderella Man – I actually saw that movie at church. Our local Newman Center has lots of social events like movie nights, and I think it really helps make the church the focal point of people’s lives.

  2. Tim Ferguson says:

    A bishop I know, who has since gone to his final reward, was lamenting the fact that he needed to close parishes in his diocese. It was an agonizing decision, but in his diocese, in years past, EVERY small town had an Irish parish, a German parish, a French parish and a Polish parish. Now, the ethnic divides had, mostly, died down and the small towns had shrunk. In addition, the pool of pastors had shrunk. Yet, every parish had a rich history, and closing – or even merging, was a very difficult decision.

    He said to a group of us (seminarians at the time) that one person proposed to him a method: Decide which parishes to close and which to keep open based on how many vocations to the priesthood each parish had provided. Your parish has had two ordinations in the last twenty years? You’re guaranteed a parish for at least another twenty. That parish has never had an ordination? Close it tomorrow. [WOW. That’s where the metal hits the meat!]

    Now obviously, the bishop opined, that can’t be done for practical reasons – but it did put an interesting spin on the matter. Of the people who are wailing and bemoaning the fact that their parish is about to be close – how many have actively encouraged their sons to pursue the priesthood? How many have encouraged neighbor boys, nephews, cousins? And how many have contracepted so they only have one or two children, and then put pressure on their small brood to marry so they can have grandchildren?

    The future of the Church is truly in our hands. We’re on the verge of some very dark times, I fear, and unless we take personal responsibility, we’re in for some major difficulty. Pray, and pray often!

  3. Ken STL says:

    We have lost many beautiful downtown parishes here in St. Louis at the same time we have built some suburban monstrosities. Why not have suburbanites be assigned to downtown parishes? Or have a new parish adopt an older one for maintenance and regular Masses? We can commute to work downtown every day, but cannot be bothered with a 15-minute drive to Sunday Mass?

  4. Diane says:

    Another fine example is that of Fr. Albert Lauer (RIP). His story is in Michael S. Rose’s book, Priest – Portraits of 10 good men serving the Church today, or similarly titled.

    He turned an urban parish around from red to black in no time too after he began things like adoration and sound catechesis. People were coming in droves.

    He founded Presentation Ministries and i highly recommend going through some of the material, especially on marriage there. And, he was a Catholic radio personality.

  5. John Penta says:

    Here’s a problem:

    That whole notion of “parish as center of community” worked great when most people could walk to their parish, and there were cohesive neighborhoods around a parish, two things that aren’t exactly the case in most places in the US these days. Think anout where Cinderella Man’s parish was, Father: In an urban area, pretty much a ghetto, where most people were Catholic.

    Now that that isn’t the case, mostly the result of good things happening, the church isn’t the natural gathering place that (say) one’s local grade school is.

    Also: There’s something to be said for specialization. Most people, when seeking food for the elderly, look immediately to the local food bank. Why? It’s all they do, simply put. They do it, in many cases, better than other organizations could.

    Finally, there’s a simple matter of resources: most parishes are stretched to provide the basics in terms of ‘what a parish is supposed to provide’, without trying to do stuff that other people do better.

    Where parishes could make a difference:

    *Providing space and info* They probably shouldn’t do disaster relief, feeding of the elderly, etc. directly. But they could do a lot by, say, becoming a disaster shelter for the Red Cross, and by having the secretary at the parish office keep contact info for social services organizations handy – so that in case things go bad, people start to look immediately to their local Catholic parish as a place to go to start the trek towards Getting Better, whether or not they’re Catholic themselves.

    Don’t think of the parish as *doing* everything. This isn’t the Middle Ages, we don’t need the parish to do that, and we couldn’t find the resources in any case. Think of the parish as the *one place you need to go* to *find everything*. Giving you information on where to go, if not doing it themselves.

  6. the diocese of Pittsburgh is proud to announce the transformation of
    St Mary’s church in Lawrenceville into……now hold your breath…..wait for it….. a……..a…..mausoleum. says a lot of the state of Catholicism in the USA don’t it, the death of tradition for sure

    (proudly announced in our catholic paper The Catholic Telegraph, of the Cincinnati diocese )

  7. Magdalene says:

    While it is very true that shifting demographics are a main cause of the parish closings there are some other things too. Since the urban exodus those cities with huge churches almost literally on every other block can no longer maintain them. The new residents often are not Catholic for one thing. They should be carefully razed with sacred items and windows and so forth saved to be used where they will continue to give honor to God. They should not be used as brew pubs and the like or, worse yet, turned into a mosque which are blasphemous uses for what had been holy space.

    However, there are not so many closings in very faithful dioceses. I can think of none in mine. Not that this is still not happening in a diocese that might be faithful though. BUT there is an agenda where women as ‘pastoral associates’ are being used and where the priest shortage has been contrived or has been contributed to by the heterodoxy of the diocese. In my former diocese three parishes were consolidated and called the southwest ‘catholic community’ or some such silly name now–not even named for a Saint! The ‘sacramental minister’ comes in to do what the women cannot do. That is also a problem in some places.

  8. LCB says:

    “How did he do it? He stuck to the Church’s doctrine in his preaching, the texts and rubrics in worship, and used both the older and the newer forms of Mass. He stress the Polish heritage of the parish and made sure there was always something going on.”

    Wait wait wait, you’re saying that if we just taught what the Church teaches, and preach what she preaches, and do what she tells us to do, and act in continuity with what came before us, then we won’t have totally empty churches? I’m shocked, shocked I say! God giving us all the tools we need to be successful, and Him even guaranteeing our success for all eternity? Why, what type of spirit would lead us away from something that worked so well and saved so many souls and had God’s “stamp of approval”? What type of spirit would want empty churches? I better go ask my Parish religious ed co-ordinator. She has an m.div and is certified to run a communion service!

    Maybe if we… just did what worked in the past and stopped doing what isn’t working now… then the problems caused by these untraditional innovations would… UGH this thinking is too hard. Someone fill in the conclusion for me? I’ve got to go back to celebrating myself and singing “Anthem.”

  9. LCB says:

    “Finally, there’s a simple matter of resources: most parishes are stretched to provide the basics in terms of ‘what a parish is supposed to provide’, without trying to do stuff that other people do better.”

    John, a parish is supposed to provide good liturgy and the Sacraments. If our parishes did this, then they would have the resources and people for the other necessary ministries. It’s not about being God’s social worker.

    When Father Z talks about always having something going on, he means allowing the parish to become a center of the community, so people’s social lives are anchored in their liturgical life. Going to Sunday Mass should be the pinnacle of one’s week, and everything else should revolve around that. That is how authentic Catholic communities are built.

  10. Magdalene

    Same here five parishes clustered together, The Marion Catholic Community, only named that because all are situated in Marion Township, so far no women as ‘pastoral associates’ here the old German population would blow a fuse, however don\’t fear there is no chance of a TLM anytime soon, I was dumb enough to bring it up at a parish anniversary planning meeting a while back, lucky I left with my head and rear still attached, three older women, both retired, on the committee informed me that if I tried I would be no longer welcome in the parish and further more they claimed if they even had to barricade the doors, they would guarantee an empty church. And then our organist blew up and informed me that he would sooner see a mass in Japanese than Latin and if necessary he would destroy the organ before allowing such “garbage”

    I just keep praying

  11. LCB says:


    You write, “Since the urban exodus those cities with huge churches almost literally on every other block can no longer maintain them. The new residents often are not Catholic for one thing.”

    To which I reply, “We should be converting them.”

  12. Mea culpa

    three older women ALL THREE RETIRED, I have to proof read better

  13. James the Less says:

    A parish-based Knights of Columbus council can play an important role.

  14. Tim says:

    Amen, Magdalene!!!
    Here we have have beautiful Catholic churches closing up shop, while the JW’s, Mormons, and fundamentalists keep making big inroads. It doesn’t make sense. Some Catholic churches are even being sold to protestants. They didn’t invent evalgelization, we (i.e., the Apostles) did! We’ve got to get back to our Catholic mission, which isn’t simply to keep the Faith. We’ve got to spread it! The non-Catholics living in the neiaghborhoods where Catholic churches are closing need the Church more than anything else.

  15. Redxxt18 says:

    “shortage of priests” That means diocesen Priests I know of alot of religious orders that have many vocations.

  16. Matt says:

    Think of all the SSPX priests and those in seminaries that could fill these parishes. Many Bishops would rather have the parish close then open it to tradition. We reep what we sow. It is hard to get clean wheat when there are so many weeds in the current church.

    Maybe we should take the farmer’s approach and spray some herbicide.

  17. TLH says:

    I know a priest of the archdiocese of New Orleans who wrote Abp. Hughes a letter asking if he could give one of those closed churches, you know the ones that were in the news, over to one of the traditional latin mass groups(orders). The poor priest never even got a response to his letter…all I can do is shake my head in dismay.

  18. Very good observations, Fr. Z.

    I think a parish is going to be very blessed, if Fr. Z going to take over it.

    I think people of Vancouver Archdiocese will welcome you with open arms and Chiense food. [YUM! Sounds like a great place. I have never been to V.]

  19. Ioannes Andreades says:

    The other issue is that it seems that a lot of the churches that were built at the turn of the century are the onese being closed. A turn-of-the-century Gothic church is a lot more expensive to heat and often has older heating and plumbing system than many of the post 60’s monstrosities. It’s often the old, stately churches that are being targeted, whereas the new churches in the round are being saved partially because of their efficiency. In New Haven, the church where the St. Gregory Society holds TLMs is in need of huge amounts of repairs and may have to close. Was build in the 1800’s.

  20. Theresa says:

    Hello, Father,
    I have not been part of parish closing yet, but I know people who have been through this sad experience. One of the problems that causes the anger is that people in each parish have come to worship in different ways. In one parish, they like quiet reverent liturgy in a place that looks like a church, adherence to the rubrics, kneeling after Communion, and other traditional practices. In the parish across town, in an all-purpose worship space, they have hand-clapping, hand-holding, use gender-neutral language, and a lot of other things that have become very meaningful to the people at that parish, but are abhorrent to the folks in the other parish. The people of the town choose which parish they belong to based on which approach to the liturgy they prefer. When two parishes like the ones described are required to merge, it is a sad, sad recipe for disaster. I believe innovations within the liturgy are part of what divides us, and cause such difficulties when parishes must close. I long for a uniform, catholic liturgy, where, no matter where we are or whom we are worshipping with, we know what we will find at Mass.

  21. Matt Q says:

    Father Z echoed what I have believed for a long time. With what is usually considered a negative connotation, money does talk. In this case, it’s a good tool. If parishes are not preaching the truth, not celebrating Masses in a most worthy and profound manner… then… well, when the money dries up the pastor wanders around totally dazed as to what happened. When Catholic Truth is preached and the Masses are as gloriously put forth as can be, and DEVOTIONS are encouraged–ignored by many parishes nowadays–the money comes in because the Faithful are being fed. Those who like the nonsense evaporate… or embrace the Truth.

    It should also be pointed out, as was mentioned above by Ioannes, it seems the various parishes being closed are mostly along the Traditional lines. Parish churches, great and humble, which are along the Classical lines, not only in their architecture, but also their Traditional embrace, are the ones closing, regardless of whether the parish is vibrant or active. What ugly, modern airport-terminal-looking parish has been, or is being, closed? What pastors of the McBriens, or Kennedys of Australia, are losing their parishes? Not a brain-strainer, folks.


    Dan wrote:

    “Interesting that you mention Cinderella Man – I actually saw that movie at church. Our local Newman Center has lots of social events like movie nights, and I think it really helps make the church the focal point of people’s lives.”


    It’s nice when parishes do that. There are so many socials the parish can sponsor. Unfortunately, such of the success or failure of these events are because of interest, mostly lacking here in our area parishes.

    Dan, one thing. Your parish should be careful about showing movies in public. Unless the parish has paid a “performance fee” to studio who owns the copyright, they’ll come after them. It’s a given with them. A PRE-SCHOOL here was sued by Walt Disney Co for using Disney characters on the wall of the school.

  22. Brian says:

    If the majority of Catholics had not rejected Humanae Vitae, would we have so many churches closing and so few priests?

  23. M. Reed says:

    I know that we can’t really compare the U.S. to Poland, where in the heart of larger cities like Warsaw and Krakow there is a church on every block and they are all full, but I did notice some things about the Polish Church and churches that made a big impression, especially if we are talking about the expense of keeping a parish going.

    –There was *always* someone cleaning, dusting, polishing, freshening the flowers. Parishioners love their churches and volunteer to take care of them. When was the last time we saved our parish some money by taking on the work a parish usually pays someone to do?

    –The churches are largely un-heated and un-cooled–and the older ones *cannot* be given central air/heat because of all the woodwork and artwook. The thought of attending Christmas Midnight Mass in an unheated stone church makes me shiver, but by golly, people throw on coats and DO it. If we were willing to be a little less physically comfortable, we could run our churches more cheaply and more “greenly.” If we were a little chillier in winter, we might stay awake more–and maybe the young women would wear a little more…

    Can you tell I’m wishing I were back in Poland, where the clergy and religious look like clergy and religious, and the churches all look like Churches…

  24. M. Reed

    My former parish went through a ridiculous program called \”for the harvest\” in the early 80\’s I believe, I was involved, these nose in the air types from the diocese of Cincinnati came out and proceeded to lecture us on the huge costs of keeping these small rural parishes open, one of our parishioners tossed the fellow our ledgers and demanded that he find anywhere that we received any amounts of money from the diocese, after several minuets he apologized and admitted that we were always sending them money not the other way around. They were also amazed that we cleaned our own Churches and did our own repairs, (the men of the parish even re roofed the church themselves), one woman from the diocese office asked why we did that when there are companys that specialize in these things, boy she got the most incredulous looks from the \”ladies of the church\”, we have always done it our selves it saves money and this way we take pride in how our church looks, we even had a priest that got approval to remodel the rectory from the parish council, it NEEDED it, then he when out and hired a contractor from Dayton, an hour away, to do the job at one huge price, announced it after Sunday collection, all the checks in the collection bounced the next day, the men of the parish did all the remodeling themselves and in the end Father admitted that they did an excellent job, at 1 fifth the cost.

  25. LCB says:

    Not all priests are called to Diocesan ministry.

  26. Fr. Z., do you ever visit St. John Cantius in Chicago. If so, I’d be delighted to meet you there sometime, just to say hello.

  27. Athanasius says:

    Fr. Z Wrote: “I have a sinking feeling that many places wouldn’t necessary have to be closed if some creativity was applied. I am thinking of the fantastic work done by Fr. Philips at St. John Cantius in Chicago. He turned a dying disaster into a world famous gem. How did he do it? He stuck to the Church’s doctrine in his preaching, the texts and rubrics in worship, and used both the older and the newer forms of Mass.”

    I agree. In the Pittsburgh diocese there is a tax assessed to every parish called “Parish Share” in addition to a 17.5% tax on regular collections. This past Sunday my wife brought home a bulletin from the parish we are registered in, which I do not attend, with an insert explaining how the parish fell short of collecting enough money for last years annual Parish Share assessment. When this happens, general collection money must be used to make up the difference. In any case, the parish seems to be struggling and we all know what happens when this continues too long.

    How could a disaster be avoided? Fr. Z gives the answer in the quote I provided above. I, as well as many others in Butler, PA, not to mention countless others in countless other dioceses, would LOVE to donate money, time and talent to help a local parish avoid disaster. BUT, until Summorum Pontificum is acknowledged by the diocese and subsequently implemented in this city, we will not contribute money, time or talent, but rather stand by and watch every parish in town close. Support is a two way proposition.

    In the interim there are other entities (eastern rites and/or SSPX) that are being supported by those of us who feel this way but believe in the precept of supporting the Church.

  28. Thomas says:

    I want to commend Tim Ferguson on his reply. The parish I grew up in, was baptized in, made my first Confession and Holy Communion in, served Mass at, and worked at as sexton and snow remover closed when I was in high school. I’m from Boston, but this several years prior to the big reconfiguration under Cardinal O’Malley. You can see I was very active, so it was very painful. However, our pastor (who I’m still friends with) did an excellent job of preparing us throughout the process. If there were more pastors of his quality the later protests and occupations of closed parishes could have been avoided. Instead some pastors did nothing to guide their flocks through the difficult times, or worse yet instigated the disobedience.

    This is a key point I think. If the parish priest tears down the Universal Church, badmouthes the local ordinary and “Rome,” and becomes a maverick who slyly voices his own dissent from the Magisterium, then the people of the parish can’t help but become narrow-minded and “parochial.” In such circumstances closing and merging of parishes in a hopeful and peaceful way becomes impossible.

    And ironically it’s the bad pastoring that has largely contributed to the closings in the first place. They were told repeatedly that contraception and even abortion aren’t that bad so over the years the population plummets. No young men, no vocations. When the teachings and traditions of the Church are undermined, trivialized, and ridiculed from the pulpit people aren’t going to adopt this new “hip” Catholicism; they’ll reject Catholicism outright and the population of the parish will decline even more sharply. The population declines, then the funds decline too.

    We have a recipe of declining population, no ANSWERED vocations to the priesthood, and finances in shambles. Is it any wonder the result is poisonous? And yet it’s the wicked bishop’s fault!

    We’re told the laity needs to actively participate. Well, damn it, I wish they would. Priests and bishops don’t drop out of the sky, they come from the laity. The financing of a parish comes from the laity. The parish exists if there is a laity to be served. So when will the laity start to take responsibility for what is going on? When the lay faithful stop worrying about playing priest at Mass and fabricating a panoply of “ministries,” and actually pursue their own vocation of living the Church’s teachings and evangelizing their neighbors then the situation will improve, but not a moment sooner.

  29. supertradmom says:

    The Davenport Diocese has just published online a huge declaration of centralization, involving parish closings. One of the suggestions was to create “mega-churches” for those faithful in urban areas, thus saving money, and, I suppose, partially dealing with the priest shortage. However, it seems to me that the Church has always been strongest in small, dedicated communities of friends and families, reaching out to neighbors and all alike. This modern fascination with big and strong seems particularly materialistic. Why can we not pare down ministries, get rid of glitzy bulletins, turn the heat down, turn off the air conditioning, and do other things which are simple, rather than closing buildings built with the pennies and craftsmanship of our ancestors? It seems to me that we have lost perspective of what is essential.

    I know a priest in Canada who serves seven parishes, and refuses to hand any over to lay parish administrators or lay people who would only pass out Communion on Sundays. He is a hero and a true missionary. These type of priests will also inspire vocations.

    If the Church is smaller and more dedicated, full of those who truly love the Church, what does it matter? Leaner and meaner, not “mega”.

  30. Sacristy_rat says:

    I agree with Fr Z. He makes a REALISTIC case. Our parish is closing in the spring. It is a large city Church. ONE OF Mass ONE EF Mass. NOTHING going on there BUT those 2 Masses (I like that Fr Z points to the ESSENTIAL activites beyond the liturgy that sustain a parish). Priest lives at another Church that he serves. It\’s gonna close. Surprise? Not really. The Bishop is relocating the EF community to a Church that has EVERYthing we need including a celebrant for the EF litrugy. Perfect fit?!
    We have a group of folks that are writng Rome and causing a stir over this closing, when they wouldn\’t even be there if the OF liturgy were the only one being offered! Ironic?

  31. Jayna says:

    That’s one thing I’ll give my parish: extracurricular activities (as it were). I may lock horns with them on a regular basis as far as liturgy is concerned, but we have about 50-60 different ministries for parishioners to get involved in. There is never a lack of events going on (trust me, I know, I run the website!), except for a slowdown during the summer when everyone is out of town on holiday. Sometimes it feels like overkill, but I guess when you’ve got 4,000+ families in the parish, you’ve gotta give them something to do.

  32. Alan says:

    There are so many beautiful churches on the realestate market for dirt cheap. It would take some motivated individuals, but I dont see why these communities havent chipped in just enough to get the mortgage (form a non-profit), then offer them to a Catholic religious community for mass and stewardship… All sides become winners, the local ordinary gets the cash for the church and is free from having to maintain it, and the people still have a house of God.

  33. Mark says:

    Sturdy, heart warming advice from Father Z.

  34. He Can rant, he is a Priest, and a pastor, one who has many connections more then the average pastor would. He is able to rant, since he isnt tied down, which unfortunately most Pastors are, and are stuck, so to speak

    Its our fault as the laity to some extent, and I speak in generality.

    Part of what is breaking parishes, and I see it happening eventually with my home parish (though no one would ever admit it)..

    We have a paid position for everything these days. Paid Pastoral Administrators (ICCK) Paid people on boards and councils, spending money frivolously (as in our case, we ripped out our perfectly fine ambo, and threw in a beast larger then the altar…), and all the other “Jobs” that people have at parishes. In the “old days” all of these jobs were either done by the clergy, nuns, or the laity, and always out of the goodness of their hearts

    The idea of true ministry is gone in alot of places, you now have “jobs”. Jobs have to be paid for, well they dont have to, but people expect it.

    now just incase some of my fellow parishionors happen to stumble on this (which some of the paid people, I would never guess would read this….), yes, people should be paid for their talents. But, you have to understand, that when you give your talent to the church, it should be given selflessly

    Now here is the other thing, and you can look at it in two ways. I will put the first bluntly, Butts in pews. Mainstream parishes are dwindling in population, and this is for two reasons

    One – Poor Cathechesis from the Ambo (and in our case…the ark). People get bored when they arent taught the core values. When the pastor drones on about nothing for 20 minutes in the “Happy Clappy ” mass that is a standard in far too many places, people do one of two things – They become protestant, because they no longer see the difference , or Two, they start going to oratories , non “territorial” parishes. They not only get a reverent mass there, but they actually learn something during the homily. So, why should they give their hard earned money to a church that is not fulfilling its mission?

    Two – Evangelization and Saturation – In the case of st louis, in particular, the case of the community I am in, Hazelwood, there are 52000 people. There were 6 Catholic Parishes for those
    people within about a mile from each other. So, a great many of those were merged with other parishes. One in particular, literally is down the road from my local parish. Built around the same time too. So there you have the saturation.

    Evagelization – People go to Church, they go home, that’s it. They might have a parish carnival to raise money, but there is nothing short of the parish there except the fact the carnival takes place on the property. WHOO HOO. Just missed the point. You get all those people going to the church, and they dont even get to realize it is a church, because St Anywho parish is worried about makinbg money, and not so much about using that opportunity to get people in the parish

    Take a look at your local Baptist, and Non denominational churches. They do ALL SORTS of things to encourage people to come to church. What does the local, average, (and I will use it) Novus Ordo parish do? I had a job interview at a TV evangelist. you walk in, people are dropping over each other to make you feel welcome. Go in the average Catholic church, and they are running you over to get out.

    So, why should people on average, want to go someplace that people really dont make an effort to get them to go to, or that they arent challenged spiritually at?

    Look at the Traditional Parishes. They are exploding, and yes they are exploding. Lots of activity, lots of young people too (like, under 3 yrs old young). Why? Because 1 ) those parishes actively are recruiting people , and 2) its an honest catechism, that challenges people and grounds them in a faith that is 2000 years old

    I believe Fr Z, was implying that its high time we, the collective laity (again speaking in generality) get off our chairs and do something about it, before more parishes close, and its too late.

    The parish IS our community center, but not if we show up once a week, and not if the Catholicity is lacking. Its all about Identity.

  35. Robert says:

    Yes our’s (St Peter’s)is closing in May. It is a beautiful church that once served from Troy to Vermont. In a sense it is the mother of all the parishes in upstate NY. We have plenty of money (over a million I am told) and the building appears to be in excellent shape. It is being closed along with some others nearly as old and also beautiful. We are told we are closing since there aren’t enough people attending and the shortage of priests. Obtaining a foreign priest we were told is not an option.However, all the newer ones that are, to be short, ugly are being kept open. I can walk to them in less than 10 to 20 min from our church. I do not see the legitimate reason why they should not be moved to the older churches. I am currently pursuing a vocation but not with my diocese (due to other reasons). Some dioceses do not get many vocations because they do not want the type that are interested.

  36. Robert says:

    I forgot to mention one thing. What I find most upsetting is that they are houses of God- in that sense temples. As such they are more than mere buildings. Christ dwells in them. I remember reading in the Divine Mercy (by St Maria Faustina) of an incident where Christ was offended and sought to leave the tabernacle in the convent’s chapel. Three times Sr Faustina lovingly placed the Blessed Sacrament back in the tabernacle. When I compare her behavior to the type that is often exhibited when a church is closed I find it very sad. Often it is “they are closing my church.” I realize that is not bad and is fine but it does not transcend the natural desires to love of God. The worst is those who actively seek to close it (without trying to keep it open or providing any alternative) and do not care about the honor of Christ. That is why I feel those that are more beautiful should be kept open. After all our religion is to be centered around God and not ourselves. Of course it is inevitable that some close. In such case we must reflect upon and love our Savior who was rejected by men. Christ should be our main focus in all. Fiat voluntas Domini.

  37. Sometimes I think that we here in the Catholic Church located in the US are spoiled by such luxuries such as central heating, x amount of ministries, etc, etc.

    I feel that the problem of parish closings are self inflicted…

    I’m reminded of a parish that was basically dead, and a priest went there and did exactly what the Church asked, and now the parish is thriving. (I’m talking about Ss Peter and Paul in Ca in the Archdiocese of LA)

  38. Dan Riley says:

    In the Diocese of Rochester, all of the parishes have been closed against the will of the parishioners.

    The diocese does their scam technique of sending in the right pastor to close the parish. They appoint their inner circle of people on the so-called planning committees, to get the desired vote. You know the routine, the committee “recommends” to the bishop, that the parish should be closed.

    The diocese drains the money out of the parish savings account to make it look like the parish is out of money.

    The bishop is President of the corporation that owns and publishes the Catholic Courier Newspaper. He controls the paper. The articles about the church closings always make it sound like the majority of parishioners agreed to close, but that is not the truth.

    The diocese has worn out the excuse of the “priest shortage”. The last thing that our most of our priests want to do, is close a parish against the will of the parishioners.

  39. joy says:

    ‘He turned an urban parish around from red to black in no time too after he began things like adoration and sound catechesis. People were coming in droves.’
    (comment from Diane)

    So it went from red to black by saying the black and doing the red… Fr Z, this could be a good promo! [LOL! Good one!]

  40. Fr. A says:

    “So it went from red to black by saying the black and doing the red.”

    Joy, I like that! :-)

    About this parish closing, I’m wondering how many vocations have come out of these parishes that are closing in recent years. I’m also wondering if the people are supporting the parishes. When our people are contracepting, raising small families, and not encouraging their sons to be priests, I see why they are closing parishes.

  41. irishgirl says:

    My Upstate NY diocese-the one between Dan Riley’s and Robert’s-is closing churches right and left, too. The latest is this weekend in my hometown. It was a Polish parish, and the longtime pastor was a classmate of JPII in Poland. He was made a Monsignor in 2005, and now lives in a nursing home run by the Carmelites of the Aged and Infirm.

    I get mad when the closed churches are given to the Protestants. My late mother’s old German parish was taken over by the Burmese! Why can’t a TLM group have it? Oh-the diocese doesn’t want to implement Summorum Pontificium [sp?] . Traditional Catholics are ‘in the garage’ as far as the diocese is concerned.

    We reap what we sow…contraception-abortion mentality, no encouragement of priestly vocations among our young men (I think we’ve had only 10 ordinations since 1995!). We’ve brought this upon ourselves.

  42. JW says:

    A few years ago some parishes were merged, with buildings being closed and sold. It was interesting in how it showed what not to do, at least in the case of one of the mergers. A small parish was merged with a larger one nearby – it was closed and the building was immediately sold to the school district (the church itself is now a gym, and I recall a newspaper article about how the stained glass windows were kept, but with the religious parts removed and modified). Around this time, people from the larger parish branched off and started a new parish in one of the growing suburban areas. Nothing from the old parish was seemingly kept (another parish bought the stations of the cross). I’m told that the closed church was in the black and was closed to get the larger parish out of debt. I’ve met a number of disgruntled ex parishioners who refuse to attend the merged parish.

    On the other side of town another two parishes merged. Only, this time they renamed the parish and even commissioned a painting of the new patron saint to be placed in the reredos of the building that was kept. They also incorporated the closed parish’s patron saint statue. There were still a lot of hard feelings and resentment, but I’ve met fewer disgruntled people from this merged parish. In fact, some of the people from the other parish merger attend this church instead.

  43. Midwest St. Michael says:

    Folks, parish closings are just the beginning. Down the road – there will be whole dioceses closing. JPII predicted it, especially if they didn’t get themselves in front of the Holy Eucharist.

  44. dymphna says:

    I don’t feel much pity for the complainers when their parishes close down. These are the same people who didn’t have kids,(there is no priest clone planet, they aren’t raised in a special nursery deep in the Vatican);and ran from the old neighborhood as soon as the ethnic makeup changed, or if they did stay they walked passed all the new neighbors and either ignored them or were unfriendly to the ones who ventured inside the church. You reap what you sow. [One of the most unfair comments I have read in a long while.]

  45. I watched them preparing for a nightime shooting for the Cinderella Man. The outside view of Madison Square Gardens was actually the back entrance of the Hudsons Bay store on Adelaide St. in Toronto. The old streetcars were real and the marquee looked great.

    After it was all over the marquee was removed. Streetcars, even the modern ones, rarely use Adelaide St. and all the people in period costuming moved on to other shoots.

    The location is in the Cathedral parish which, of course, is unlikely to close.

  46. CAL says:

    There are many factors that contribute to the closure of a parish, but I think the most important is the placement of pastors who have genuine respect for the parish they have been assigned to. The pro-cathedral in my archdiocese is a primary example of this. This church has had no real residential area that it serves for over fifty years. The parishoners are drawn to the church because of it’s art and architecture, and until recently the high (at least in this diocese) quality of music and liturgy. With the appointment of a new pastor the quality of music has dropped and the liturgy has been stripped to bare bones and no longer fits within the beauty of the church. The immediate result is that parishoners are leaving the pro-cathedral in droves, leaving the church empty for Masses and the collection baskets in a very similar state. Aren’t empty churches and low coleections the primary factor in the decision to close a parish?

  47. Boston Architect says:

    Today, we read this in the Globe about the neighborhood in which the now-suppressed Holy Trinity Church sits.
    Corner of South End attracts 9 proposals for redevelopment
    By Casey Ross, Globe Staff | February 21, 2009

    It is considered one of Boston’s hottest development frontiers.

    An industrial corner of the South End between Harrison Avenue and Albany Street is brimming with new proposals, including plans for a 265,000-square-foot hotel, dozens of residences, and the renovation of office buildings and worn-down city blocks in need of modern refurbishment.

    “This area is really in its embryonic stage and has great potential moving forward,” said Harold Brown, chairman of The Hamilton Co., which is building 50 apartments in the neighborhood at 601 Albany St. “It’s ripe for a lot of mixed-use development.”

    With nine current development proposals and others on the way, the Boston Redevelopment Authority this week hired a consulting firm to develop design guidelines as well as regulations for land use and transportation improvements to support development. That work will help pave the way for construction once the economy rebounds and credit begins flowing again to local developers.

    The firm, Stull & Lee Inc., will spend the next nine to 12 months studying Harrison Avenue and Albany Street, along with a grid of streets between Interstate 93 and Washington Street, a corridor defined by old industrial distribution centers and warehouses, with pockets of residences and out-of-the-way restaurants.

    It is also home to Boston Medical Center, which recently completed construction of its 192,000-square-foot Biosafety Laboratory and is building a 249,000-square-foot ambulatory care center.

    The hospital is also considering changes to its master plan for development in the area.

    Ellen Berlin, a hospital spokeswoman, said the hospital intends to file an updated plan within the next couple of months. She would not discuss any revisions or potential development proposals before the plan is formally released.

    The streets surrounding the medical center are dotted with upscale restaurants and rows of brownstones that define the South End’s architecture, but there also are plenty of parking lots and vacant properties considered ripe for redevelopment.

    Developer Ron Druker owns several parcels along East Berkeley Street, Shawmut Avenue, and Washington Street.

    He said he does not have any immediate plans for the properties, but is closely monitoring the neighborhood’s rapid evolution.

    “There is the potential for a mix of uses that can be a resource to the larger portion of the South End,” said Druker. “That could include retail, offices, residential, and perhaps even hotel.”

    Newton-based BH Normandy has notified the city of its plan to build a 265,000-square-foot hotel on a parking lot at 275 Albany St. The proposal also includes a 110-space parking garage and landscaping improvements along Albany, East Berkeley, and Traveler streets.

    Another potential development site is the nearby offices of the Boston Herald. The newspaper’s publisher, Patrick Purcell, entered into a joint venture with a local real estate firm in 2007 to redevelop the paper’s longtime headquarters.

    Also in the pipeline is the renovation of the former Teradyne headquarters by Nordic Properties, which is in talks with potential medical tenants and firms looking for back-office space. Nordic, which spent $35 million on the building and a 310-space parking garage, is also looking to open a bistro-style restaurant on the 250,000-square-foot building’s ground floor.

    “There is a lot of momentum here. Entire neighborhoods are bringing themselves back,” said Nordic’s president, Ogden Hunnewell. “We made a big investment here, so I’m pretty bullish on the neighborhood.”

    Casey Ross can be reached at
    Please pray for a miracle, that Holy Trinity can reopen and always be a place of Catholic worship. It is more valuable as a House of God and gate of Heaven than its cash value, which the Archdiocese of Boston will probably quickly spend but still need more.

    Since the “indult” Latin Mass moved in in 1990, Holy Trinity did everything Father Z suggested a parish do to stay open. Families were generous, growing in size from 6 to 8 to 10 or more children in many cases. Almost all the workers were volunteers. We cleaned the church ourselves. Contributions were so generous that the former administrator transferred the surplus – over $176,000 – to run a nearby parish. Two men in the congregation of about 300 were ordained to the priesthood. Were other parishes in the Archdiocese to provide priests at this rate, the Archdiocese would ordain about 100 priests per year.

    I have personally seen Holy Trinity’s architecture and artwork speak to the hearts of unchurched young adults in the South End on the few occasions (actually, the church cleanings) that people could walk in off the street on a day other than Sunday. Holy Trinity is a place of untapped potential that could serve as a development partner, not impediment, in the South End, perserving its residential character, contributing to the historic character that attracts tourists and conventioneers to Boston, providing community services (as it did for years hosting homeless adults during the day and at-riusk youth in a residence in the rectory), and complementing the ministry of the nearby Cathedral of the Holy Cross by being able to reach out to the many graduate and medical students and other young professionals in the neighborhood. We are willing to be creative, we are willing to work hard, and we need all the prayers we can get making our case in the face of pressures from wealthy developers.

  48. Robert says:

    Yes, I agree with one of the posters mentioning it was unfair to blame some parishes for not having vocations. I have seen some that have tried hard (including Holy Trinity during my visit to Boston). However, for whatever reason for many of them it was already decided that they close. I don’t know what it is like in other areas of the country but here in the Northeast we are faring very badly on average. There are some places that are vibrant and healthy but they have good pastors. Sadly many of the sheperds are/ have not been not feeding the flock. Yes it is the fault of the laity but it is the false sheperds who have led them down to the depths. Can you expect the flock to be well and healthy when they are feed poison and neglected? We need holy priests who will give their lives for the flock. For people to want their sons to enter the priesthood they have to understand what it is. That is usually learned by personal experience (of the favorable nature). The vocations issue is simple but very difficult to fix.

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