The St. Paul Pioneer Press and the Star Tribune of Minneapolis in attempts to beat the Archbishop's request that nothing be reported on the proposed Archdiocesan Plan til 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, found some laypeople or priests who don't keep their promises and published rather complete articles on the plan. The Pioneer Press put their article on the internet before midnight on Friday and the Star Tribune posted theirs sometime early Saturday.
They caused quite a bit of confusion because they don't know anything about the Catholic Church and its canon law. I'm sure that they would beg to disagree.
That's why the archdiocese scheduled a press briefing on the plan for 3:00 on Saturday afternoon. I don't know if those newspapers sent representatives to that briefing.
Frankly, I was shocked at the proposed merger of Holy Cross into St. Anthony of Padua and rather surprised at some of the other decisions.
Being half Polish, born in Duluth though, I decided to attend the Vigil Mass at Holy Cross this afternoon to see what the reaction of that Polish community would be to the news that their gorgeous church was going to be closed, according to my interpretation of the two newspaper stories. Worse, it was to be merged into St. Anthony of Padua, a nice looking church with some restoration after a complete "wreck-o-vation" after Vatican II. And it seats 400, as opposed to the wonderful Holy Cross that seats over 1,000 and has the Northeast's Catholic elementary school. And much of the St. Anthony's congregation comes from the Eldercare residence attached to it.
I had only attended a Polish language Mass at Holy Cross (I know about 7 words of Polish, mostly learned through genealogy research - "rok" means "year"), but I wanted to say that I had been at one Polish language Mass. I sat in the back. I was there once for a short time for a Corpus Christi procession. But today I sat up right behind the Pharisees (as my family refers to sitting in the third row or so) and got a real look at the incredibly beautiful sanctuary of Holy Cross. "How could they close this?" I thought to myself.
Stoic Poles filled about half the pews for this Vigil Mass, but nobody had protest signs or chains to attach themselves to the (non-existent) altar rails.
Father Waldemar Matusiak, the Polish priest assigned to the parish for the Polish Mass, celebrated the Vigil Mass tonight. ["Waldemar" is a German name, indicating that the Prussian legacy of 140 years of occupation of Western Poland has left its mark. It is related to the Russian "Vladimir" meaning something like "renowned ruler"]. Well-trained teen-age male altar servers attended him and one adequately (I could give him lessons) wielded the censer during the incensing at the Offertory.
But after the Gospel reading, Father Glen Jensen, pastor of the clustered St. Anthony of Padua, Holy Cross and St. Hedwig's, to be joined in the proposed merger by St. Clement's of northeast Minneapolis, stepped up to the pulpit to deliver his "sermon."
Father Glen was not a happy camper. "Steaming" might be an adjective that could have been used.
It seems that by breaking the "embargo" on publishing the information on the archdiocesan plan and skipping the 3:00 meeting, the reporters for the two newspapers missed out on the tutorial on canon law within the Catholic Church as to just what exactly is meant by a merger, in the case of the four Northeast Minneapolis parishes.
[I have subsequently been informed that the Pioneer Press was represented at the 3:00 meeting.]
First, they might have been surprised to learn that, organizationally speaking, within canon law, there is a major difference between the status of the parishes of Holy Cross and St. Hedwig's and those of St. Anthony of Padua and St. Clements.
Holy Cross and St. Hedwig's are organized as Polish national parishes, the latter having broken off from Holy Cross in 1914. Holy Cross was founded in 1886.
St. Anthony's, founded in 1849, is the oldest Catholic parish in Minneapolis (think, St. Anthony Falls) and St. Clement's, founded in 1902, was originally a mission of St. Anthony's. They both are "territorial parishes."
Physical evidence as to the age of St. Anthony's church building may be seen in the beautiful stained glass window depicting St. Patrick and other windows containing various Irish symbols.
St. Anthony's, being the senior territorial parish must, under canon law, be the senior partner in any merger and the other three parishes will be folded into St. Anthony's.
But, Father Jensen explained, that does not mean that any of the other parishes will necessarily be closed. And the decision to close any of them will be taken by the congregations and pastors of the four parishes at some as yet undetermined point in the future.
Neither will any of the four parishes in the merger lose their names. One of the first things that the combined parishes will do after the formal merger will be to select a new name for the combined parishes of Northeast Minneapolis. And the four current parishes will become known as, for example, Holy Cross campus of "St. New-name" parish of Minneapolis.
Father Jensen, as background for the merger, noted that there are currently 1,000 less families in Holy Cross parish than there were at its high point, some years ago. And few of them are led by parents under 40. Thus, much financing and manpower has not been available to staff many ministries that are needed in 21st century parishes. But with four parishes under one structure, it is expected that the funding and staffing will be adequate.
And to the relief of the congregation at Holy Cross this afternoon to hear that their beautiful church will not be closed and sold, they learned that this merger will not formally take place until January 1, 2012, almost 15 months from now.
The 500 or so in attendance this afternoon, seemed to be rather relieved as Father Jensen headed over to St. Anthony of Padua to let them know that the news isn't as good for them as they thought by reading the paper. But all four of the parishes will survive, for the immediate future.
These canon law provisions will apply also in the case of the other 17 parishes that are targeted for mergers. Whether 1/1/2012 is the date is not known by me.