St. Andrew parishioners soon to meld into Maternity of Mary
For Kate Konkol, the most difficult aspect of St. Andrew in St. Paul closing is her concern for those who have been parishioners for 50 years and more.
The last Mass at St. Andrew, which will merge into Maternity of Mary in St. Paul, is set for 10 a.m. Sunday, June 12.
“My husband and I bought our home just up the street from St. Andrew just because of the parish,” said Konkol, who has served as co-chair with Dick Forliti of Maternity of Mary on the parishes’ Transitional Leadership Coordinating Committee (TLCC). The archdiocesan Strategic Plan calls for the formation of such committees at merging parishes.
“We’re very attached to these folks. It’s a small parish and you get to know people really well,” Konkol said. “I understand these are difficult decisions and I appreciate that the archdiocese had to make these decisions . . . but I worry about what’s lost.”
When the archdiocese announced its Strategic Plan Oct. 18, 2010, news of the merger of St. Andrew and its 250-plus families with Maternity of Mary and its 950-family parish was published in the secular media before the pastors were able to talk with parishioners, Konkol said.
“That just made our job with the TLCC harder,” she said. “I think everyone can, in their head, understand, but sometimes it’s a little hard on the heart.”
Konkol said the merger announcement was made more difficult by the planned reassignments of both St. Andrew’s pastor, Father Mark Juettner, and Maternity of Mary’s pastor, Father Peter Williams.
“We were fortunate that [the archdiocese] realized that [reassigning Father Williams] was not the best solution,” she said. “Father Williams is loved at Maternity and he has become loved by the St. Andrew’s parishioners. The man has worked tirelessly to bridge the two parishes,” which he now pastors.
Father Williams praised the TLCC members for representing both parishes.
The Maternity of Mary campus was the “natural choice” in terms of parking and seating capacity, Father Williams said. But he acknowledged the physical and emotional adjustments for St. Andrew parishioners, many of whom are elderly. So, over the past six months, he spent more time with the people at St. Andrew.
Making gradual changes
“I felt it was hard for them to come into a new church that’s much bigger, has a different feel, the altar is farther back. Now they don’t know where to sit,” he said. “If there is a personal connection with the people and the pastor, that can go a long way.”
The TLCC members — four from Maternity of Mary and five from St. Andrew — planned a variety of events, such as a mission, soup suppers and senior breakfasts, at St. Andrew at the same time it gradually discontinued all except the 10 a.m. Mass at the site.
“I think the gradual change was good,” said Forliti, who attended St. Andrew parish with his parents, who were members for 70 years, and his four brothers, including Father John Forliti, who will join Bishop Lee Piché and other former pastors for the last Mass.
“The last Mass is not going to be happy by any means,” he said. “I will be sad that it is closing.”
Forliti, a parishioner at Maternity for more than 35 years, credits Father Williams with keeping people in both parishes informed with bulletin inserts and included in decision-making.
Looking toward the future
“I’ve tried to respect the people and do it in a way that is transparent and, hopefully, to keep as many people from St. Andrew’s on board into the future as we can,” said Father Williams. “I’ve had people come to me and say, ‘Father, I am coming to Maternity of Mary, but I’m going to keep going to St. Andrew until the last Mass.’”
Yet to be determined after the church closes are what artifacts will be incorporated into Maternity of Mary Church.
Certain things must be removed, such as the altar, tabernacle, sacred vessels and Stations of the Cross, Father Williams said. They also will take the St. Andrew statue and some stained-glass windows, including the Last Supper, which appears on this year’s vocation poster. Father Williams was the archdiocesan vocation director when the poster was created.
Although merging the two parishes has been challenging, Father Williams said he has grown through the process.
“It’s also been a privilege,” he said. “I really see the Lord at work in all this.”
St. Andrew finalé
The final Mass at St. Andrew will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Sunday, June 12, at 1051 Como Ave., St. Paul, before the parish merges into Maternity of Mary in St. Paul. Immediately after the Mass, a reception will take place at Maternity of Mary, 1414 Dale St. All former and current parishioners are encouraged to attend the Mass and reception.
Welcoming St. Philip
The final Mass at St. Philip in Minneapolis will be celebrated at noon Sunday, June 5, at 2507 Bryant Ave. N., before the parish merges with nearby Ascension parish. After the Mass, parishioners will process to Ascension Church, 1723 Bryant Ave. N., for a welcoming reception and celebration of the feast of the Ascension. All former and current parishioners are encouraged to attend the Mass and reception.Catholic Spirit