While some 50 people protested the merger of northeast Minneapolis parishes Aug. 6 at the Cathedral of St. Paul and the archdiocesan chancery across St. Paul’s Summit Avenue, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis responded by attempting to straighten out the facts and alleviate parishioners’ fears.
Under the archdiocesan strategic plan announced in October, St. Anthony of Padua is the receiving parish for three other parishes in northeast Minneapolis — Holy Cross, St. Clement and St. Hedwig.
Archbishop John Nienstedt later confirmed his original decision with some modifications, including that the combined parish community would be named Holy Cross and the effective date of the merger would take place upon the retirement of St. Clement’s pastor by July 2013. The archbishop also reaffirmed the Polish nature of the combined parish community, including the continued offering of Mass in Polish.
During the rally, homemade signs pointed out the concern that the Polish heritage of Holy Cross would be lost in any merger.
Barb Maciejny of Holy Cross, who attended the rally with her husband, Anatol, said, “We are asking [Archbishop John Nienstedt] to do a new decree — not merging…. He should leave us just as we are.” She said she has written letters protesting the merger both to the Vatican and to Archbishop Nienstedt.
The archdiocese released the following statement in response to the concerns of those who attended the rally: “Holy Cross Catholic Church will continue as a proud and strong center of the Catholic faith and the Polish culture of Northeast Minneapolis as it has been for more than 125 years. Mass will continue to be offered in English and in Polish at Holy Cross Church. Polish programs such as Polish Sunday school will also continue. Any rumors to the contrary are unfounded. Holy Cross’ pastor and lay leadership are fully supportive in all these matters.”
Other mergers underway
In addition, the archdiocese clarified that as of July 1, 2011, nine parishes have merged with six neighboring parishes under changes announced in the strategic plan.
Another merger between two Minneapolis parishes [St. Philip and Ascension], which happened outside of the planning process for financial reasons, is under appeal with the Vatican.
Five of the remaining nine mergers have been appealed to the Holy See. Holy Cross and St. Austin, both in Minneapolis; St. Columbkill in Belle Creek; St. Mary in Bellechester; and St. John in St. Paul remain in the hands of the Holy See.
The mergers of St. Thomas of St. Thomas with St Anne of LeSueur; St. Andrew with Maternity of Mary both in St. Paul; St Francis de Sales with St James, both also in St. Paul; and the merger of St. Benedict, St. John the Evangelist, St. Joseph and St. Scholastica with St. Wenceslaus, all in the New Prague area, were made official Jan. 1, 2011. The mergers of St. Augustine with Holy Trinity in South St. Paul and St. Thomas the Apostle with Blessed Sacrament in St. Paul took effect on July 1, 2011.
Plan adjustments already made
Along with holding listening sessions across the 12-county archdiocese and meetings with priests and ministry leaders before any of the strategic plan was proposed to Archbishop Nienstedt, the archbishop has accepted some ideas for adjusting the plan since it was first released last October.
In November 2010, in response to information received from parishioners in their petitions to reconsider parish merger decisions, Archbishop Nienstedt modified two of the original 14 mergers, namely the one involving Holy Cross, St Anthony of Padua, St Clement and St Hedwig in northeast Minneapolis and the one involving St. Thomas of St. Thomas.
A merger decision does not necessarily mean that the merging parish’s church building will close. Decisions regarding the church buildings of the newly combined parish community will be made by local leaders in consultation with the archbishop and Presbyteral Council, a representative body of priests. Catholic Spirit