While parish is designated for merger, pastor assures people: ‘You will determine what goes on in these four parishes’
Parishioners at the 4:30 p.m. Mass Oct. 16 at Holy Cross in northeast Minneapolis were upset after reading in the daily newspapers earlier that morning that their parish was slated to close.
Sandra Westfall, a parishioner of both Holy Cross and St. Anthony of Padua, said before Mass that a neighbor told her that morning that she was going to lose her church, Holy Cross, but she closed her mind to the news. If she had to hear that message, she wanted to hear it from her own pastor, she said.
But Westfall’s sadness and that of other Holy Cross members soon turned to anger at the media that got it wrong.
People arrived at the Polish national parish, decorated with stained glass windows, beautiful statues, marble columns and gilded balustrades, expecting their pastor, Father Glen Jenson, to deliver the bad news in person to the 592 members. [A lot smaller than it used to be!]
But, Father Jenson stepped up to the lectern when it was time for the homily to tell the group of about 250 worshipers that the press misunderstood the information that had been obtained from an unknown source and published before the archdiocese’s planned announcement of the strategic plan for parishes and schools.
“What is proposed for us and what will actually be the case is that our cluster of three [Holy Cross, St. Hedwig and St. Anthony of Padua] will change and one of our neighbors, St. Clement, will join us,” he explained. St. Hedwig has 410 parishioners, St. Clement has 385 and St. Anthony has 120.
The strategic plan states that Holy Cross, St. Hedwig and St. Clement will be merged into St. Anthony of Padua. The strategic plan notes that “Masses will continue to be celebrated at the church building of the merging parish until a decision which contradicts such use is made by the parish pastoral and finance councils of the receiving parish community, in consultation with the archbishop and Presbyteral Council.”
Over the next 14 months, all four parishes will determine what campuses will be used, when and where Masses will be celebrated, what ministries will be offered and what the merged parish will be called, with the final approval of the archbishop and the Presbyteral Council. However each church building retains its own name. (See the definition of merging parishes at TheCatholicSpirit.com: Plan summary: Highlights of changes.) [It is very poorly written and consequently confusing to me.]
“If this enables us to pool our resources and people so we can start ministries to get some of your younger relatives, some of your younger neighbors, some of the younger people who are missed, is that not a good thing?” he asked. “Jesus Christ wants to save us all and if the church as it’s presently structured is not able to address what it takes to get the job done, don’t we have the responsibility to try something new?”
The people applauded as Father Jenson reassured them that Holy Cross was not in imminent danger of closing its doors.
“You, my brothers and sisters, can take a huge sigh of relief,” he said. “You will determine what goes on in these four parishes.”
He added, “The archbishop has not come in and said close, close, close, close. We will be making the decision.”
Despite the good news during Mass, tears filled Jane Karney’s eyes later, as she recalled reading the StarTribune in the morning.
“It was a rough day,” said the parishioner of Holy Cross for about 20 years. But, she added, “I like that the ball is in our park. It didn’t make sense the way the paper had it, but it’s not that far off.”
Gregory Boeser said that the announcement from Father Jenson held no surprises for him and his wife Carrie, parents of six children, four of whom attend the nearby Pope John Paul II Catholic School. “It was as we expected,” he said. “We’re looking forward to a bright future.”
When people gathered to talk after Mass with representatives from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Chester Perkerwicz said the newspapers should issue a whole sheet of apology. “They created a lot of discomfort.”
He described the information to reading that someone was dead and then finding out it wasn’t true. “We rely on the papers to represent the truth and this was not the truth.”
Father Jenson said that the newspaper story ended up making his announcements at all three parishes somewhat easier although it “caused a big amount of distress” in the rush to tell parishioners before their own church could tell them. The pastor said he might have had to talk about more specifics. Instead, people were relieved to hear that their church is not closing.
His first realization that the story broke was at breakfast with parishioners at Elsie’s restaurant after the 8:30 a.m. Mass.
“To an outsider [of the church] who doesn’t know how to interpret the terminology in there, it would look like what they said,” Father Jenson said after the 5:30 Mass at St. Anthony, his last announcement of the evening. “A merger is not just closure and we will be in charge of what’s happening.”
This is not a funeral notice, he added.“It’s the end of an era, and the beginning of a new era,” he said. “We are strategically withdrawing to regroup, to reorganize. . . . That’s a good end of the phase to be in.” Catholic Spirit
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