.- Twenty-one New York parishes and missions will be closed or merged as part of a major diocesan reorganization plan. The Archdiocese of New York made the announcement at a press conference on Friday.
According to a diocesan press release, these decisions are the culmination of a three-year planning process, established by Cardinal Edward Egan. The process was designed to identify the needs of the faithful throughout the archdiocese and to determine how those needs could best be met.
“We sought an in-depth understanding of what our people needed,” Cardinal Egan reportedly said at the news conference at Cathedral Girls High School in Manhattan. “We listened, listened, listened. We learned much. I might add, we learned well.”
According to the New York Times, the cardinal said new parishes would be opened to accommodate growth in the northern part of the archdiocese and in Staten Island.
The closures will be implemented on a parish by parish basis, with a date to be established based on each parish's particular pastoral needs.
“We’re not saying, ‘We’re closing you down tomorrow,’ ” said Bishop Dennis Sullivan, the vicar general, who oversaw the reorganization process since early 2005. “We would be very remiss to do that, and we won’t do that.”
Cardinal Edward Egan had decided that the reorganization was necessary soon after he became archbishop in 2000 due to demographic changes and a shortage of priests. But the plan was postponed due to the clergy sex-abuse scandal.
A preliminary list of 31 parishes and 14 schools was released in March 2006. The list of schools was cut back to nine after the archdiocese heard appeals from school officials and parents. Some parishes on the original list were also spared after hearings with parishioners.
The pastors of the affected parishes were notified during a meeting on Wednesday with Bishop Dennis Sullivan, the vicar general, who has been overseeing the reorganization since 2005.
Nine parishes and six missions originally recommended to be closed or merged with other parishes will retain their current status. These include Saint Rita of Cascia Parish in the Bronx, Guardian Angel Parish in Manhattan, Saint Benedict the Moor Mission in Manhattan and Blessed Sacrament Mission in Orange County.
Others will not close but instead merge with neighboring parishes Saint Paul Parish in Staten Island will merge with Assumption Parish. Nativity Parish in Manhattan will merge with Saint Teresa's Parish. And Manhattan’s Saint Vincent de Paul Parish will with Saint Columba Parish.
In all, 10 parishes will be closed, and 11 parishes will merge with other parishes. For those parishes that merge, the existing church building will continue to be used for Mass, or a chapel will be established. In addition, three missions will be closed and reunited with their sponsoring parishes.
Several parishes will remain under study, including Saint Mary's and Saint Francis of Assisi, both in Newburgh, Our Lady of Esperanza in Manhattan, and Assumption in Tuckahoe.
As for what will become of the soon-to-be-empty church properties, officials said their goal was to convert them to other uses in the archdiocese. If that was not possible, they said their preference was to lease them.
The planning for the establishment of new parishes and the construction of new church buildings in areas of demographic growth is ongoing.