Thank you for your prayers and your great questions last week! We got over 100! I'll start answering them below. Since we have so many I'm going to try to be brief; please forgive anything that seems too curt, or even better, please ask me in person to give context and explain. The questions (sometimes edited for brevity or clarity) are in italies; SJB stands for St. John the Baptist, IHM for Immaculate Heart of Mary; SSP for St. Stephen Protomartyr.
When is the transition taking place? We become one parish on August 1, 2023. Priests change on that day. August 5-6 is the first weekend with the new mass schedule. But the real transition happens in our minds and hearts. Can we go from the way things used to be to a new way where we are one growing parish in three churches? That will take a while; faster for some and slower for others.
When can we expect to start hearing plans of the coming changes? I hope these answers help. I'd like to have the new and provisional mass schedule public by July 22-23. I'd like us to pray a lot and listen to each other a lot as we begin this transition. I don't have all the answers or a plan all figured out.
Are you a good listener? Usually, yes. I'll need to be a better one to serve you well. Pray for me and tell me when I don't listen. Remember that listening and agreeing are two different things.
Does the bishop know that we are having a mass at SJB and IHM? I've told Fr. Scott Jones, our future episcopal vicar, about our tentative plans to use all three churches for a mass on the weekends.
Why the change in a one-week span? I am so grateful for SJB church to stay open. The Archdiocese's initial communication focused on clarity about what changed. It reflected a decision by our Archbishop to let local leaders decide many implementation questions. Having SJB, IHM, and SSP churches all have mass was always an option implicit in the Archbishop's decision. The Archdiocese did not make this option explicit because they did not know if this option was wise for us. I bet they did not want to raise false hopes. When I talked with Fr Ron, Fr Mitch, and Msgr Bommarito on Friday, June 2nd, we all had strong agreement that this option was worth trying.
If IHM and SJB are suppressed parishes, why are they still being used for Mass and other activities? Parishes are communities of people. Church buildings are sacred spaces where we pray. The suppression of IHM and SJB means that people who used to be parishioners there are parishioners at SSP on August 1: we are one community, called to grow. Our Archbishop kept IHM church and SJB church open. For the moment, we are one community with three sacred spaces. While that is true, SSP parish needs to keep the churches beautiful and kept up, people can pray there, and we can do Mass there.
Is this a temporary situation or a long-term one? My dream is for us to be one growing parish in three churches. I see this as a real possibility. As we live out the next months and the next years, we'll have to evaluate whether or not we actually are growing and united. If we are, this could be the long-term plan. If we aren't, we'll have to change the plan for the sake of helping people meet Jesus.
It is confusing to say we are one parish yet split over three sites. How does that promote unity? What a great question! I can see how it would be confusing. It's not how things used to be. Can it be how things will be? I am not sure how to make the transition happen, so give me your ideas and tell me problems you see. To start the conversation, remember unity is most of all unity in our minds and hearts. Here's three ways three churches can help. 1) Three churches can push us to be intentional about really caring for other parishioners, not assuming that we are all happy and united just because we show up for church at the same place. 2) Three churches can push us to focus on people with weak faith or no faith who are not yet at any of our churches. Many parishes fail because they focus on the people already coming to their church. 3) Three churches means that people from SJB, IHM, and SSP all see a church building they love to continue, all have a stake in growth, and all visible beloved symbol of why it worth compromising on what matters less and why it's worth being faithful to what matters most.
Can you compromise as the three parishes become one? Yep. How about you? May God keep us faithful to love for God and for others, to our Catholic faith, and to our mission to help people meet Jesus.