Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Sacred Heart on Grant Street
submits own plan to stay open
At least six — and possibly seven — of the 35 Catholic parishes in Summit County could be closed by July 2010, according to a story by religion writer Colette M. Jenkins in the Akron Beacon Journal today. The story fills a 5-column by 11-inch space on page A1 and continues inside.
There has been no information from the diocese which is expected to announce approval of the various cluster plans in March.
The Summit County parishes that could be affected are Annunciation, St. John the Baptist, Sacred Heart, Christ the King, St. Hedwig and St. Martha, and Barberton's SS. Cyril & Methodius.
Sacred Heart parish on Grant Street will submit its own proposal in addition to the one submitted by the Summit South 3 District which also includes Announciation, St. John the Baptist, St. Mary, Sacred Heart and St. Matthew. Those parishes were told to downsize to one school (from two) and to four parishes.
Their proposal suggests that Annunciation and St. John the Baptist merge and use the Annunciation site at 55 Broad St. It expected to indicate Sacred Heart as a closing or a merger with St. Bernard, but parishioners at Sacred Heart decided to submit a separate proposal, meaning the bishop will make a decision without input from the cluster team.
The Rev. Robert Clancy, pastor at Sacred Heart, said the proposal from his parish asks the bishop to keep Sacred Heart open. The parish, on Grant Street, has about 175 families and 280 parishioners.
''We are one of the few parishes that are financially solvent. We're in the black,'' Fr. Clancy said. ''Our people here didn't want to close or merge with another parish. What we're trying to do is survive and it's up to the Bishop to decide what happens. We're prepared for the worst but hoping for the best.''
The Rev. Jonathan Zingales of Annunciation said the cluster proposal simply says that Sacred Heart will be submitting its own proposal.
'We are, as a cluster, willing to work with the people of Sacred Heart based on whatever the bishop decides,” Fr. Zingales said. “We understand that in the city, the Catholic Church doesn't have the luxury to be here only for the sacraments. We have to reach out to people because that's part of the gospel mandate and if we're going to do that effectively, we have to do it together. ''
The cluster planning team determined that both the schools at St. Mary and St. Matthew are vibrant and the bishop has already approved each school's five-year plan, Zingales said.
Another cluster that includes St. Anthony of Padua, Christ the King, St. Hedwig and St. Martha, were told to scale down to one school (from two) and two parishes. Their proposal recommends that St. Martha and Christ the King merge with the congregation of St. Hedwig and use the St. Martha site at 300 E. Tallmadge Ave. The St. Hedwig church would close. It also suggests that both schools, at St. Anthony and the North Akron Catholic School at the Christ the King site, remain open with close monitoring.
''If the health of either school is jeopardized, in terms of enrollment or financial solvency, action steps can be taken,'' said the Rev. Michael Matusz of St. Martha parish. ''The proposal for the schools also calls for increased collaboration wherever possible in the student, administrative and teaching populations because clustering is also about establishing ongoing, long-term relationships that serve a particular area of the diocese.''
Another cluster involves SS. Cyril & Methodius, Barberton; St. George, Clinton; St. Andrew the Apostle, Norton; SS. Peter and Paul, Doylestown; Prince of Peace, Barberton; and Sacred Heart, Wadsworth. They were told to reduce to four parishes.
The proposal recommends that SS. Cyril & Methodius close. The cluster was already reduced to five parishes when parishioners at St. George in Clinton requested in August that the little church there be closed. That happened on Oct. 25, and its members went to other parishes.
''I was torn during the discussions because I am the pastor at Sacred Heart and I grew up at SS. Cyril & Methodius. A lot of who I am today as a priest and as a Catholic comes from there,'' said the Rev. Joseph Labak. ''I kept focus by reminding myself that we are called sometimes to make sacrifices for the good of the Church and the good of God's people. As painful as it is, this is going to make the Church more vibrant and put us in a position to better serve the people.''
Mergers will require that a new parish identity be established and that new pastoral leadership be assigned. The new entity will be responsible for the assets and liabilities of the merging parishes. That means the Annunciation site and the St. Martha site will be renamed and will include sacred items and artifacts of the merging congregations.
When parish property is closed, the diocese takes on the responsibility. As in the case of St. George, the communities that receive parishioners from a closing parish will also receive sacred and other items from the church. When the property is sold, any net proceeds will also follow parishioners from the congregations of the closed churches.
The final approved cluster plans are expected to be announced by the bishop in March. Before that, the proposals will be reviewed by the Vibrant Parish Life — Phase II Committee, the bishop's Cabinet staff and the priests council.
The Vibrant Parish Life committee includes representatives from each of the 13 diocesan districts as well as representatives of the major consultative groups and different areas of the diocesan administration.
Click on the headline to read the full story by Colette Jenkins in the Beacon Journal.
You also can hear Bishop Lennon answering questions about the clustering by clicking on the Diocese Video on the diocesan website. . Some comments made by the Bishop in that video are included in the Beacon Journal story.