Thursday, July 17, 2008

And so it begins...

From the Citizen's Voice

Take this with a grain of salt. This is only the recommendation of the cluster groups. The Secular media of course, had to sensationalize what is happening. This is only phase three out of eight.

Who made these recommendations? YOUR fellow parishoners. Not the Bishop, not the planning committee.

The parishoners.

Remember that.

In three years, there could be half as many churches in the southern region of the Diocese of Scranton, which makes up most of Luzerne County.

The preliminary recommendations from the diocese are out, and if there are no changes, the southern region will go from having 72 parishes to 33 parishes three years after the plan goes into effect.

Diocese spokesman Bill Genello stressed these are preliminary and subject to change before the final approval. The dioceses had no comment on specific recommendations.

The recommendations include consolidating 59 of the parishes down to 22 within three years and sharing programs, staff and pastors at other locations. Where churches are combined, particularly in rural areas, the recommendations do provide for occasional services at locations other than main parishes.

Possible changes include consolidating the six Nanticoke parishes into one at the location of Holy Trinity Church. The 19 churches in Wilkes-Barre and Wilkes-Barre Township could be consolidated into seven.

In Exeter, the three churches of St. Cecilia, St. John the Baptist and St. Anthony of Padua are recommended to consolidate into one at St. Anthony of Padua. The recommendation was not a surprise, said the Rev. Joseph Sibilano, pastor at St. Anthony of Padua, as that was the cluster’s original recommendation to the diocese.

“I believe the people here in the parish will accept this very easily,” he said. “The people were expecting something like this. It will take time, doesn’t take a month. They suggest

three years to do this.”

The Diocese of Scranton is struggling with a decreasing number pastors as more people are getting older and retiring and fewer people are joining.

“I believe that most of the people in the diocese recognize the need for changes and we can’t just continue the way we were,” said attorney Carl Frank, chairman of the core committee at St. Nicholas Church in Wilkes-Barre.

“And in the end, we’re all Catholic Christians and we have to recognize that is our identity in the spiritual realm. That should come first and the place we go to church should come second, in my opinion.”

These preliminary recommendations from the diocese are based on recommendations from core cluster groups, which are made up of church leaders from parishes in a geographical area. Each cluster includes three to seven churches.

The clusters will now gather feedback from the community and respond to the diocese by October. A final recommendation will then be made to Bishop Joseph Martino, who will announce the final plans early in 2009. They will begin going into effect by July 2009.

“I think the thing we have to remind everyone of is these are preliminary recommendations, this is not the final plan,” Genello said. “Over the course of the next two months, we are going to be engaged in discussions about these. These discussions are to include entire parish communities.”

The diocese will post the recommendations online on Friday on its Web site. Announcement Week will begin July 26 and 27, and pastors will start talking to parishioners about the recommendations at services. Pastors and cluster groups will set meetings and times for parishioners to discuss the recommendations.

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