New York Catholic churches merge to 'save parishes'

(Photo: REUTERS / Brendan McDermid)Timothy Cardinal Dolan (C), with his hand on Jane Hoffman, the founder of the Mayor's Alliance for NYC's Animals, a partnership of more than 150 animal rescue groups and shelters, blesses dozens of rescued animals at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York September 30, 2014. New York's Cardinal Dolan commemorated the feast of St. Francis Assisi, the Roman Catholic patron saint of animals, by blessing shelter and rescued animals. Every year Christians celebrate the feast of St. Francis, on October 4 by blessing animals.

Parishioners from various Catholic churches in New York are mourning as many of their parishes will close down in the coming days.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan announced Sunday the "largest reorganization in the history of the archdiocese" which serves 2.8 million Catholics.

The archdiocese said 112 parishes will be merged to create 55 new ones in the downsizing measure.

The move is meant to strengthen the church, a decision to renew and look at the future of Catholicism in the city, The New York Times reported.

Nine churches in Manhattan will essentially be closed for regular worship, while six will shut in Westchester, six in the Bronx, four on Staten Island and six in Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster, or Dutchess Counties.

East Harlem was among the most affected with three of its seven Catholic churches slated for effective closing. In Mount Vernon in Westchester County, three of the six parish churches will also close.

Cardinal Dolan said he understands the sentiments of the parishioners and expressed his apologies as he is the "agent" for the change.

The reorganization is expected as statistics show trends of decline in the Roman Catholic dioceses across the United States.

According to the archdiocese, there is a marked shortage of priests as retirements outpace ordinations.

Attendance has also been declining as only 12 percent of New York's 2.8 million Catholics regularly attend Sunday Mass.

Accompanying the decline are the rising expenses of the churches - from utility bills to the maintenance of centuries-old church buildings.


Parishioners and even priests are not taking the change lightly.

"I feel very sad; I was baptized here," said Sonia Cintron, 75, who added: "Here we're family; we loved each other."

Rev. Robert J. Verrigni of the Church of St. Ursula said, ""It's like mourning the death of the parish."

Some have already mobilized themselves and are planning legal action and protests in the coming days.

At the Church of Our Lady of Peace on East 62nd Street in Manhattan, parishioners collected more than 3,000 petition signatures, circulated about 300 letters of protest and started a Facebook page and a blog.

"We think the cardinal got it wrong this time," Robert J. Corti, the head of a steering committee said to parishioners on Sunday.

He noted that Our Lady of Peace is financially self-sustaining, is a robust church, and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Roman Catholic dioceses across America have faced changes for decades as church leaders find a way to staff and maintain networks e designed decades ago to contain a large number of church attendees.

Copyright © 2014 Ecumenical News