"Some are tempted to observe (and the press readily reports it!) that this strategic pastoral planning is all the result of a new, unprecedented crisis in today’s Church, caused by such things as mismanagement and stupidity by bishops and priests; the stubbornness of the Church to change settled teaching (woman’s ordination) or discipline (priestly celibacy) to correct the shortage of vocations; the loss of money paid to victims and attorneys due to the sex abuse nausea; or the mistakes of past bishops and pastors in overbuilding and over-expansion.
"Baloney! There’s not much radical, dramatic, or crisis driven in sound, patient, prayerful pastoral planning. It’s been going on since Pentecost." - Cardinal Dolan
Pastoral Planning Since Pentecost, 6 May 2014
The meeting phase of the Making All Things New process came to a close at the beginning of July. The 40-member Archdiocesan Advisory Group met for the last time toward the end of June at Maryknoll in Ossining, New York. They had received either confirmation or amended recommendations from 75 core parish clusters, the recommendations having gone back and forth between the core clusters and the Advisory Group twice. At Maryknoll, the Advisory Group made their final recommendations, which were presented to the Priests' Council, known more formally as the Presbyteral Council. The current code of Canon law requires Presbyteral Councils.
The Presbyteral or Priests' Council met for three days, June 30-July 2, during which time they voted on the recommendations presented by the 40-member Advisory Group. Once this phase of the process was complete, Cardinal Dolan was required to take time to reflect and make his final decision regarding the future of the parishes in the archdiocese by September. The Cardinal, who expected to be in Rome for a few weeks in October, postponed announcements about parish closures and consolidations until early November.
Although various steps in the parish planning process and coverage of the meetings were posted on the website of the archdiocese, the average parishioner may not have had access or been informed, especially during the summer months when people were traveling or on vacation.
At Sunday masses held on 12 August, parishioners at Our Lady of Peace learned that the archdiocese recommended that the parish merge with St. Vincent Ferrer. A newly formed steering committee asked for the support of the parish in responding to the archdiocese in order to provide Cardinal Dolan with facts that were believed to have been overlooked in the process.
Since St. Vincent Ferrer was never a member of the four-parish cluster with Our Lady of Peace, no one in the cluster could have envisioned a merger of these particular churches as a solution. The core representatives of the four parishes spent months working out a viable collaboration method, and in three days of meetings, the Advisory Group had overturned them with a recommendation that was never discussed or considered. Something in the process was flawed.
The steering committee started a letter writing campaign, petitions were placed in the rear of the church, online petitions and Facebook groups were created and leveraged to maximize communications. Relatives, neighbors and friends were urged to support the parishioners. The steering committee compiled a book to send to Cardinal Dolan that included the history of the parish, 200 letters written by parishioners and friends, copies of the petitions, information about the Treadwell Farms Landmark, and relevant documents. Aware that Our Lady of Peace is an "object of special scrutiny," the steering committee is weighing all its options.
Once the final decree arrives, parishioners in the archdiocese have 10 days to write a letter to the bishop requesting recourse. If the archbishop or bishop declines or does not respond, the parishioners have 15 additional days to appeal to the Vatican's Congregation for Clergy and the Apostolic Signatura, the highest judicial authority in the Roman Catholic church.
Meanwhile, Making All Things New is on hold until November. to be continued