Continued from Part 1
Two years elapsed from the 2011 initiation of the Archdiocese of New York's program Making All Things New until Cardinal Dolan's update on 6 June 2013 titled, "Continuing to Move Forward with Making All Things New." The update described the second phase of the pastoral planning process, beginning with a gathering of 300 priests, deacons, and pastoral planners - including priests and lay people - to be held on the same day at St. Joseph's Seminary.
In the interim, Bishop Dennis Sullivan, then Vicar General of the Archdiocese of New York and leader of the pastoral planning process, became the Bishop of Camden, New Jersey. Father John O’Hara was appointed to succeed him as director of the Strategic Pastoral Planning Office. Father O'Hara was the former pastor of St. Teresa's R.C. Church in Castleton Corners, Staten Island, New York.
The 2013 update also revealed that the Archdiocese had hired The Reid Group, a company that specializes in restructuring, leadership, and strategic planning for dioceses and Catholic universities, to work with the Archdiocese on the parish planning program.
On The Reid Group's website, a client story spells out the methodology applied to strategic decisions in parish configuration. Although the name of the diocese is not revealed in the case study, The Reid Group claims that the diocese moved from 200 to 120 parishes. The eight steps in the process include evaluation of parish viability, chosing a ministry model, Planning Commission preliminary recommendations, Cluster review of preliminary recommendations, Cluster responses to Planning Commission, Second Planning Commission retreat, Bishop Deliberation, and Planning for Implementation. As part of step seven, Bishop Deliberation, The Reid Group stated, "According to canon law, a bishop must consult with the Presbyterial Council and other bodies regarding the merger of parishes. The bishop's decisions then become directives to be implemented by all the clusters." Download the PDF, "Client Story: Parish Reorganization in a Catholic Diocese."
At the seminary sessions later that day, participants were welcomed by Father John O'Hara and given an overview of the process by John Reid and Maureen Gallagher of The Reid Group, who outlined the eight-step process leading to implementation at the parish, cluster and archdiocesan levels. The decisions would ultimately be made by Cardinal Dolan and announced in September 2014, as reported in Catholic New York. Implementation would begin on January 1, 2015, following Cardinal Dolan's decision.
While Cardinal Dolan wrote in his 6 June 2013 update that no decisions had been reached, evidence of mergers and restructuring were reported five days later by the Staten Island Advance:
"St. Joseph's, St. Mary's and Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic churches have lost their elementary schools and now all will have one pastor under changes that are a prelude to the Making All Things New program to restructure parishes throughout the Archdiocese of New York, according to multiple sources familiar with the plan."
On 13 June, Cardinal Dolan wrote again about the parish planning program. "It will not surprise you," he said, "to know that Manhattan and the Bronx will undergo especially intense scrutiny as we look to reduce the high concentration of parishes, while some parishes in the near upper counties will perhaps surface ideas for expansion or maybe even new parishes."
But the revelation that New York didn't need 385 parishes or that some would be closed, published on the Cardinal Dolan's blog, wasn't the only confirmation of the rumors Staten Island churches received. A letter from Cardinal Dolan read at masses on the weekend of June 15 at parishes throughout Staten Island announced that St. Joseph's and St. Mary's in Rosebank and Immaculate Conception in Stapleton would be headed by one pastor. The parish restructuring program had begun.
Two months elapsed between the 17 June posting of the first article about church mergers in the Staten Island Advance and the next Archdiocesan update published on 4 September 2013 on the Making All Things New page.
Meanwhile, another event took place on 6 August 2013 - the demolition of Mary Help of Christians on East 12th Street in Manhattan. Permits for the demolition had been filed on 25 April of the same year. But this was part of an earlier reorganization plan - one that had taken more than five years under Cardinal Edward M. Eagan. It culminated in the announcement of the closure of 21 parishes by the Archdiocese, as reported in The New York Times on 19 January 2007.
Back then Bishop Dennis Sullivan, the vicar, said that no church properties would be sold off. He even dismissed the idea that the Archdiocese planned to cash in on its real estate. But In November 2012, Developer Douglas Steiner bought the Mary Help of Christian properties for $41 million. As reported on the real estate website CurbedNY, there are plans for a seven story residential building to be constructed where the church once stood.
To be continued