Merged parish set to open - Catholic Courier

Merged parish set to open

Sunday Masses will be celebrated for the last time March 14 at St. Joseph Church in Livonia and St. William Church in Conesus, as members of the faith community prepare to make St. Matthew Church in Livonia their new parish home.

Construction of St. Matthew was completed March 1, and the first weekday Mass will be celebrated there on March 15, according to Melissa Szczesniak, the parish’s business manager. Three weekend Masses will also be celebrated at St. Matthew, beginning the weekend of March 20-21.
Father John Hayes, pastor, said the experience of preparing to close two churches and building and moving into a new one is the “quintessential definition of the word ‘bittersweet.’” He said parishioners are grieving the closing of the churches they’ve come to call home, but on the other hand they are also excitedly anticipating worshipping in the new church they’ve worked so hard to build.

“The closing ceremonies will be so emotional,” he said. “ It’s also a joyful time. It’s like a wedding of two churches.”

Closing ceremonies — planned by a team of parishioners — will take place beginning at 9:30 a.m. March 14 at St. Joseph, Father Hayes said. The closing of St. Joseph will be immediately followed by a closing ceremony at St. William. After the closing in Conesus, the Eucharist, altar and ambo from St. William will be transported to St. Matthew, where a prayer service and reception will be held.

“It’s exciting,” Father Hayes said.

The decision to merge St. Joseph and St. William into a new parish arose from rapid population expansion in eastern Livingston County and a growing number of parishioners, Father Hayes said. The faith community includes 800 families and counting, he said, while the combined seating capacity of St. Joseph and St. William is 450. St. Matthew can seat 600, he said.

The priest shortage also factored into the decision, Father Hayes added, noting that he is the only full-time priest for the faith community, whose two existing churches were 8 miles apart.

Since the summer of 2002, nearly $1.8 million has been raised through the faith community’s joint capital campaign. This is approximately 64 percent of the $2.8 million total cost of the construction of St. Matthew, Szczesniak said. Matt Flanigan, chairman of the oversight committee, noted that new pledges continue to come in, demonstrating the parish’s support of the project.

St. Joseph was built in 1911, and St. William was built in 1875, although it has been a mission church of St. Joseph since 1915. The parish has received purchase offers for both church buildings and is currently negotiating their sale, Szczesniak said. Proceeds from the sale of the two buildings will help offset construction costs for the new church. At this point, the faith community has decided not to sell Hagerty Hall in Livonia, which has served as St. Joseph’s parish hall, she added.

So far, the reaction from the parish has been very positive, Szczesniak said.
“It’s very hard leaving your old home ‚Ķ but the excitement is overwhelming,” she said.

Bishop Matthew H. Clark is scheduled to preside over the formal dedication Mass for St. Matthew, which is scheduled for May 2.

“It truly feels like a really blessed time,” Father Hayes said.

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