Rural church discontinues Sunday Mass - Catholic Courier

Rural church discontinues Sunday Mass

Due to the unexpected departure of the parish’s pastor, Sunday Masses
at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Leicester ceased with the 10:30 a.m.
liturgy Jan. 25.

Father Michael Murimi, pastor of St. Thomas as well as St. Lucy
Parish in Retsof since June 2003, was unexpectedly recalled by his
bishop in December to his home diocese in Kenya, according Donna
Falkner, administrative assistant at the Livingston County parishes.
Father Murimi officially resigned the pastorate Jan. 1, and it is
uncertain whether the African priest will be able to return to the
Diocese of Rochester, Falkner said.

St. Thomas and St. Lucy parishes belong to the Western Livingston
Planning Group, which also comprises the Catholic Community of Mount
Morris and Nunda (Holy Angels, Nunda, and St. Patrick, Mount Morris);
St. Mary, Geneseo; the Newman Community at the State University of New
York College at Geneseo; and Groveland and Livingston County
correctional facilities, both in Sonyea.

The planning group is moving toward eventually becoming one parish
canonically. Other planning groups throughout the Rochester Diocese
similarly have been working over the past several years to consolidate
liturgies and ministries in light of the priest shortage.

The loss of Father Murimi leaves two priests to serve the planning
group’s faith communities: Father Michael Brown, pastor of the Catholic
Community of Mount Morris and Nunda, and Father Daniel T. McMullin,
pastor of St. Mary’s in Geneseo and sacramental minister to the Newman
Community.

Father Brown noted that the planning group had expected Father
Murimi to stay at least three more years. Suddenly, however, the two
remaining pastors now must serve all the communities in the planning
group. Hence, the group’s faith communities will offer seven weekend
Masses until June, when the number of Masses will be reduced to six, he
said. In response to canonical limits, Bishop Matthew H. Clark has
directed that no diocesan priest says no more than three Masses per
weekend.

In June, the planning group will decide where to eliminate one more
Mass, Father Brown said. He noted that he and Father McMullin decided
to continue offering one Mass each weekend at St. Lucy’s because it has
a larger capacity than does St. Thomas.

Sunday Masses at St. Thomas generally drew 50 to 90 worshipers,
Falkner said, adding that 70 to 100 people typically attended Sunday
Mass at St. Lucy. Baptisms, weddings and funerals will continue to take
place at St. Thomas, she said.

Francis Christiano, a parishioner of St. Thomas for 83 years, said
that he understands why Mass was eliminated at his church, but called
on the Diocese of Rochester to consider appointing a new pastor.

“I look at the Rochester Diocese, and they’re the ones that are
supposed to recruit and train priests and provide them for this area,”
Christiano said.

Michael Tedesco, diocesan spokesman, said that it was not possible
to find a replacement for the St. Thomas/St. Lucy’s pastorate at the
current time.

“As everyone has come to be aware of, we have a declining number of
priest personnel, and we don’t have an individual at the current time
for that position,” Tedesco said. “That’s a reality that this planning
group and all planning groups within the diocese are facing.”

Falkner added that many St. Thomas parishioners were upset by the
cessation of Masses at St. Thomas.

“It’s devastating to them because this church has been here more
than 100 years,” she said.

In a bulletin insert distributed Jan. 25 throughout communities of
the Western Livingston Planning Group, Fathers Brown and McMullin
acknowledged the sorrow felt by parishioners over the lost Mass.

“Your pain and grief during this time of transition has touched us
deeply,” the priests wrote. “Please know that everything we have done
has been supported by intense prayer, frank conversation, and faith in
the power of God’s Holy Spirit.”

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