Two Greece parishes begin sharing a priest - Catholic Courier

Two Greece parishes begin sharing a priest

Two parishes in the Eastern Greece-Charlotte Planning Group began sharing a pastoral leader in June and reduced their Mass schedules as the group’s six parishes began a new round of pastoral planning.

Father John Gagnier has been appointed parochial administrator of Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Greece in addition to his pastorate at Greece’s Holy Name of Jesus Parish. He replaces former pastor Father Gary Tyman, who is now sacramental minister at the newly clustered Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Brighton and St. Anne Parish in Rochester.

Father Gagnier’s assignment at Our Lady of Mercy is intended as a temporary arrangement to address pressing financial concerns at that parish and does not represent an official clustering of parishes, said Karen Rinefierd, one of the diocese’s pastoral-planning liaisons. A permanent arrangement will be outlined in the new pastoral plan being developed.

"A decision was made by Bishop (Matthew H.) Clark to help with expenses by sharing a priest as a leader," Rinefierd said.

When Father Tyman was reassigned, Father Gagnier became the only priest available for weekend Masses at Holy Name of Jesus and Our Lady of Mercy, which together offered six weekend Masses. Now each of the parishes will have two Masses per weekend, with Father Gagnier celebrating three of the liturgies and other priests from the Eastern Greece-Charlotte Planning Group celebrating the remaining Mass on a rotating basis.

The new Mass schedule is 5 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. Sunday at Holy Name of Jesus, and 8 and 9:30 a.m. Sunday at Our Lady of Mercy. Weekday Masses are typically scheduled for 8 a.m. Monday and Tuesday at Our Lady of Mercy and 9 a.m. Wednesday and Thursday and 6:30 p.m. Friday at Holy Name of Jesus.

One matter the planning group will consider in developing its new pastoral plan is revising the Mass schedule for all six parishes, Rinefierd said.

"While a change in Mass times is difficult for people, you may find that with fewer Masses each weekend, there could potentially be even more vibrant liturgies with fuller participation by the congregation," Bishop Clark said in a June 18 letter requesting that the planning group begin working on a new pastoral plan, even though its 2005 pastoral plan had been intended to guide the planning group for five years.

Bishop Clark’s letter said changing circumstances led him to ask the planning group to develop a new plan.

"While the most visible concern is the financial situation at some of the Eastern Greece/Charlotte parishes amidst the challenging local economic climate, the current landscape in the Eastern Greece and Charlotte areas includes changing demographics (both of the parishes and the surrounding neighborhoods) and a significant drop in Mass attendance over the past seven years," the bishop wrote.

Though the western portion of the Town of Greece continues to see housing and population growth, the developed eastern portions of Greece and Charlotte have lost population, according to 2006, 2000 and 1990 estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau. The population decline may be due in part to the loss of manufacturing jobs at such large employers as Eastman Kodak Co. In 2000, nearly 28 percent of Greece’s employed population worked in manufacturing, compared to an estimated 19 percent in 2006, according to the Census Bureau.

The planning group’s 2005 plan had been based on the projection that eight priests would be available to the planning group until 2009 and seven until 2014. In his letter, however, the bishop advised the planning group that — due to the declining number of priests and a drop in Mass attendance among the planning group’s parishes over the last several years — only six priest-pastors or sacramental ministers will be available to serve the parishes through 2014.

The bishop’s letter also noted that planners should weigh the high number of funerals and weddings at some of the planning group’s parishes as they consider how to distribute the services of the six priests.

Also in his letter, Bishop Clark suggested that the parishes combine resources to strengthen youth ministries; open up different models of faith formation to all parishes in the planning group; offer one or more regional Masses that would provide parishioners with a variety of styles of music, preaching and prayer; and implement parish structures that will make the best use of priest resources.

"I am aware that some of your parishioners either fear or expect that one or more parishes may need to close," Bishop Clark wrote. "Please include that option among those you evaluate; however, I expect that other more creative solutions may arise through your work."

Although diocesan planning groups often take about 18 months to develop their plans, Rinefierd said she couldn’t predict when the Eastern-Greece Charlotte plan would be completed.

Planning-group parishes

The Eastern Greece-Charlotte Planning Group comprises the following parishes:

* Holy Cross, Charlotte

* Holy Name of Jesus, Greece

* Our Lady of Mercy, Greece

* Our Mother of Sorrows, Greece

* St. Charles Borromeo, Greece

* St. John the Evangelist, Greece

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