Important decisions loom ahead as the Archdiocese of Hartford preps its reorganization plan, a reconstruction and consolidation of parishes throughout much of Connecticut.
Under the new plan, 144 parishes in the archdiocese will be merged into 59 new parishes. Each new church community will be made up of two to six old parishes.
The reorganization, which will officially begin on June 29, will cut the number of parishes nearly in half, from 212 to 127.
Only 68 parishes will go untouched in the reorganization.
Saint Margaret of Scotland in Waterbury is the only church scheduled to be deconsecrated thus far, with no announcement from the archdiocese as to what will happen with the building itself. Additionally, 26 church buildings will close, and will not hold regularly scheduled Mass times.
The archdiocese has developed a 200-page manual to help ease the process, which includes 26 sections offering suggestions on the transition of employment, cemeteries, parish records, and a check list for merging parishes.
Questions have been raised about what to do with some of the items donated to specific churches. The manual mentions that any sacred objects, like tabernacles, monstrances, and chalices, are not to be become an individual’s property.
The manual suggests establishing sub-committees, with representatives from each merging parish, to aid the transition, including the turnover of objects and parish archives. Developing a strategic plan is also encouraged to help create a guiding mission statement, and an assessment of the risks and goals surrounding the transition.
Not only do the archdiocese’s guidelines map out programs to facilitate the physical changes, but they also offer personal and community-led prayers to help with anxiety and stress over the move.
The pastor of Saint Rosa Lima in New Haven is one of the over 40 priests who are being reassigned in the new project, and he has established a transitional team, creating an opportunity for prayer and dialogue to help prepare his parishioners for the adjustment.
Saint Rosa of Lima will be joined by Saint Francis Parish in New Haven, adding more people to the nearly 1,300 families already attending the church.
Father James Manship served as Saint Rosa of Lima’s pastor for 12 years, and, although he sees his parish as strong, he understands the upheaval is upsetting and uneasy.
“The parish has been such a foundational part of their life and for that to have to be morphed and changed from the outside, by the restructuring, is tough,” he told the Hartford Courant.
Other parishioners are excited about the transition. Members of St. Bridget’s and St. Bartholomew’s are joining together in the new St. Teresa of Calcutta Parish.
“We agree that now we are moving forward as a stronger community, with Mother Teresa as a patron, is so beautiful, that we can go forward and proclaim the gospel of the Lord. This is what our point [is] here,” Father Marcin Pluciennik, who had been pastor of Saint Bridget Parish, told the Hartford Courant.
Archbishop Leonard Blair of Hartford has said that the reorganization is not just for financial reasons or due to declining membership, but is also for a rejuvenation of the community’s spiritual life.