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'The Very Best of Service'

February 8, 2007

'The Very Best of Service'

Following is a letter by Cardinal Egan about the realignment process which was distributed in each of the archdiocese's parishes on the weekend of Jan. 20-21.

My dear friends in the Lord:

Shortly after being installed as Archbishop of New York in June of 2000, I set out to visit the parishes, schools, and charitable agencies that serve the People of God in our community of faith. Thanks to these visits, I became aware that a program of realignment for our parishes and schools needed to be undertaken.

Thus, early in 2003, I appointed Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell, a Vicar General of the Archdiocese, to initiate the realignment program. He immediately began a study of sacramental, demographic, and financial reports and conducted numerous meetings throughout the 19 "vicariates" or regions of the Archdiocese. In addition, Bishop McDonnell distributed a questionnaire through the vicariates so as to gain the input of thousands of parishioners.

When Bishop McDonnell was named to the Diocese of Springfield in Massachusetts, I invited Bishop Dennis J. Sullivan, also a Vicar General, to continue the work of realignment. Aided by a devoted staff and experienced planning experts, Bishop Sullivan commenced extended visitations throughout the Archdiocese so as to become thoroughly informed concerning those parishes which should be considered for expansion, merger, or closure and those properties of the Archdiocese which would be suitable for new parishes and schools. In addition, he held lengthy meetings with the clergy to hear their opinions and benefit from their insights about needed changes. In those situations in which sensitive issues came to the fore, I personally visited the areas in question so as to be fully advised about all relevant circumstances.

Moreover, throughout this period of consultation, I chaired weekly meetings with the senior staff of the Archdiocese of New York to discuss preliminary proposals formulated by Bishop Sullivan, his staff, and his advisors. At every step, all proposals were reviewed with particular concern for the most effective pastoral care of the faithful.

When these preliminary consultations were completed, I felt that an additional and particularized consultation was needed with a representative group of the People of God of the Archdiocese. The group, selected on the basis of recommendations from area vicars and Archdiocesan staff persons, came from all areas of the Archdiocese, and brought with them different backgrounds. experiences, and talents. It became known as the Archdiocesan Realignment Advisory Panel (ARAP), and provided Bishop Sullivan and all of us with valuable insights and expertise, on the basis of which many of the preliminary proposals were amended. During this period of consultation, I authored columns about the realignment process for Catholic New York so as to keep the faithful apprised of all that we were doing.

While the schools of the Archdiocese were thoroughly studied within the context of the realignment program, decisions regarding them followed a timeline different from that of the parishes, primarily because of contractual guidelines with the teachers' unions. Thus, decisions concerning school realignment had to be made apart from the realignment process.

Realignment proposals were further amended as a result of the consultations with ARAP. When all was in order, they were announced by a press release and in Catholic New York. All of the parishes that were proposed for some form of realignment were asked to review the proposals and present their opinions to Bishop Sullivan and his staff. Twenty-four of them did so.

Consequently, meetings were arranged with Bishop Sullivan, which included the area vicar, the pastor of the parish in question, and representative parishioners. They took place over a period of several months in various locations throughout the Archdiocese, and entailed more than 100 hours of discussions. Bishop Sullivan reported that the various presentations of the parishes were extraordinarily helpful and reflected a great love for the Church on the part of devoted parishioners who were deeply grateful for the opportunity to share their insights. In addition to all of this, the Bishop and his staff received literally thousands of letters containing thoughtful advice about the realignment program.

All of this was reviewed by key staff persons and myself so that, in accordance with canon law, the refined proposals might be presented to and reviewed by the Priests' Council of the Archdiocese at an all-day meeting.

While some parishioners may be concerned or even upset by the realignment decisions, they have my assurance that all will be faithfully served in the parishes where they will be members, and warmly welcomed members at that. As a result of realignment, there will be closures, mergers, new parishes, and expanded facilities for established parishes; and all of this will be accomplished in such a way that all of the Lord's people will be cared for, both effectively and lovingly.

The parish and school realignment program has been a work in progress for the past several years. I am deeply grateful to all who have had a part in it, especially Bishop Sullivan and his staff, the members of the Archdiocesan Realignment Advisory Panel, the vicars and pastors of the parishes of the Archdiocese, and all of the clergy, religious, and faithful who have cooperated so ably and so willingly. I am confident that our realignment will do much good over the years to come, and especially as we prepare for the 200th Anniversary of our Archdiocese in April of 2008. While we are bringing the current realignment process to a conclusion, be assured that, in collaboration with the People of God of the Archdiocese of New York, we will continue to review the needs of all of our people so that our parishes, schools and charitable agencies might render the very best of service to our Archdiocesan community of faith.

May the Lord in His gracious Providence continue to bless our service to Him and His holy people.

The visit to Notre Dame Parish was a delight. I chatted with the priests. I met with the parish catechists and the children whom they are forming in the faith. I admired the splendid church, which, curiously, was designed to remind visitors of an edifice in Paris in which Napoleon is buried, "L'Eglise des Invalides." I was introduced to choir members, lectors, servers and leaders of various parish programs, including the chairman of the parish bicentennial celebration. And to conclude a most enjoyable morning, I shared in "coffee and" with a host of men, women and children who truly love their parish community.

In the evening, as I wrote about our first two New York Bishops, I could not help but hope that from their places in heaven they might have observed and enjoyed my visit to Notre Dame Parish. Distinguished members of the Order of Preachers, they would have had every reason to be proud of what the Dominican Fathers and Dominican Sisters are achieving in our Archdiocese-in parishes like Notre Dame, in schools, in charitable agencies, in health care institutions and, indeed, in virtually every facet of the life and work in this sector of the Lord's vineyard.

It is my prayer that during the year in which we celebrate our bicentennial, from April of 2007 to April of 2008, the stories of our great bishops, priests, deacons, religious men, religious women and laity will be told in every corner of the Archdiocese as a reminder of what we have been and what we need to be over the years that lie ahead. We were blessed with a Bishop whose name was Connolly, who resisted a tyrant, traveled to labor in an unknown land, faced the most daunting of challenges, and contributed mightily to laying a firm foundation for the Archdiocese that is our spiritual home. It will be good for our souls to look back and come to know the heroes who went before us; and one whom we will certainly want to study with particular attention is the humble, dedicated Dominican who was our second Bishop and the first to arrive in New York.

With prayerful best wishes, may I remain
Very truly yours in Christ,
Edward Cardinal Egan
Archbishop of New York

'El Mejor de los Servicios'

A continuación está una carta escrita por el Cardenal Egan acerca del proceso de realineamiento que fue distribuido en cada una de las parroquias de la arquidiócesis en el fin de semana del 20 y 21 de Enero.

Mis queridos amigos en el Señor:

Poco después de haber sido instalado como Arzobispo de Nueva York, en junio del 2000, realicé visitas a parroquias, escuelas y agencies de caridades que sirven al Pueblo de Dios en nuestra comunidad de fe. Gracias a esas visitas, pude percatarme de la necesidad de llevar a cabo un programa de realineamiento para nuestras parroquias y escuelas.

Fue así como, a inicios del 2003, designé al Obispo Timothy A. McDonnell, Vicario General de la Arquidiócesis, para que iniciara el programa de realineamiento. El comenzó inmediatamente un proceso para tracer un estudio sobre aspectos sacramentales, demográficos y financieros, conduciendo numerosas reuniones a traves de los diecinueve vicariatos o regiones de la Arquidiócesis. Además, el Obispo McDonnell distribuyó un cuestionario en todos los vicariatos con el objeto de obtener las opiniones de miles de feligreses.

Cuando el Obispo McDonnell fue nombrado en la Diócesis de Springfield, en Massachusetts, invité al Obispo Dennis J. Sullivan, tambien Vicario General, para que continuara los trabajos del realineamiento. Asistido por un dedicado personal y expertos en planificación, el Obispo Sullivan inició una serie de extensas visitas por toda la Arquidiócesis de forma tal que pudiera informarse verazmente en todo lo concerniente a aquellas parroquias que deberían considerarse para expansión, fusión o clausura; así como aquellas propiedades de la Arquidiócesis apropiadas para edificar nuevas parroquias y escuelas. Además, él sostuvo largas reuniones con el clero para oír sus opiniones y beneficiarse así de sus opiniones sobre los cambios necesarios. En aquellas situaciones en que emergieron asuntos muy sensitivos, yo personalmente visité las áreas correspondientes de forma tal que pudiera quedar plenamente en conocimiento de todas las circunstancias relevantes.

Además, durante todo ese periodo de consulta, dirigí reuniones semanales con el personal superior de la Arquidiócesis de Nueva York para discutir propuestas preliminares formuladas por el Obispo Sullivan, su personal y sus consejeros. En cada etapa, todas las propuestas fueron revisadas con particular interés para el mayor y efectivo cuidado pastoral de nuestra feligresía.

Cuando esas consultas preliminares fueron completadas, entendí que se necesitaba una consulta adicional y particularizada con un grupo que representara la feligresía de la Arquidiócesis. El grupo, seleccionado basado en recomendaciones de vicarios y personal arquidiocesano, se constituyó con personas de todas las áreas de la Arquidiócesis, los cuales trajeron diferentes experiencias y talentos. Este grupo vino a ser conocido como Panel Arquidiocesano de Asesoría para el Realineamiento (ARAP, por sus siglas en ingles), el cual proporcionó al Obispo Sullivan y a todos nosotros valiosos aportes y pericias, por lo que varies de las propuestas preliminares fueron enmendadas. Durante ese periodo de consulta, escribí algunas columnas sobre el proceso de realineamiento en Catholic New York a fin de mantener a la feligresía informada de todo lo que estábamos haciendo.

Aunque las escuelas de la Arquidiócesis fueron estudiadas en el contexto del programa de realineamiento, las decisiones relativas a las mismas siguieron una secuencia diferente a las de las parroquias, fundamentalmente debido a las pautas contractuales con los sindicatos de maestros. Así pues, las decisiones concernientes al realineamiento de las escuelas tuvieron que ser hechas aparte de las parroquias.

Las propuestas de realineamiento fueron enmendadas como resultado de las consultas con ARAP. Cuando ya todo estaba en orden, las medidas fueron anunciadas en una nota de prensa y en Catholic New York. Se pidió a todas las parroquias propuestas para algún tipo de realineamiento que revisaran las mismas y que presentaran sus opiniones al Obispo Sullivan y a su personal. Veinticuatro de ellas lo hicieron.

Por consiguiente, fueron organizadas reuniones con el Obispo Sullivan, incluyen al Vicario del area, el pastor de la parroquia afectada y representantes de los feligreses. Las reuniones tuvieron luger durante un período de varios meses, en varios lugares a lo largo de la Arquidiócesis, lo cual consumió más de cien horas de discusiones. El Obispo Sullivan reportó que las representaciones de las parroquias fueron extraordinariamente útiles y que reflejaron el gran amor por la Iglesia de parte de los devotos feligreses, los cuales estaban profundamente agradecidos por la oportunidad de compartir sus opiniones. Adicionalmente, el Obispo y su personal recibieron literalmente miles de cartes conteniendo serios consejos acerca del programa de realineamiento.

Todo esto fue revisado por personas claves del personal, y también por mí para que, de acuerdo a la ley canónica, las perfeccionadas propuestas pudieron ser presentadas y revisadas por el Consejo de Sacerdotes de la Arquidiócesis en una reunión de todo un día.

Algunos feligreses pueden estar preocupados o quizá molestos por las decisiones relatives al realineamiento. A todos ellos les digo que pueden tener la seguridad que serán fielmente servidos en las parroquias donde se ubicarán, las cuales les darán una cálida bienvenida. Como resultado del realineamiento, habrá clausuras, fusiones, nuevas parroquias y facilidades aumentadas para parroquias establecidas; y todo esto será llevado a cabo de tal manera que todo el Pueblo de Dios será atendido, efectiva y amorosamente.

El programa de realineamiento de parroquias y escuelas ha sido un trabajo progresivo durante los últimos años. Estoy profundamente agradecido de todos aquellos que tomaron parte en el mismo, especialmente el Obispo Sullivan y su personal, los miembros del Panel Arquidiocesano de Asesoría para el Realineamiento, los vicarios y pastores de las parroquias de la Arquidiócesis, y todo el clero, religiosos y religiosas, y feligreses que han cooperado con entusiasmo. Estoy confiado de que el realineamiento hará mucho bien en los años por venir, y especialmente ahora que nos preparamos para la celebración del Bicentenario de nuestra Arquidiócesis, en abril de 2008. Mientras nos movemos hacia la conclusión del proceso de realineamiento, tengan la seguridad de que, en colaboración con el Pueblo de Dios de la Arquidiócesis de Nueva York, continuaremos revisando las necesidades de toda nuestra gente de forma tal que nuestras parroquias, escuelas y agencias de caridades puedan rendir mejores servicios a nuestra comunidad de fe arquidiocesana.

Que el Señor en Su Divina Providencia continúe bendiciendo nuestro servicio, a El y a su pueblo sagrado.

Asegurandoles mis oraciones y mejores deseos, me suscribo
Sinceramente en Cristo,
Edward Cardenal Egan
Arzobispo de Nueva York

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