April 7, 2005
In the February edition of Catholic New York, just two months ago, I wrote an article about the need for a realigning of the institutions of the Archdiocese of New York. It is essential, I explained, that the Church be where the faithful are in the constantly churning aggregate of communities and neighborhoods which the Archdiocese is called to serve; and to achieve this, I maintained, changes will have to be made.
The reaction was positive beyond my fondest hopes. Letters were received from clergy and laity alike. Some focused on a parish, school, or charitable program which, according to the writer, was so needed in a particular area that no change in its regard was even to be considered.
Others offered extraordinarily knowledgeable and insightful proposals about new parishes to be created, new schools to be built, existing parishes to be united, existing schools to be regionalized, and charitable institutions to be established or expanded. The majority, however, simply observed that the time had clearly come for adjustments; and a large number promised their prayers as the process moved forward. Several, however, included in their letters a very specific request, which one couple expressed in these terms: "Keep the faithful updated. You need their support and cooperation, and you will have neither if the Catholics in the pew are not kept abreast of what happening."
With this in mind, I offer the following progress report, put together in collaboration with Bishop Dennis Sullivan, one of the two vicars general of the Archdiocese, who is spending his every waking hour on making the realigning a success and a blessing for the People of God of our remarkable community of faith.
As promised in my article, Bishop Sullivan has visited each of the 19 vicariates (geographical divisions) of the archdiocese, meeting with the local vicars and a group of pastors chosen by each vicar.
Together, the bishop, the vicars, and the pastors, studied all of the realigning proposals made for their individual areas to date, particularly those developed under the leadership of Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell, our former vicar general who was installed as Bishop of the Diocese of Springfield, in Massachusetts, last April. When the visits with Bishop Sullivan were completed, the 19 vicars spent an afternoon at my residence with Bishop Sullivan and me discussing the process for implementing the realigning, to make sure that all found it appropriate and all understood it in detail. Finally, after that meeting, a letter was sent to each vicar containing my article from the February edition of Catholic New York, criteria for realigning drawn from the experiences of several archdioceses and dioceses in the United States, and a prayer which Bishop Sullivan composed and has been using at gatherings of various kinds about the realigning that he is directing with both wisdom and dedication.
Following all of this, meetings were called in each of the vicariates with all of the clergy invited to attend. And attend they did. Indeed, few were missing; and all had much to contribute. As a result, suggestions are beginning to come into focus for each section of the archdiocese, suggestions which in due course will be referred, first, to a committee on realigning at the Catholic Center, then, to a committee of clergy and laity representing the entire archdiocese from Ulster County to Staten Island, and finally, to parish councils, parish school boards, and other key groups of the faithful, for their consideration, comments, and corrections. Thus it is that only after months of discussion and consultation will decisions be made and announced.
Not surprisingly, in the wake of all of these meetings, discussions, and communications, rumors have begun to circulate about the opening of this and the closing of that, the uniting of this and the dividing of that. This was, of course, to be expected; and we should not be surprised or upset. For, however unfounded the rumors might be, they do indicate a keen interest in what is being done; and this is all to the good.
Whatever of that, I am delighted to have an opportunity in this article for Catholic New York to repeat with all the clarity and energy at my disposal that no decisions of any kind regarding the realigning have been made thus far; and none will be made until the entire process is concluded.
The school closings approved this past month were being studied by the Education Office for over a year. They are not a part of the realigning properly so-called. They are rather administrative changes that could not be avoided for reason of low enrollments and heavy financial demands which individual parishes could not handle even after years of extraordinary support from the archdiocese.
In this connection, perhaps a word of exhortation would not be out of place. Considerable damage is done to parishes, schools, charitable programs, and indeed any established undertakings which are victims of upsetting rumors about closings, dividings and such. Pastors, principals, and administrators become unnerved; parishioners, students and clients become confused; and an orderly process is compromised, at times seriously. Thus it is that Bishop Sullivan and I would ask from all of the clergy and laity of the archdiocese, first, their thoughtful participation in the realigning, second, their patience in the face of groundless rumors about it, and third and most importantly their prayers that the realigning be an undertaking of great spiritual benefit for all. In addition, we would be deeply grateful if, among prayers that are offered for the realigning, this one, composed by the Bishop, might be included. It is frequently recited by both of us and all who work with us in service to this ever-growing, ever-changing, and ever-exciting sector of the Lord’s Church.
You gather us together as Your Church
in the Archdiocese of New York
to bring Your kingdom to all people.
Send Your Holy Spirit to enlighten our minds
and guide our actions
as we strengthen, revitalize, and realign
our parish communities
and our charitable, educational, and
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Edward Cardinal Egan
Archbishop of New York