As a reminder, we are grouped with St. Philip and St. John of God parishes. When that grouping was announced, we were asked to give our feedback. The overwhelming consensus from what I heard is that our grouping works about as well as we could have hoped. I know there are some areas of the diocese where they are asking for some changes, but I strongly suspect that we will remain in that same grouping. Currently, the diocese is studying all the feedback they received and is looking to make any tweaks that may be necessary.
In preparation for the next step, our parish recently hosted an evening for the Finance Councils, the Pastoral Councils and the On Mission Teams from each of the three parishes. This was an informal event designed to allow us to get to know one another since we will be working together in the future.
Next year, probably in April, Bishop Zubik will announce the final groupings. He was originally looking for some time in March, but he will probably wait until Easter, which falls on April 1 this coming year. At that time, he will announce how many church buildings will be used in each grouping, but no churches will close at that time. He will also announce new assignments for every priest in the diocese. One priest will be named as pastor (or administrator) of all the parishes in that grouping, and any parochial vicars assigned to that grouping will be named at the same time. He will also give a “blueprint” for each grouping to follow, and he will announce the amount of time we have to complete the merger (most likely two, three or five years) and the number of Masses to be celebrated in the groupings once the new priests move in. Then, from April through some time in September, the priests will meet with one another. The new priests moving in will meet with Fr. Lou Vallone, Fr. John Gizler and me, for instance, to start to get to know the parishes and to make the plans for what the Mass schedule will look like.
In about a year from now, the priests’ assignments will take effect. We will move in and start working toward the final merger. Even at that time, no church buildings will close immediately. That will all be part of the final process of bringing the parishes together to form one new parish.
In the meantime, we are still providing pastoral ministry. If a couple comes to me to schedule a wedding, for instance, I will continue to work with them. I may not be able to guarantee that I will be the priest to celebrate the wedding, but the diocese is working to ensure that all the weddings will be covered.