CNA Staff, May 28, 2020 / 04:17 pm (CNA).- This summer, the Diocese of Pittsburgh will initiate another round of mergers, bringing its current 152 parishes down to 106. While the consolidation is difficult, Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik said, it will allow the Church to more effectively carry out its ministry.
“This has not been a simple task. Jesus never promised that it would be easy to carry his message of love and mercy to others. He was clear that sacrifice would be necessary,” the bishop said in a letter to affected parishioners.
“However, you are positioning your new parish for more effective ministry by addressing financial needs, sharing resources and allowing your clergy to focus on the spiritual work for which they were ordained. With your faith in Jesus and empowered by the Holy Spirit, I invite you to warmly welcome and serve each other as you become one parish family.”
This round of mergers will take place on July 1, 2020. It will consolidate over 60 parishes into 15 parishes.
The merger is the latest step in the “On Mission for The Church Alive” initiative, which is reorganizing what began as 188 parishes into what will be fewer than 60 parish groupings.
The diocese's strategic planning initiative began in 2015 in part as a response to declining Mass attendance, the financial struggles of some parishes, and fewer priests.
The situation was exacerbated by the 2018 Pennsylvania grand jury report, which detailed sexual abuse allegations in six of Pennsylvania's eight Latin-rite dioceses, including Pittsburgh. Earlier this year, CBS Pittsburgh reported that since the report's release, Mass attendance had dropped 9% and offertory donations declined 11%.
“Since 2018, you have journeyed together on a road that is intended to unite you on the mission to bring the Good News of Jesus to your neighbors and to strengthen all of you in faith,” Bishop Zubik said.
“Southwestern Pennsylvania is radically different than it was 100, 50, 20, even 10 years ago, yet the work of the Church and our call from God to bring His love to everyone continues as strong as ever,” he said. “As we address the challenges we face in the Church today, the witness of working and growing together reflects the unity of the Body of Christ that is essential to our mission.”
Among other parish combinations, Holy Angels in Hays, Holy Apostles in South Pittsburgh, and Saint Sylvester in Brentwood will merge into the Blessed Trinity Parish; and two Wexford churches – Saint Alexis and Saint Alphonsus – will merge into Saint Aiden Parish.
The diocese will also reorganize the four regional vicariates into two regional vicariates – a North and South Vicariate – which will be used to assist future parish groupings. Father John Gizler III has been appointed Regional Vicar for the North Vicariate, and Father Joseph Sioli will be Regional Vicar for the South Vicariate.
Bishop Zubik expressed gratitude for the clergy and church leaders who have helped the “On Mission” project become a reality.
“Their examples of collaboration, courage and compassion have inspired me. Their collective efforts have gone beyond the practical matters related to merging parishes. They have encouraged their parishioners to deepen their relationship with Jesus and with each other,” he said in a statement.
The bishop added that as the “On Mission” plan unfolds, the Church will need to rely heavily on the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
“[M]ay we unceasingly rely on the will and the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, the Advocate who gives us life as we come together for vibrant worship, responsive pastoral care and powerful evangelization,” he said.
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