Merging the two Ordinariate communities in Philadelphia?

In the July issue of The Philadelphia Ordinariate Post Father David Ousley writes:

Dear Parishioners and Friends,

We have been talking about the advantages of getting St Michael’s and Newman together. The biggest practical obstacle has been finding a location which will work for everyone. The Newman folk are largely centered on the Main Line (so we want something convenient to the Main Line), while St Michael’s people come from all over as well as from the city (so we need something close to major highways and Septa). We now have a possible site to consider, and the first question is whether it will work for everyone. It is the Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Bridgeport. This is currently a worship site of Sacred Heart Parish in Swedesburg, and we are grateful to the Pastor of Sacred Heart, Fr Timothy O’Sullivan, for inviting us to consider the possibility of using that facility.

I would ask everyone at St Michael’s and Newman to think seriously about whether this location is possible for you. While there would be many advantages to getting the congregations together, we do not want to lose anyone. The church is three blocks from the Norristown High Speed Line and not too far from the Norristown Transportation Center (if that is too long a walk, I’m sure we could provide rides from there on Sundays). There is ample parking for those coming by car.

Location of Mount Carmel. PhiladelphiaThe property has three buildings (church, school, rectory) and parking. We have set up a tour of the church and school for Sunday, July 26th, following the Mass at St Michael’s. There will be no coffee hour that day, and we’ll head out after Mass. It is about a half-hour drive, so we have set the tour for 11 at Mount Carmel, 500 Ford Road in Bridgeport. You are also welcome to join in a special Mass at Mount Carmel on July 19th, part of their celebration of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, which is followed by a procession to Sacred Heart.

olmc 5OLMC 1Until last summer, Our Lady of Mount Carmel was the Italian parish in Bridgeport. At that time it merged with St Augustine’s and Sacred Heart, with Sacred Heart designated as the parish church.

It is an attractive possibility for us for a variety of reasons. The buildings are in good condition. The church is relatively small (seats 300). Also air-conditioned. The neighborhood is good. The church is handicapped accessible, and has an accessible bathroom. The school does not have a school operating at present, but is used by Sacred Heart for their PREP program (catechesis for children not in Catholic schools), a thrift shop, and some meetings. It has ample space for our needs without compromising the current use by Sacred Heart. If you would like to see some more pictures, you can go to http://www.olmcchurch.net/gallery .

The process, as we try to discern what God has in mind for us, goes something like this. First, I would like to get a sense from everyone if the location will work. We will discuss it in both congregations after the Masses on August 2nd. If it is deemed acceptable, then I will discuss with Fr O’Sullivan what kind of arrangements we might make that would work for them as well as for us. When we reach an agreement, both Fr O’Sullivan and I will need the approval of our superiors, and our finance and pastoral councils will need to weigh in. And then we can start thinking about all the details which would be involved. There are many of those! From what time we should have the Sunday Mass to who is going to clean the church, and whether we can afford it. Meanwhile, please think seriously about the location and your Sunday travel.

I think there is a general consensus among us that merging the congregations has much to recommend it. It would enable Newman to return to a morning service. It would get us much closer to “critical mass”. It would increase our resources available for mission and service, and make us more attractive to visitors. And having “our own” property would help us to be settled, and clarify the direction of our mission. At the same time, having a property comes with costs and burdens, as we recall from St James and Good Shepherd (where we also had endowments to help with the costs).

Part of the discernment of whether God is calling us to move there is a realistic assessment of whether we can manage the property. It is an exciting prospect, and one which would have profound consequences for our common life in Christ. So it is okay to be excited. At the same time, in the midst of our excitement, we should abide steadfast in our prayers and rational thinking, always seeking God’s will for us.

Fr. David Ousley

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to Merging the two Ordinariate communities in Philadelphia?

  1. EPMS says:

    I am not sure of the exact significance of the building’s status as a “worship site” of Sacred Heart parish. Does Sacred Heart have regularly scheduled services there? Would it retain ownership? The phrase ” ‘our own’ property” is set in quotation marks, which suggests that it would. But the “costs and burdens” of having a property are also mentioned as being significantly greater than those currently incurred sharing worship space with OLA and Holy Cross. I am sure this has been explained in depth to Fr Ousley’s parishioners, but we are always curious. Personally I am impressed by the prudent tone of the article, as I am always concerned when the enthusiam for real estate seems to be crowding out practical considerations like how the electrical bill will get paid. “If we build it, they will come” thinking has been the downfall of many otherwise viable worship communities.

    • Matt C says:

      It would be excellent to see this work out for the Ordinariate community. The parish at this church (if memory serves) was closed just prior to celebrating its 90th anniversary with the usual Italian festival which was a treasured annual tradition that drew crowds from miles around. It would be a happy thing to see the Ordinariate thrive there.

    • Rev22:17 says:

      EPMS,

      You asked: I am not sure of the exact significance of the building’s status as a “worship site” of Sacred Heart parish. Does Sacred Heart have regularly scheduled services there?

      That’s what the term “worship site” usually means, but I don’t see any mass times at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church listed on the parish web site. In any case, the merged Sacred Heart Parish probably still uses the church for occasional services (baptisms, weddings, funerals, etc.) as requested and there may be groups within the parish, including the Christian formation program that uses the adjacent school building, that still hold liturgical services there even if there are no regularly scheduled services for the parish at large.

      You asked: Would it retain ownership? The phrase ” ‘our own’ property” is set in quotation marks, which suggests that it would. But the “costs and burdens” of having a property are also mentioned as being significantly greater than those currently incurred sharing worship space with OLA and Holy Cross.

      The plain reality is that a merged ordinariate community would be the dominant user of the property, and thus would have substantial control over scheduling, etc. The title to the property probably would transfer to the ordinariate congregation (parish or mission) sooner or later, but probably not until the ordinariate congregation becomes stable in the new location. In the meantime, the ordinariate congregation and the diocesan parish probably would share the costs of utilities and of maintaining the property in proportion to their use — which means that the ordinariate congregation would bear nearly the total cost if the diocesan parish or other groups use the facility only occasionally.

      Norm.

      • The parish website indeed states that ALL the services are at Sacred Heart Church, and the other two worship sites (St. Augustine and Mount Carmel) are both located on Ford Street, Bridgeport, one hundred and fifty yards apart – so I would imagine that the parish could easily hand over one of them almost totally to the Ordinariate. On this photo both churches are clearly visible, one at the left and one at the right.

        David

        According to an article in the Times Herald both churches celebrated their “last mass” in January of this year before being merged with Sacred Heart 0.7 miles away. http://www.timesherald.com/general-news/20150111/final-mass-stirs-emotions-at-st-augustine-church-in-bridgeport

      • Rev22:17 says:

        David,

        You wrote: The parish website indeed states that ALL the services are at Sacred Heart Church…

        Yes, but your original article quoted from the newsletter states: “You are also welcome to join in a special Mass at Mount Carmel on July 19th, part of their celebration of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, which is followed by a procession to Sacred Heart.” Thus, statement the web site obviously refers to regularly scheduled parish masses.

        You subsequently observed: … so I would imagine that the parish could easily hand over one of them almost totally to the Ordinariate.

        Yes, that seems pretty obvious.

        If the ordinariate communities in the Philadelphia area join together at this location, many members of Sacred Heart Parish who reside in the neighborhood of Our Lady of Mount Carmel will find it more convenient to go to the mass of the combined ordinariate community rather than travelling to Sacred Heart Church for Sunday mass. The ultimate solution probably will be for Fr. Ousley to have collateral appointment as a parochial vicar for Sacred Heart Parish, enabling him to provide pastoral services to those parishioners, and to celebrate a mass officially of the diocesan parish for them.

        Norm.

  2. EPMS says:

    Hope these are not the parishes Norm referred to here https://ordinariateexpats.wordpress.com/2015/05/26/what-is-the-ordinariates-distinctiveness-in-the-uk/#comments In disputing the idea that Ordinariate communities using the OF would inevitably be absorbed into local diocesan parishes.

    • EPMS says:

      PS Last comment.

    • Rev22:17 says:

      EPMS,

      You said: Hope these are not the parishes Norm referred to here https://ordinariateexpats.wordpress.com/2015/05/26/what-is-the-ordinariates-distinctiveness-in-the-uk/#comments In disputing the idea that Ordinariate communities using the OF would inevitably be absorbed into local diocesan parishes.

      The comment about ethnic parishes on three corners of one intersection and a fourth at the next intersection, about a hundred feet away, in the thread to which you linked described the exact situation that existed about thirty years ago in the heart of Bristol, Rhode Island, in the Diocese of Providence here in the States. The present parish listings on the diocesan web site show that the French parish is now closed and the Italian parish has moved to another section of the city, but the geographical and Portuguese parishes remain about hundred feet apart.

      But the reality is that such situations abounded in areas settled by large numbers of immigrants from various European countries who came to the States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Those immigrants required pastoral services — which often included classes in English as a second language — in their native languages because they were not fluent in English. Of course, that need no longer exists a century later — but efforts to close many of the national parishes have met with considerable resistance because of their cultural patrimony. In the example above, you can get the picture: the Italian parish has a big celebration for the Feast of St. Anthony, the Portuguese parish has a big celebration for the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima, and the French parish has a big celebration for the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, all of which are ingrained into the spiritual lives and devotions of the respective congregations. The cultural clash is immediate!

      Norm.

  3. EPMS says:

    If the plan was to appoint a new pastor who would be responsible for both a diocesan and an OCSP congregation at OLMC, I think this would have been decided before all the Sturm und Drang of a parish closing,, “last mass” as reported in the local paper, etc. Even when a merger makes all the common sense in the world it is painful for the remnant. There are churches, for example St Joan of Arc in Mobile AB, where an OCSP priest ministers to two congregations in this way, but the diocesan parish was not brought back from the dead.

    • Rev22:17 says:

      EPMS,

      You wrote: If the plan was to appoint a new pastor who would be responsible for both a diocesan and an OCSP congregation at OLMC, I think this would have been decided before all the Sturm und Drang of a parish closing,, “last mass” as reported in the local paper, etc.

      I doubt that there was ever an intent to appoint a new pastor who would be responsible for a diocesan parish at Our Lady of Mount Carmel, or even to have a parish — either diocesan or ordinariate — there. Rather, it is a situation that has evolved: the merged diocesan parish has a surplus campus that appears to be in the right location for a combined ordinariate community.

      But my earlier comment was addressing the practical reality. There are undoubtedly members of the merged parish who live in the houses between the two churches in the photo, and in other houses nearby, who will find it much more convenient to walk to the ordinariate mass than to drive to Sacred Heart if the two ordinariate congregations combine and worship at Our Lady of Mount Carmel, as envisioned.

      Note that my earlier comment said nothing whatsoever about resurrecting a diocesan parish at Our Lady of Mount Carmel or of the pastor of the ordinariate congregation also being a pastor of a diocesan parish. Rather, I suggested that the pastor of the ordinariate congregation be appointed concurrently as a parochial vicar of Sacred Heart Parish, enabling him to supply pastoral services for diocesan Catholics who choose to worship at Our Lady of Mount Carmel, once a combined ordinariate community is established there. And once the collateral appointment as a parochial vicar of Sacred Heart Parish is in place, the celebration of one mass according to the ordinary form of the Roman Rite on Sundays and holy days at Our Lady of Mount Carmel should be no big deal since the pastor of the ordinariate parish will be there anyway.

      Norm.

  4. EPMS says:

    Presumably the purpose of the parish closures was to pool the resources of three declining parishes into one viable entity. Diverting potential attendees, and presumably paying a stipend to a parochial vicar would appear to undermine this objective.

    • Rev22:17 says:

      EPMS,

      You wrote: Presumably the purpose of the parish closures was to pool the resources of three declining parishes into one viable entity.

      That’s not a good presumption at all.

      In many places here in the States, the need for so-called “national” parishes has dissipated completely in recent decades as generations born here become more and more American, even if they retain their ethnic cultural and religious festivals and practices. By this, I’m referring to the fact that their primary language is English rather than the language of their ancestors and they have largely assimilated into American culture. As the earlier generations — those who immigrated themselves or who, being the first generation born here, grew up in homes where the primary language was that of those who did — die off, there is no longer a need for pastoral services in their ethnic language. This reality is converging with the reality of diminishing numbers of clergy — many parishes once staffed by five or six priests now have only one, and it is becoming increasingly difficult for many dioceses to supply pastors for all of their parishes. In such circumstances, it becomes necessary to merge parishes — and a merger of parishes that are within a couple blocks of one another typically poses the least inconvenience to the affected parishioners. When these mergers happen, the new parish typically retains the largest of its churches to provide the needed capacity.

      You continued: Diverting potential attendees, and presumably paying a stipend to a parochial vicar would appear to undermine this objective.

      If mass is available at Our Lady of Mount Carmel on Sundays, the plain reality is that many diocesan Catholics who in that neighborhood will find it more expedient to go there than to go across town to their own parish. Thus, it is not a question of “diverting potential attendees” as they WILL divert themselves. The question, rather, is how best to ensure that those individuals receive the pastoral services that they need. Collateral appointment of the pastor of the ordinariate parish as a parochial vicar of the geographical parish seems to be the simplest way to establish the necessary formal connection.

      Norm.

  5. EPMS says:

    Why would a pastor make special arrangements for people who are prepared to go to whatever mass is being offered at their closest church rather than travel a slightly longer distance to attend the OF? Let them attend the Ordinariate rite if walking to church is the priority. Let them drive to a parish offering the OF if that is more important. Those who have seen parishes closed wholesale in recent years, often parishes with hundreds of members, will laugh heartily at this idea.

    • EPMS says:

      PS The point about the declining need for ethnic parishes as attendees assimilate into American culture is exactly the point, mutatis mutandis, I have made about the likelihood of genuine Anglican Patrimony surviving after a generation of two of membership in the Catholic church. I note that the website of Bl John Henry Newman in Irvine, CA already makes no mention of Anglicanism or the OCSP, except for its coat of arms, with that of the local diocese given equal billing.

      • Oh EPMS. forgive my frustration, but if you have nothing to comment but your fears that the Ordinariate project will die within two generations, I would really prefer you wrote nothing at all.

        For those of us who are doing our utmost to achieve exactly the opposite (and we too are aware of the risks!), your cries of woe are not helpful at all.

        David Murphy

      • Rev22:17 says:

        EPMS,

        You wrote: The point about the declining need for ethnic parishes as attendees assimilate into American culture is exactly the point, mutatis mutandis, I have made about the likelihood of genuine Anglican Patrimony surviving after a generation of two of membership in the Catholic church.

        The closure of so-called national parishes has not exactly been easy. In many cases, there was considerable resistance from members of the closing parish.

        Norm.

    • Rev22:17 says:

      EPMS,

      You asked: Why would a pastor make special arrangements for people who are prepared to go to whatever mass is being offered at their closest church rather than travel a slightly longer distance to attend the OF?

      May I remind you that Jesus gives us the example of a shepherd leaving 99 of his sheep in his pasture to go after the hundredth.

      This situation is actually much simpler, since the pastor need not go personally. Rather, there is another already on scene who, with a simple stroke of the bishop’s pen, can become his agent.

      You wrote: Those who have seen parishes closed wholesale in recent years, often parishes with hundreds of members, will laugh heartily at this idea.

      There is absolutely no reason to believe that the Parish of Our Lady of Mount Carmel was failing, or that it did not have hundreds of members, when the bishop merged it into another parish. Rather, there was no reason to believe that the reason for the merger was anything other than lack of clergy to staff it. In fact, Fr. Ousley stated that “the buildings are in good condition” — a very clear indication that there was still a vibrant congregation, giving generously, when it closed.

      Norm.

      • EPMS says:

        Norm, all the details are here http://archphila.org/press%20releases/pr002376.php. And my point was that “hundreds” of parishioners are not considered enough to sustain an urban parish in North America. A survey of recent bulletins of the combined Sacred Heart parish http://www.unitedinthesacredheart.com/archive/ suggests that the average donation is about $10 a week. I leave it to you as to whether this is “generous”.

      • Rev22:17 says:

        EPMS,

        You wrote: And my point was that “hundreds” of parishioners are not considered enough to sustain an urban parish in North America.

        Why not?

        If the former parish of Our Lady of Mount Carmel could maintain its buildings in good repair, the issue forcing its closure obviously was not one of finances. Note that the description says that the church building seats about 300 parishioners, so three masses on Sunday would accommodate a maximum of 900.

        Yes, hundreds — not thousands — seems to have been sustainable. The only issue was an absence of available clergy to supply a pastor.

        You wrote: A survey of recent bulletins of the combined Sacred Heart parish http://www.unitedinthesacredheart.com/archive/ suggests that the average donation is about $10 a week.

        I would be very careful of such superficial analysis.

        >> 1. One does not know which groups of parishioners of the merged parish are giving how much.

        >> 2. Many parishes now have systematic giving programs other than the weekly collection, so the weekly collection might not represent total giving.

        >> 3. And it’s also likely that those who were vested in the parishes that closed are giving less to the combined parish than what they gave to the parishes in which their lives were invested. This is very commonplace when parishes are merged.

        We don’t have the information to get behind the numbers.

        But the fact that the buildings of Our Lady of Mount Carmel are described as well maintained speaks volumes. A parish that can afford to maintain its buildings is not hurting financially, no matter how small.

        Norm.

  6. EPMS says:

    This blog is obviously a labour of love, with an equal emphasis on both nouns, for which I have very great respect. My point is not meant to be “The case is hopeless,” but “How can the case best be made?” I am frustrated by Norm’s breezy (to me) predictions that growth is inevitable, or even more unlikely, being masterminded by the current leadership. Sometimes I feel that there is the underlying assumption that acquiring a building and filling it with beautiful things is of the essence: not my personal take. As in a real life committee, a blog with loyal followers is an eye-opener, revealing that different people see things differently even when they share a common goal. When the disciples argued, Jesus asked them what they were arguing about. He knew already, but I assume he felt that if they identified it to themselves they might get closer to some answers.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s