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.
The 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.
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