Parish Closings

About two weeks ago, I visited my hometown of Lockport, N.Y., for my 50th high school class reunion. DeSales High School: Class of 1960! Who would believe it? Nostalgia struck me big time when I looked at our yearbook and realized that John XXIII was pope at the time! Ah, for those days of open windows and new thinking! My classmates, I must say, have never lost their taste for that era.

But parishes are closing in Lockport, and I discovered just how sad, upsetting and divisive that can in a place like Lockport (diocese of Buffalo) when parishes have a long history in the community.

When I was growing up, Lockport (a small city of about 30,000) had five parishes. Today, three have been melded into one, sort of. St. Joseph’s, St. Anthony’s and St. Patrick’s are now “All Saints Parish.” They use St. Patrick’s church for worship, but no one is totally happy, and many people have dropped out of churchgoing. St. John’s remains a going enterprise at the other end of town. But one parish, St. Mary’s -- which was slated for closing -- is appealing its case to Rome.

I don’t know details of the negotiations around any of these closings, but they were far from sweetness and light.

I kept wondering during that otherwise wonderful visit what might be possible in a town like Lockport if someone -- a bishop, say -- had a little pastoral creativity, and the freedom to use married and women clergy. How different such a world, and a church, could be!

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