Holy Trinity Church
370 South Street Pottstown, PA 19464
MEMO DATE: July
TO: Members of Cluster 77 Implementation Committee
FROM: Holy Trinity Pastoral Council
SUBJECT: Suppression of Holy Trinity Parish
After careful review of canon law with a canon lawyer, we, the members of the Pastoral Council and Finance Committee of Holy Trinity Parish, find no justifiable or credible evidence presented for the proposed suppression of Holy Trinity Parish. We cite the following rationale for our conclusions, based in Canon Law, below.
1) Holy Trinity meets the
Canonical definition of "Parish" and is a stable community.
Canon 515§1 states that "A parish is a certain community of the Christian faithful stably constituted in a particular church, whose pastoral care is entrusted to a priest as its proper pastor under the authority of the diocesan bishop". The primary aspect of a parish is the presence of a "certain community of the Christian faithful." Parishes are erected because of the presence of the Catholic faithful, not because of the number of priests. Historically, a community of the faithful that wants to organize as a parish has to show the ability to provide the necessary endowments to maintain a parish structure (financial and spiritual). Because of the stable nature of a parish and law, once a parish is erected every effort should be made to maintain its status. In fact, the law requires a just cause to suppress a parish, and requires that a presbyteral council be heard before the decision is made (Canon515§2).
2) The decision to twin Holy Trinity Parish was made, not to "buy time" for the parishioners to get their act together, but in recognition of the contribution the parish makes to the broader community within the Archdiocese of Philadelphia (reference original Cluster 77 Pastoral Plan and the 2 April 1998 letter from Fr. Lendacky to Msgr. Marine within that document). These documents never refer to Holy Trinity in a negative manner. Further, Holy Trinity's Parish Self Study was accepted without comment.
3) Holy Trinity has
followed the recommendations and implemented the objectives of Cluster 77,
~ Parishioners actively participate in all cluster-sponsored committees, programs and activities, including Pottstown Pilot Regional Planning Program, Cluster Planning, Cluster Implementation Committee, Ad Hoc Twinning Committee [with St. Aloysius], and PreCana program. (The parish provides the two requisite members to the Cluster Implementation Committee while St. Aloysius is currently only able to provide one.) Moreover, the parish provided one of only two representatives from Cluster 77 to the recent Archdiocesan Synod
~ Holy Trinity actively supports and contributes to the teaching, evangelization and social services administered through the Cluster Youth and Cluster DRE ministry programs.
~ The parish has a history of hosting many Cluster-related activities (e.g., Cluster Youth group, DRE Scripture Studies, Penance Services, Stations of the Cross, Habitat for Humanity, Men of Malvern, Knights of Columbus, St. Pius X High School Ring Day Mass, Cluster Implementation Committee meetings, Padre Pio prayer group, use by St. Aloysius Women's group, etc.). Please note that the Parish has never expected a monetary return for use of the parish and hall for Cluster and activities sponsored by the three parishes within the cluster.
~ A Parish Services Director (PSD) has been hired to assist the pastor in the ministry of the parish. Since assuming her duties in April 2003 she has already established Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, introduced spiritual journaling, recruited additional Eucharistic ministers and lectors, and instituted the use of greeters. The need for a PSD was identified in the recommendations of the 2001 Twinning Evaluation published in June 2001. The job description took a full year to define by Fr. Benn and the search for a successful candidate another 8-9 months. It has been an ongoing process since June 2001 (see below).
~ Under the objective of Liturgy, Holy Trinity has established the ministry of Eucharistic Mnisters (and have additional parishioners preparing for it), actively use lectors (and have two additional young parishioners preparing), is actively laying the foundation for a Liturgy Committee to begin work in the Fall and will have two parishioners enrolled in the Church Ministry Institute program in the Fall at St. Pius X High School.
~ Under the objective of Evangelization, Holy Trinity has established an Evangelization Committee to actively seek new parishioners and parishioners who have fallen away from their faith. So far in 2003, we have increased membership by almost 10% from approximately 480 parishioners at the end of 2002 to 530 to-date. We are confident that we can grow that number by at least another 10% by the end of 2003.
~ The progress made in the areas of evangelization and liturgy highlighted above, demonstrates that Holy Trinity is expanding its leadership base.
~ Parishioner stewards of Holy Trinity have lovingly maintained and supported it, both spiritually and physically these past 104 years.
4) Weekly collections return statistics show, over the same time frame, an approximate use rate of 70% by Holy Trinity (187/271); 37% for St. Aloysius (700/1899) [or 23% if the return rate is based on 3000 families), 216 envelopes for St. Gabriel's and (data not available for St. Peter's). This demonstrates the strong viability of Holy Trinity within the framework of the other three churches in Cluster 77.
5) There are alternatives that have not yet been explored, namely, the use of religious order priests, extern priests, or retired priests who would be in residence and appointed pastor; also the use of a deacon to handle all matters not required of a priest.
In the Vatican document, "Instruction on Certain Questions Regarding the Collaboration of the Non-Ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of a Priest," the Vatican provides a commentary on this Canon. In the commentary, the Vatican makes it clear that if there are not enough priests to go around, there is a hierarchy of solutions that should be attempted. These include: obtaining the services of religious priests to serve the faithful; bringing priests out of retirement, giving two or more parishes to one priest (twinning), employing permanent deacons to facilitate pastoral ministry; employing laity to facilitate pastoral ministry (cf:Art.4).
6) Priests have already been identified who could help with Mass on a rotational part-time basis at the invitation of Fr. Benn, i.e., Msgr. John Galyo, Fr. Francis Kelly, Fr. Nicholas Dininni, and Fr. Paul Bryan (and Fr. Nicholas DiProspero in emergencies). We are confident that if allowed the opportunity, we could find a priest who would accept the assignment as resident pastor of Holy Trinity Parish.
7) The main objections to the continued twinning of St. Aloysius and Holy Trinity Parishes focus around the time Fr. Benn can spend with parishioners. The fact that the two parishes are only a few blocks apart, the number of Masses will not decrease, and the number of parishioners will not decrease, makes the argument about "priest shortage" moot. Add to this point the fact that the parishioners have existed without a resident priest for 14 years, and can continue as such. As evidence of this, a large number of parishes within the U.S. continue to exist without a resident priest. While a resident priest is something to hope for, and should be the normal experience of a parish, the resident priest does not constitute a necessary element for a parish to exist. The parish identity is established by the people. The Parish revolves around Christ and the Community of the Faithful. The pastor is available to provide the sacraments and minister to the People of God. We fail to see how suppressing Holy Trinity will provide the parishioners with more access to a priest.
Recognizing this fact, canon law provides: If, because of a lack of priests, the diocesan bishop has decided that participation in the exercise of the pastoral care of a parish is to be entrusted to a deacon, to another person who is not a priest, or to a community of persons, he is to appoint some priest who, provided with the powers and faculties of a pastor, is to direct the pastoral care (Canon 517§2).
8) Because other options have not been explored, and because of the objections against the parish remaining open do not have a reasonable basis, it seems, on appearance, that the intent is for either the Archdiocese or St. Aloysius Parish to obtain the $1 million Holy Trinity has in the bank. This raises serious concerns in the minds of parishioners about the proper administration of donated money.
9) Mercenary priests (as described by Fr. Benn), priests who assist with weekend Masses, don't make a parish: neither does closing one. In many places, a parish priest has obligations to more than one parish or to more than 3000 people. This is a determining factor regarding the assignment of a priest. But, closing a parish because a priest can't handle it doesn't make sense, especially when viable options have not been explored.
10) It appears duplicitous
and misleading for the parishioners to have been encouraged to grow the parish,
expand ministry, and even hire a PSD, all of which they've done only to be told
that the writing has been on the wall to close the parish.
If the viability of a parish is measured by the spiritual commitment of the parishioners and their willingness to take care of the parish patrimony (property) without expectation of payment, the parish is viable, even more so than St. Aloysius and most parishes in the country. The 200+ letters submitted to the Cluster Implementation Committee regarding the preliminary evaluation testify to the viability of the parish. Each letter, by virtue of the fact that it was signed and submitted by a separate and unique individual(s), makes it a separate and distinct entity. Denying this diminishes the identity and the intent of each person who submitted a letter.
We respectfully recommend the continuation of Holy Trinity as an independent parish. We continue to maintain that Holy Trinity is the model of a self-sufficient parish. We have demonstrated repeatedly that we can make this work. We have shown that we are a viable and vibrant parish, not a dying one. Moreover, the preliminary recommendation was reached without consensus. Let the record show that the parishioners of Holy Trinity oppose this recommendation for the reasons cited above as demonstrated by the number of signatures on the attached petition.
We request the opportunity to obtain the services of a priest (religious, retired, or extern) who would be in residence. That being accomplished, we are confident that we can continue to be the viable parish that we already are.
Members of Holy Trinity Pastoral Council and Finance Committee