National Coalition of Parishes Announced
On Sunday, April 20, Boston’s Council of Parishes organized two press conferences in Washington DC and Boston to announce the formation of a new national Coalition of Parishes. The news came just in time for the Pope’s visit. The group includes Catholics from six U.S. dioceses: New York, Boston, Buffalo, Camden, New Orleans and Toledo.
The new national collaboration is spearheaded by Peter Borre, who assisted Boston parishioners resisting the closing of their vibrant, solvent parishes. A recent Vatican response to the appeal from St. Jeanne D’Arc parish acknowledged it was closed to preserve the solvency of the Boston Archdiocese reeling from the clergy sex abuse scandal. Previously, archdiocesan officials had insisted this was not the case. Currently, ten Boston parishes are appealing closure in civil and canonical courts.
FutureChurch board member Rita L. Houlihan announced our support at the New York media event: “We are happy to stand in solidarity with parishioners like those here today who are working to keep their vital, viable and apostolically effective parishes open. As Catholics, we expect to find the leading of the Holy Spirit in our bishops and diocesan administration. We also claim the wisdom of the Spirit alive in each parishioner and in each parish community.” FutureChurch pledged help though its education and advocacy resources and noted that the ParishWatch section of its website currently has links to media stories about parish reconfigurations in over 39 U.S dioceses.
In addition to USA Today, the New York Times and the New Orleans Times-Picayune carried articles about the founding of the new Coalition.
The New York Times page one story quoted Dan Thiel, a contractor and deacon trainee from Upper Sandusky, Ohio, who was asked by the Toledo diocese to gather information from parishes on which ones could be merged or clustered. Thiel was appalled when some very vital parishes were cut. His own was reduced to a chapel without a resident priest. “They’ve totally abandoned our community,” said Thiel, in the Times interview. Thiel is now president of United Parishes, a group that is fighting parish closings in Toledo. “They took the buildings, they took the money, and said ‘You guys can go somewhere else.’ ”