Monday, June 27, 2005

Father knows best....

Holy Family Catholic Church, in the Tower Grove South neighborhood, celebrated their last Mass today and is off to the auction block.

For an institution that prides itself as a shepherd, the Archdiocese has certainly paid little attention to the interests of its flock. Citing financial difficulties, the St. Louis Archdiocese has closed thirteen churches and consolidated many of the remaining parishes. Countless catholics in the city fought to preserve their parish; some succeeded, like St. Pius V on South Grand Blvd, some didn't, like Holy Family.
Holy Family Church
Holy Family Church

Numerous groups came together to offer solutions to the fiscal problems, most of them centered on the idea that the Archdiocese and ArchBishop Raymond Burke are thinking too short-term. The population in the city is beginning to stabilize, More and more affluent and younger individuals and some young couples are moving into the city. Many are moving into areas like Tower Grove South. Instead of touting the stabilizing affects the parishes have had on many neighborhoods in the city and the community social aspects a neighborhood church can offer, they have instead turned away many dedicated followers and have shuttered the doors on opportunities for growth.

Many of the catholics I have talked to all recognize that some form of restructuring was necessary, but cited the lack of real community input as well as some short-sighted assumptions as a significant source of anger and resentment directed towards the Archdiocese. Some of those most involved in fighting the closings said they felt the decisions had already been made and that parishioner input was mostly perfunctory. It took them a great deal of effort to even make the changes that were recognized in the final plan.

In the end, the situation was a nearly typical example of bureaucratic inertia combined with a paternal "we know what's best" attitude. The Archdiocese has dashed the faith of many dedicated followers who spent many hours trying to find solutions to the very real problems faced by the Catholic Church in St. Louis. The Archdiocese has also wasted a fantastic opportunity to tap into the new growth occurring in the city. Despite the cries against the "secularization" of modern society, people are still looking for community and faith, something the local parish and parish school offered.

Like the fight over St. Stanislaus in North St. Louis, the parish closings demonstrates a ham-fisted handling of difficult situations, the seeming callousness with which the Archbishop and the Archdiocese seemed to handle the troubles only rubbed salt into the wound.

The only positive outcome from this situation may be that the groups that coalesced to save their parish from the green eyeshades of the Archdiocese will remain connected and develop a stronger community, one that demands the Archdiocese deal with its followers as people, and not as numbers on a page.

- Murphy


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