Well, after another hiatus, Will Write For Boots is back! I finally remedied my computer and system issues. (It’s amazing how a new laptop with up-to-date will do that!) While I would love for this first post back to be a review of one of the books I’ve been reading, my thoughts on a new television show or a list of my favorite items on Etsy, there is something that is happening in my area that is very close to my heart. I feel this is the best platform is the best place for me to express my feelings on the subject. (Hey, What’s the point of having a blog if you can’t use it to share your thoughts on issues?)
So, what’s my head wrapped up with that I feel the need to share it with all of you? The Catholic church I’ve been a member of all twenty-five years of my life St. Ann in Bristol, PA will be closing and merging with another parish in less than a week.
At the beginning of this month, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia made its final decisions on which parishes will merge in its latest round of closings. The 46 parishes involved in this round have been under consideration since 2010 by the Archdiocese’s Pastoral Planning Committee, according to Philly.com. The committee’s recommendations were released to the public at the beginning of April, and the final decisions were released at the beginning of June. Effective July 1, many churches will be closing their doors and be absorbed by another parish of the Archdiocese’s choosing. All property, finances and parishioner paperwork of the closing church will transferred over to the absorbing parish, making all the members of the closing church parishioners of that parish. The closed church’s building will become a worship site to be used at discretion of the remaining parish’s pastor for weddings, funerals, feast days and select services. The church that will absorb the closing parish will keep its name as well as its pastor and priests.
Come July 1, my church St. Ann will close and merge with fellow Bristol parish St. Mark, which sits a few blocks away. Our church will become a worship site with only one mass on Sunday, our priests who are of the Trinitarian order will be sent back to their headquarters in Maryland, and our official parish name will be St. Mark.
For myself and my fellow St. Ann parishioners, our church is so much more than just a place where we go and celebrate mass. For many of us, it is our second family. It is the living legacy of the Italian immigrants who started the parish and built the actual church with their blood, sweat and tears. It is our history with and connection to the Trinitarian Order who have staffed our church and whose blue and red crosses decorate its walls and statues. It is the place we affectionately refer to as Grandma’s House, nickname donned because our patron saint was the grandmother of Jesus and because of the welcoming, warm and loving atmosphere the church exudes. It is the familiar faces in the pews, the families and the friends that great you every time you enter from their usual seats. It is where we worship together, volunteer together, celebrate together, and, at times, mourn together.
In many ways, this feels like a death in my family. I have been a member of St. Ann my whole life. It is where my parents and grandparents were married, where my brother and I made our sacraments, and where I’ve attended hundreds of services. It is the place that employed my grandfather for years and where I have put in countless volunteer hours since I was young. It is where I met people, both lay and the amazing Trinitarian priests that have been a part of my life over the years, who have helped shaped me into the woman I am today. Looking back at my life, St. Ann is a part of many of my favorite and most cherished memories. As an adult, it is a place I am spiritually connected to, feel completely comfortable at, and, most of all, the place where I belong.
Since the announcement has been made, the St. Ann community has put up a noble fight launching the campaign St. Ann Strong: Save Our Church. We have made an official appeal the ruling to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, and if the appeal is denied, there is a possibility an appeal could be made to the Vatican in Rome. We have held rallies, made appeals to local media and gathered 1,800 signatures in petition of the closing. Social media has also played a big role in our efforts as well. People have been tweeting the Pope and leaving comments on the pages of the Vatican, the Archdiocese and the key players in this decision. Tonight, there a Facebook event called St. Ann Strong: One Voice. At 7 pm, a post will be made on the event’s page and the St. Ann Strong:Save Our Church page to be liked, shared and commented on to try to take our message viral. (If your interested in participation, click on one of the page links.)
As I post this, there has not been an official ruling on our appeal. Yet as the merger deadline approaches, we maintain our faith, our spirit and our strength. We remain a community of faith and family. We remain St. Ann Strong.