September 2017 Four County Catholic
My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
The Holy Father’s message further explains that, “Unity grows along the way. It never stands still.” In these few plainly spoken words of wisdom, His Holiness, Pope Francis, captures the challenge and opportunity of our time. How, in our own diocese, do we adapt as a community to best position ourselves to live and share our faith going forward?
We recognize that the world around us will not stand still. In fact, the pace of change is accelerating. Our mission is to adapt responsibly, restructure thoughtfully, renew and draw closer together. It has been four months since we took the steps to merge four parishes with four neighboring parishes to strengthen and invigorate the newlyjoined parishes. I am pleased to share with you
how we are progressing.
You are aware from previous communications and discussions with your pastors that the parish restructuring announced in May was the outcome of a careful reassessment of such considerations as where our churches are located in proximity to one another, number of parishioners attending Mass, number of baptisms over recent years, sacramental life activity, faith formation, population patterns, financial burdens of the 21st century and, so importantly, a limited number of priests. Our collective responsibility is to face these realities and pull together to ensure stable and revitalized communities of faith. Meeting this responsibility can be unsettling and painful to many.
I would like to thank those parishioners who have taken the time to write to me and express concerns and heavy hearts over losing their close ties to the parish church to which their families have been so attached for generations. I pray with you to find comfort in knowing the Holy Spirit is guiding us forward, through this period of adjustment. I would also like to thank those who have let me know they are ready to step forward and help in anyway they can to make the parish restructuring work. I feel, on everyone’s part, a genuine commitment to what will yield the greatest good for all of us as we follow the teachings of Christ and his universal Church. We are one family in Christ.
As the parish realigning takes place, I am pleased to also recognize that we have a church in the process of rebuilding in Pawcatuck. The reconstruction of Saint Michael the Archangel Church began five years ago as an engineering review of the 150-year-old church structure. As Father Perkins describes the process, it grew into a commitment on the part of the parishioners to rebuild and revitalize the parish. As you noticed on the cover of this issue of the Four County Catholic, the church is beginning to resemble its original appearance.
Phase II of their fundraising to finish the interior is still ahead. Father Perkins attributes the entire effort to the vitality and strength of faith of the parishioners. He turns to Hebrews 11:1 to acknowledge the source of their support to see the rebuilding through to completion over the next two years: “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.”
Father Dennis has also noted that St. Michael is blessed with a number of favorable circumstances, in addition to its vibrant sacramental life, that help to encourage a major rebuild at this time. Among those factors is the increasing population along the shoreline, the renaissance of the sister cities of Pawcatuck and Westerly, the proximity of St. Michael School across the street, and the location and accessibility of the church on one of the busiest main roads in town. A beautiful new church, with its ample grounds for future parish use, will stand as a living symbol of evangelization. A very positive constellation of circumstances.
Recently, I had the privilege of joining a diocesan delegation at the convocation, The Joy of the Gospel in America. It was a very high-energy gathering of representatives of dioceses from across the Country. One of its primary themes was “How do we carry on our mission in these trying times?” I would say to you that the Diocese of Norwich, through your resilience of faith, is answering the challenges before us. We are responding by bonding together more closely, realigning some parishes and even rebuilding where that is best and is possible. We are doing this in a thoughtful collaboratively planned way. “Unity happens when we walk together.”
Please continue to pray that we will move forward together into the future, helping one another through all challenges, rejoicing together over our abundant blessings, and being confident always of God’s love and mercy.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Bishop Michael R. Cote