A round of consolidations and changes to the Catholic parishes was announced this past Sunday, and several parishes in the Bronx will close or merge with others.
The changes, part of the Archdiocese of New York’s Making All Things New Pastoral Planning Initiative, were announced on Sunday, November 2.
Parishioners will see St. Gabriel in Riverdale, St. Luke in Mott Haven, Blessed Sacrament in Soundview and St. Mary Star of the Sea on City Island merged with nearby parishes.
Masses and celebration of the sacraments will still take place at both the mother parish and the merged church, and there’s a general consensus that these changes have more to do with administration.
A second group of six parishes, including Visitation in Van Cortlandt Village, St. Ann in Norwood, St. Roch in Melrose, St. Pius V in Mott Haven, St. John Vianney in Castle Hill and Nativity of the Blessed Sacrament in Baychester will close altogether, with Masses and sacraments celebrated at designated parishes nearby, and the shuttered buildings used only for special occasions.
“This time of transition in the history of the archdiocese will undoubtedly be difficult for people who live in parishes that will merge,” said Timothy Cardinal Dolan, of the multi-year initiative.
“There will be many who are hurt and upset as they experience what will be a change in their spiritual lives, and I will be one of them. There is nobody who has been involved in Making All Things New who doesn’t understand the impact that this will have on the Catholic faithful.”
The Cardinal added: “It will be our responsibility to work with everyone in these parishes so as to help make the change as smooth as we possibly can.”
At one of the east Bronx parishes affected by the changes, St. Mary’s on City Island, there appeared to be relief that the church building and Masses and sacraments there will continue, but by August 2015 there will be a new consolidated parish serving the remote seaside community.
The pastor of Our Lady of Assumption Church in Pelham Bay, Monsignor Anthony Marchitelli, will assume responsibility for a newly combined OLA-St. Mary Star of the Sea Parish in August, he said.
“As far as I can tell, 90% of their functions will remain exactly the same,” said Marchitelli of both churches. “There will have to be changes in the schedule, because we are a big parish and now we are even bigger with the addition of Star of the Sea. In effect, I am the pastor of this one big parish which includes the people of Pelham Bay and City Island.”
Marchitelli expects a smooth transition, noting that he is originally from the Bronx and has been visiting City Island for years, and that he came to know many families on City Island when he was president of Archbishop Stepinac High School. He envisions a single parish council for both churches.
“People are relieved in that services would not be cut,” said island civic leader John Doyle. “But with an eye towards the future, there is apprehension.”
City Island Civic Association president Bill Stanton said that churches were important to the island, and that he was not pleased with even the possibility of having the island’s Catholic church closed. He likened saving it to a successful campaign to keep the island’s Fire Department Ladder Company 53 in operation.
“Pulling a church from City Island is not different from pulling out the fire department” said Stanton.