This FAQ was made available this past weekend at the Masses in Virden and Girard. I post it now for you here:
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
ABOUT THE FORMATION OF THE PASTORAL UNIT
OF THE PARISHES OF AUBURN, GIRARD & VIRDEN
Why is this happening so suddenly?
In February of 2010 the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois initiated the process of forming the 2010 Diocesan Pastoral Plan. Through this process the Diocese was divided into twelve “regions” to look toward the year 2013 with the aim “to create a plan that can be used to guide future parish collaboration and pastoral assignments that uphold the mission of Jesus Christ and the Church as we face the challenges of the decreasing numbers of priests and geographical fluctuations.”
The Diocesan Pastoral Plan – both as was proposed by the Office of the Chancellor (simply as a means to start a discussion) and as was proposed by the Region 12 Planning Committee from their meeting on April 28th – was presented to Sacred Heart and St. Patrick Parishes at a joint parish meeting on May 16th. Both plans were summarized in the parish bulletin on May 23rd.
It was then thought that – at the earliest – the plan proposed by the Region 12 Planning Committee for one priest to be assigned to Holy Cross Parish in Auburn, St. Patrick Parish in Girard and Sacred Heart Parish in Virden would be implemented next year, or – at the latest – by the summer of 2013.
The Diocese currently has fewer than 75 priests serving 131 parishes. This year 2 priests were ordained, while at the same time 2 priests retired and 1 priest took a leave of absence, whereas it was only expected that 1 priest would retire this year. This is what prompted the sudden implementation of the plan.
In most cases there is a much lengthier period of time to organize the transition to a Pastoral Unit and much more information being shared in advance. In this situation, there was not time for such planning and coordination and many of the necessary decisions and structures are still being examined.
Has the Diocese had this plan in mind all along?
No. The Diocese has had several options under consideration, none of which were definitely decided upon.
Even the proposals to arise from the 2010 Diocesan Pastoral Plan – which continues to be formed in the other eleven regions – was to come not from the Diocese but from the regions themselves.
Why is Father moving to Auburn?
The Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, in view of the current circumstances, will not grant permission to build the new rectory that was being planned, nor will permission be granted to renovate the current rectory in Virden. Doing so, when there is an empty rectory in Auburn that is in good condition and has been maintained over the years, would make little financial sense and would be a poor stewardship of parish goods.
Why are there not two Sunday Masses in Virden or in Auburn?
The universal law of the Church permits a priest to celebrate no more than three Masses for Sundays, either on Saturday evenings or throughout the day on Sunday itself; Bishop Lucas extended this permission to celebrate not more than four Masses for Sunday when the need should arise This permission was not intended to become routine, though in certain cases it has become so. From time to time, Father Daren can celebrate four Masses for a Sunday, but his stamina will not allow him to do so on a regular basis, especially in the winter months; therefore, each parish has one Mass each weekend for a total of three Sunday Masses.
Why are only three Masses celebrated to fulfill the Sunday obligation in the three parishes?
The answer is the same as above: The universal law of the Church permits a priest to celebrate no more than three Masses for Sundays, either on Saturday evenings or throughout the day on Sunday itself; Bishop Lucas extended this permission to not more than four Masses for Sunday. From time to time, Father Daren can celebrate four Masses for a Sunday, but his stamina will not allow him to do so on a regular basis, especially in the winter months; therefore, each parish has one Mass each weekend.
If we had four Masses each weekend, could we not have a retired priest celebrate one of the Masses on a regular basis?
Our retired priests are aging and many of them are unable to drive; those who are able to drive are often scheduled in parishes many months in advance, particularly over the summer months. There would be no guarantee that a retired priest could be secured for each weekend of the year, making this idea, though a good one, not a viable option.
Why is the weekday Mass in Virden?
The weekday Mass is in Virden because of the size of congregations for daily Masses. In Auburn, two or three people attend daily Mass; in Pawnee, up to eight people attend daily Mass; in Virden, between nine and twenty-five people attend daily Mass depending on the day of the week; Girard does not have a daily Mass. It does not make a great deal of sense to celebrate Mass for a couple of people when many more are waiting in another location.
Why is the weekday Mass not celebrated on a rotation between the churches?
A rotating Mass schedule – for weekdays or weekends – almost always results in a decrease in Mass attendance across the board. Most people simply will not take the trouble to determine where Mass is celebrated on a given day and go there.
Why is there no Mass in Sacred Heart church in Divernon?
Sacred Heart church in Divernon is not handicapped accessible and poses a possible risk to those who would attend Mass there, many of whom are elderly. The church is also the smallest of the four churches in the pastoral unit and would likely not be able to hold the size of a congregation that would be expected between three Masses. All things being equal, an average congregation would consist of 198 persons; Sacred Heart church in Divernon seats only 125 persons.
When and where will Masses be celebrated for the Holy Days of Obligation? What about Christmas, the Triduum and Easter?
These schedules are yet to be determined.
Will we have a common bulletin?
At least in the beginning, the parishes will retain separate bulletins, though common information will be shared. Whether or not we move to a common bulletin remains to be seen.
How will religious education be provided?
Each parish will provide its own religious education for children this coming year, be it CCD or PSR. The hope for the future is to have the three parishes coordinate together for these classes so as not to duplicate each other and to combine our efforts for a greater and more effective religious education.
How will we pay for staff? How will we fund ministries and programs?
The shared costs of the parishes will be proportionately distributed between them. Holy Cross Parish will provide 40%, Sacred Heart Parish will provide 35% and St. Patrick Parish will provide 25%.
Each parish will be responsible for the costs of its buildings, with the exception of the rectory, which will be a shared expense.
What will the new PSR and CCD schedule for Holy Cross Sacred Heart Parishes be?
Holy Cross Parish will likely hold PSR following the 8:30 a.m. Mass and Sacred Heart Parish will likely hold CCD before the 10:30 a.m. Mass. These details have yet to be arranged.
What will be done with the old rectory in Virden?
At this point, it is not certain what will be done with the rectory in Virden. Assuming Diocesan approval, it will likely be sold. The Diocese would prefer us not to rent property because of the liability concerns associated with it. Sacred Heart Parish does currently rent a home to [name here withheld], which we will continue to do.
What will happen with the plans drawn up for a new rectory?
The plans for a new rectory in Virden will be kept to perhaps be in used in the future in Virden or elsewhere.
If I normally put a loose check (not in an envelope) in the collection basket, how will I know if it goes to the right church?
The collection counters at each of the parishes will be instructed and advised to keep a careful eye out for checks written to other parishes and envelopes placed in the collection from other parishes.
Using your parish envelopes will greatly help in these efforts; if you place your envelope at another parish, you consider circling your name and parish on the envelope with a marker to help the collection counters spot it.
What is the size of each of the parishes?
Using figures from the 2010 Diocesan Pastoral Directory and the 2010 October Count, the parish statistics are as follows [the table didn't transfer to Blogger, but you get the idea]:
Individuals Mass Attendance % Weekly Attendance Seating
Holy Cross 394 945 274 29% 240 (Auburn)
Sacred Heart 169 415 207 50% 305
St. Patrick 127 254 106 42% 210
Why was there no consultation from the parishioners in this plan?
While it is true that there has not been an open forum discussion toward the plans, it is not true that there has been consultation in the plans.
As once announced in the bulletin on March 14th, I asked Greg Maynerich and Tony Rothering from Sacred Heart Parish and George Hart and Mike Walter from St. Patrick to sit on the planning committee.
When the plan was presented to the Parishes on May 16th we asked for concerns, comments and suggestions. In the bulletin of June 13th, it was again said that concerns, comments and suggestions could be given to the members of the planning committee; none of the members received any calls.
Who are the representatives from the parishes?
Steve Baker and Dave Miller represent Holy Cross Parish; Greg Maynerich and Tony Rothering represent Sacred Heart Parish; and George Hart and Mike Walter represent St. Patrick Parish.
Where do we go from here?
We must sincerely and continuously beg the Lord for more priests! Ask yourself these questions: When was the last time I truly prayed for our priests? When was the last time I truly prayed for more vocations to the priesthood? When was the last time I actively encouraged a young man to consider the priesthood?