Our parish closed, where should we go?
Stan and Elaine have been attending St. Agnes Parish for all their lives. Now, it has closed. Elaine wants to go to the new parish community being formed at St. John Vianney Church. Stan wants to go somewhere closer to home.
She wants to join new merged parish
Elaine says: I grew up in St. Agnes Parish. I was baptized, made my first communion and was confirmed there. Stan and I were married there 25 years ago. We’ve continued to attend St. Agnes, even though we moved away. Now, St. Agnes is closing and I want to go where the parish is going – the new community at St. John Vianney Church. Stan says it’s not worth the drive.
He wants to find a church closer to home
Stan says: I’m tired of driving right past one church to get to another. I’m really sorry St. Agnes is closing, but now that it is, I’d just as soon go to the church closest to us – St. Robert’s. I know Elaine has strong ties to the people at St. Agnes, but I really think it’s time for us to move on. It won’t be the same anyway.
Stan and Elaine are experiencing a time of grieving. Their old parish is a part of the fabric of their lives – they grew up there, they raised their children there. But, as is always the case, life is constantly changing. As much as we may long for everything to stay the same, it never does, nor should it.
What should they do?: So, how do Stan and Elaine proceed? Slowly.
This is a time of new beginnings. Even if they decide to go to the new community at St. John Vianney, things will not be exactly the same as they were at St. Agnes. It will be a new parish, experiencing a time of exciting birth – and the accompanying pains. Parishioners will be negotiating all the little customs that are the heart and soul of parish life: What is the ‘favorite’ music; do we serve doughnuts or bagels at the coffee hour after Mass; do the children at a first communion Mass sit with their families or with each other? This will be a time of compromise.
Just as it will be for the parish, it will also be a time of compromise for Stan and Elaine. They should spend some time visiting parishes – together. There is no rush – they do not need to register in a new parish within some set period after St. Agnes closes. And they will need time to grieve the loss of their former parish home. Stan and Elaine should take their time and discover which parish best feeds their souls and leads them to holiness.
Almost every parish is, by definition, territorial. You live in a parish – if you do not register elsewhere, it is your parish by default. For Stan and Elaine, it may be that the closer parish gives them an opportunity to really get involved in a way that they couldn’t in their former parish. There may be different activities – they could participate in evening programs; perhaps volunteer to teach in the religious formation program.
However, Stan and Elaine have a choice – they are not limited by the territorial boundaries. We drive across town to the mall, we drive to restaurants. The new parish community may have music they find uplifting, it may offer after-Mass socializing with old friends. In the Diocese of Lansing, we are free to register in a parish of our choice.
Stan and Elaine should take their time with each parish – make sure they are really getting to know the pastor, the parishioners, the customs. While they are visiting, they should support the parish financially.
We cannot be visitors forever, however. Eventually, one parish will feel comfortable to them. It’s important that they both agree this is the right place for them as a couple. When that time comes, they should register at the parish office – and know that they have come home.