A plan presented to Archbishop Allen Vigneron to address a shortage of priests, along with financial challenges in the Archdiocese of Detroit, includes a proposal to unite with three other churches, St. Vincent Ferrer in Madison Heights, and Mary Magdalen and St. Justin in Hazel Park, the archdiocese announced on Wednesday.
Royal Oak's two other Catholic communities, and are proposed to be stand-alone churches because they are “each sustainable, strong sacramentally, and are strategically located within the community,” according to the plan, which is the result of a yearlong pastoral planning process.
As part of the process, the Archdiocean Pastoral Council, a group of lay leaders from throughout the archdiocese, have come up with a list of church closing and consolidation proposals for Vigneron.
The plans for the Royal Oak parishes are addressed in the South Oakland Vicariate Planning Group 2 that also includes churches in Hazel Park, Madison Heights, Ferndale, Berkley, Clawson, Oak Park and Troy.
According to the archdiocese website, the recommendations the archbishop received call for nine parishes to close within five years and another 60 parishes to merge. Cluster arrangements, where separate parishes share a single pastor, have also been proposed, as well as multi-parish initiatives where services such as marketing/funding, purchasing, training and financial services would be shared.
St. Mary is currently part of a cluster that includes in Ferndale. The two churches share one pastor, the Rev. Steven Wertanen, and a coordinator of Christian services, but each parish has its own business manager, office manager and music minister.
Under the proposed recommendations, St. James would form a new community along with Our Lady of Fatima (Oak Park) and (Berkley).
The Archdiocesan Pastoral Council distributed a letter last weekend in church bulletins that encouraged parishioners to speak with their pastors and parish planning groups regarding the recommendations and to visit the Together in Faith website for a summary of the process.
“It’s just a planning group making recommendations. We are not officially saying anything,” said Jane McKay of St. Dennis, who noted the archbishop might review the proposals and come up with his own idea.
McKay said she spent the morning downloading documents for the Rev. John Christ, the St. Dennis pastor, so he could review them.
“The pastors were not part of the Pastoral Council. The recommendations were made by lay people,” so they were seeing the proposals for the first time along with everyone else, she said.
McKay said sharing a pastor in a cluster creates too much pressure and “becomes a drain on them.” Closing and consolidating churches is more appealing to her. “You have something new for everyone,” she said.
McKay said her intitial interpretation of the recommendation for her parish is that a single church building would house the parishes of St. Dennis, St. Vincent, St. Mary Magdalen and St. Justin, similar to what was done in Southfield when 4 Catholic parishes closed and merged into Transfiguration Parish (formerly St. Michael). McKay said Transfiguration has a "Prayer Garden," which includes statues brought over from the churches that were closed.
“Life is full of changes,” McKay said. “Sometimes it’s exciting when we get pushed out the nest.”