Practice what you preach

In a day and age when the head of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI, has his own 21st century pulpit, a Twitter feed, why is it so difficult for the Archbishop of Newark to grant an audience to a local community that is so clearly devoted to their parish, and more importantly, to their priests?
The number of worshippers in the United States and the world has been on the decline. And the number of priests has also tumbled. Replacements for aging men of the cloth can be hard to come by, and financially speaking, the church has been struggling as much as any household. Many parishes have closed in recent years all around the world due to financial burdens, and when they do, often times their parishioners are visibly upset, and can even feel betrayed.
In one local community in Elizabeth, this is exactly what is taking place, according to some parishioners. At St. Mary’s Church in Elizabeth, word spread just before Christmas about a change in leadership. According to the church, the monsignor in charge is being forced to retire, and three other priests are being relocated. A new staff will come in, guided by the archbishop’s assistant, and investigate the financial burdens at the house of worship before a permanent replacement is found.
But according to some devout followers of the parish, this is the last thing they want. Msgr. Robert Harrington, along with three other priests, have been staples of the community for some time, tailoring to the needs of the immigrant- and Hispanic-heavy local population.
“This abrupt and drastic action by the archdiocese jeopardizes the many ministries that serve immigrants in this area — the poor, homeless and elderly,” Barbara Burke, a parishioner said, noting the loss of these beloved priests will have “a tremendously negative impact on the local community.”
“It is our belief that such a drastic event warrants a thorough explanation and dialogue, neither of which has happened,” she even wrote in a letter to the Archdiocese. And now, this devout follower is hoping for assurances that the church, schools and ministries will be retained. But still, as of press time, no contact has been made and all indications are that the plan will proceed as January comes to a close.
We find a lack of a “thorough explanation and dialogue” granted to those immediately affected — the parishioners — to be very un-Catholic. As any person of faith can attest, their religion is a community, built on faith and trust. Faith in their God, and faith in their fellow brethren. According to all accounts, no one understood this as much as Msgr. Harrington.
When a community so overwhelmingly stands by their pastor and their priests, we would like to think the Archbishop is listening, taking their stories and their faith into account, and finding the best possible solution that works for the community affected.
Often times non-religious 20th century people will quarrel with what some say are the 15th century views of the church, stopping them from joining. And LocalSource is not saying here that the church should change their beliefs on controversial issues to attract more people. We are simply saying, in a common sense approach, that replacement priests and new followers have been hard to come by. Perhaps the Archbishop should make very careful considerations when affecting the community of the members he already has. As any person of faith can attest, churches have come to stand for so much more than simply houses of worship, and in this case, it appears it is that sense of communion that is being left out.