March 8, 2015
By Shawn Ryan
Plattsburgh - There has not been a single year in the past 2,000 that the Catholic Church has not undergone some sort of change.
This past fall, parishioners of the three parishes within the city of Plattsburgh were told that change was coming to their doorstep.
Since at least 1987, under the direction of then Bishop Stanislaus J. Brzana, the Diocese of Ogdensburg has begun to prepare for the decline in number of priests that is affecting nearly every diocese in the country.
As part of the most recent iteration of that evolving plan, Bishop Terry LaValley announced in August that Saint John the Baptist, Saint Peter’s and Our Lady of Victory will consolidate, as they are weaned down to one full time pastor, one full time parochial vicar, and one part time parochial vicar.
“Parishes, even dioceses, have come into and out of existence throughout the history of the Church,” said Msgr. Dennis J. Duprey, pastor of St. Peter’s. “The great thing about our Church, is that it’s always come out of periods of change stronger.”
“It’s a foregone conclusion,” said Mike Murray, a trustee at St. John’s and a member of the steering committee. “With fewer and fewer priests it’s pretty cut and dry,”
Murray was quick to praise the way Bishop LaValley and the three Plattsburgh pastors are conducting the planning process.
From the start, parishioners have been asked to weigh in on proposed changes, and the planning has been going on in an open and transparent manner.
Msgr. Duprey and Murray agree that one of the most challenging considerations of the process involves the use of the facilities. Careful thought is being given to which church properties are the most viable, and which may have to be shuttered.
“Oftentimes we don’t reflect the communities we’re in,” Msgr. Duprey said. “Sometimes we keep churches in existence just for old times. We have to look at what do we have, and where do we go from here.”
But in a city where rivalries from the two formerly thriving Catholic high schools (which merged to form Seton Catholic in 1989) still exist, change is not always appreciated.
“There are going to be a lot of unhappy people when it happens,” said Murray, a proud graduate of the former St. John’s Academy.
“None of us want this to happen,” he said. “We want to keep our own parishes and priests. But, we also want to keep a strong Catholic presence in the area.”
Living Stones plans
The LSPC developed a plan, with strategies for implementation, that intends to:
Over the next 10 to 18 months, parishes in every Deanery in the Diocese will be touched by some sort of change or consolidation.
This fact both Msgr. Duprey and Murray agree, is a call for parishioners to step up, and step into lay ministry as never before.
“Ministry itself isn’t about a building, Msgr. Duprey said, “but about people and God.”
As many throughout the Diocese look on, the parishes of Plattsburgh are well on their way down the road that will lead us through that change, and on to a stronger presence in Plattsburgh’s Catholic community.