Home Page Home Page Events Events Photos Photos Diocese of Ogdensburg Home Page  
Follow Us on Facebook

Archives Uniting parishes with living stones
Parishioners in three Essex Deanery parishes  prepare for life with just one pastor

June 17, 2015

Submitted by: Dan Alexander of St. Elizabeth Church, Elizabethtown; James Forcier of St. Philip Neri, Westport; and Susan Fahey of St. Philip of Jesus/St. Joseph, Willsboro/Essex.

Two heads are generally better than one when it comes to most things. When it came to linking parishes it definitely worked very well for Fathers Francis J. Flynn and Raymond J. Moreau. 

Father Flynn was assigned as pastor of the parishes of St Elizabeth’s in Elizabethtown, and St Philip Neri in Westport in September 2012.  About a year later Father Moreau was assigned as temporary administrator of The Catholic Community of St. Philip of Jesus in Willsboro and St. Joseph in Essex.

The two priests immediately began making plans for the transition, not knowing how long they would have to put things in order before Father Moreau would be reassigned.

Parish finances
To start with, they addressed the fact that there were two bookkeepers and two separate finance councils.
Six months in, after careful deliberation, it was decided to centralize all the bookkeeping for all three parishes and employ only one bookkeeper.

The finance councils were organized to meet at the same time.  However, all the parish financial matters would continue to be separate and fiscal decisions made solely from each individual parish. 

The pastoral council also was reorganized to create a joint council.

The next step was to have one weekly bulletin serving all the parishes.  This took place in July 2014. 

Father Moreau trained a parishioner to prepare and format the weekly bulletin, which is printed locally and features advertisers from all the communities served by the parishes.

Pastoral leaders
Father Moreau and Father Flynn then started changing places one weekend a month allowing both priests to become familiar with the people in all the parishes. 

In addition, Deacon Paul White, who was ordained for the parishes of Elizabethtown and Westport, now serves all the parishes.

Deacon White has assisted the transition in a number of ways. Initially he started by alternating weekends between the churches. One weekend he served in Elizabethtown and Westport and the other weekend he would serve at Willsboro and Essex.

Catholic Daughters
Willsboro is the home of a strong Catholic Daughters of the Americas (CDA) Chapter   so it was only natural that membership was extended to parishioners in Elizabethtown and Westport.

CDA Members were invited to make a presentation during the Masses one weekend in early July 2014 and invited the women of all the parishes to join the chapter and enhance the membership; several new members were recruited.

Mass schedule
In the summer of 2014, the parishes held a combined parish and finance council meeting. It was decided that the Mass schedule would be tightened for future weekend Masses preparing for one priest serving four churches.
St. Joseph's had services for four months during the summer but, thinking ahead, parish leaders knew that another Mass would need to be eliminated between St. Elizabeth's and St. Philip of Jesus in the summer of 2015. In preparation for that change it was decided to reduce St. Joseph's summer schedule to just July and August when the majority of the summer residents attend.

Parish vendors
Supplies and vendors were another area of consolidation. Bids were requested from ten fuel oil companies, and the low bidder was hired to provide fuel oil for all three parishes which consisted of four church buildings, three rectories, and two parish halls.

Several area Protestant churches were interested in joining the bidding process, enhancing the buying power even further. Prior to that there were three different fuel oil distributors servicing the three parishes. That has now been reduced to one vendor with savings realized in making the move.

Bids also were sent out for plowing and shoveling, with one vendor now plowing for two of the churches.

Transition begins
This year's Lenten parish mission was offered over three evenings, with each parish hosting one of the evenings.

Since it appeared the transition was going smoothly and the parishioners were assimilating into the new structure permission was requested to begin the reduced weekend Mass schedule on Divine Mercy Sunday with the expectation that Father Moreau would be re-assigned this summer.

By making the change a few weeks early it allowed for a systematic scheduling of Mass requests, all made and coordinated through one office.  This meant that one priest could cover all the Masses from this point forward but at the same time allowed for both priests to still be available for the transition.

It also allowed Father Flynn and Father Moreau the opportunity to provide coverage for priests in the deanery and beyond should other pastors need a weekend off. Several pastors were able to take advantage of this offer allowing Father Moreau to cover for them while Father Flynn tended to the new Mass schedule in Westport, Elizabethtown and Willsboro/Essex.

Lay ministry
At the beginning of March, parishioners serving as Eucharistic ministers, lectors, altar servers and greeters were asked to indicate which Mass they would prefer to serve once the new weekend Mass schedule took effect.
Since Willsboro will no longer have a Saturday evening Mass and Elizabethtown will no longer have a Sunday morning Mass, lay ministers were free to maintain their ministry in whichever parish or parishes they desired.
In addition, the 2015 church contribution envelopes were color coded to ease the process and to assure parishioners their contributions would be redirected to the parish of which they are members regardless of which church they attended for Mass.

Outside the church walls, parishioners have supported each other’s parish fund raisers within the new cluster of parishes

Father Flynn and Father Moreau communicate on a daily basis by email, or phone, and are constantly tweaking things and sharing ideas and suggestions.

Father Moreau has been careful not to start any new program without first discussing it with Father Flynn, and deciding whether it is something Father Flynn could continue once he is alone.

This cooperation has definitely been an advantage as parishioners share ideas and start doing things togetherwith the future in mind. 

essex deaneryThe people of the parishes have been completely supportive and seem to appreciate seeing the two pastors working together for the well-being of the parishes and the parishioners.

And now, this two headed story has a happy ending with the recent announcement of Father Moreau’s new assignment as pastor of St. Mary’s Church in Brushton and St. Augustine’s Church in North Bangor.

Father Flynn, in addition to his current pastoral responsibilities, also being named pastor of The Catholic Community of St. Philip of Jesus in Willsboro and St. Joseph in Essex. 

Both appointments are effective July 1.

When Father Raymond J. Moreau was named temporary administrator in Willsboro/Essex in 2013, parishioners understood that the time before their parish was linked with Elizabethtown and Westport, led by Father Francis J. Flynn, was limited. During the past t wo years changes have been made to insure that the transition to a single pastor was a smooth one. Among the changes was the publication of one weekly bulletin, shown above,  for all the parishes in the cluster.  Here, representatives from each of the parishes explain other efforts that have been made.


North Country Catholic North Country Catholic is
honored by Catholic Press
Association of US & Canada

Copyright © Roman Catholic Diocese of Ogdensburg. All rights reserved.