BY ADAM ROSSIParishioners throughout the 14 counties of the Albany Diocese reacted with mixed emotions to the final pastoral plan, announced last weekend.
For some, it was a life-long tradition coming to an end. For others, it was a second chance. For the rest, it was a time to sympathize with their fellow Catholics and offer advice.
Such was the case at Holy Trinity Church in Cohoes.
Created through a 1998 merger of St. Marie's and St. Agnes/St. Patrick's, many parishioners there had already experienced what it is like to lose their own church.
While the atmosphere at the Saturday vigil was that of the regular Mass, there was full awareness of the news that had just been released moments earlier.
At St. Peter's in Troy, the mood was much more somber. The third oldest church in the state, it was named as one that will be closed. Though not a complete surprise, there was still a feeling of disbelief and grief.
"We ask God to pray for all the parishioners here through this time of transition, as we try of accept the decision of the Bishop," said Rev. William Gorman during 10:30 a.m. Mass on Sunday.
Looking past pain
He continued to offer words of encouragement after the celebration of the Eucharist.
"Convey your feelings to one another," he said. "All will be okay someday, sometime."
One church that received another chance was Holy Family in Albany. Created from Our Lady of Angels, St. Patrick's and St. Casimir's, the parish was given an extension until December of 2010. On Sunday, folks gathered for the 12 p.m. Spanish Mass to give their thanks and were urged to take advantage of the opportunity they were given.
As these and other parishes absorbed the Called to be Church decisions, members expressed heartbreak, resilience and hope. The Evangelist collected these comments from throughout the Diocese:
"I think the process was fair but, honestly, I might not feel that way if the outcome was different. I have a great deal of empathy for [Catholics whose parishes will close] because it was clear that any of the churches in our cluster could close...through the process we were trying to reach out to each other." - Marybeth Arcidiacono, St. Vincent de Paul
"I was the first one to clap! I don't know how anyone else here felt, but I was just so happy. People need to fight. Just keep fighting. You don't break communities like that." - Patricia Coraizaca, Holy Family
"I think it's sad that it has to come to this. We'll see what happens [in the future]." - Robert Gifford, Holy Trinity
"It must hurt those people a lot. It's just the times changing. You'd like to do something to prevent it, but I don't know. They're doing what they think is best, I guess." - Kim Fisher, Holy Trinity
HERKIMER AND OTSEGO COUNTIES
"I'm glad to say that no churches in Herkimer County are closing. They've taken enough hits over the last few years. We're safe now but who knows down the road. Every three to five years, they come up with a new plan and look into closing more parishes. We're not getting enough priests or candidates into the Diocese." - Bill Farrell, Annunciation, Ilion
"Only about 20 people go regularly so it would have been unconscionable to not close [Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a mission church]....I think this will be a disaster for the Church. People will stop going. They won't go somewhere else, especially the seniors who walk to church." - Arline Saiki, Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Edmeston
"I think there will be more closings. The number of priests is declining. More people are moving to the suburbs. I suspect in the future you'll see more churches closing, consolidating, merging, whatever they have to do. This will help in the short term somewhat but it will cause a lot of dislocation and some unhappiness." - Douglas Hoyt, St. John the Evangelist, Schenectady
"Definitely something needed to be done. I appreciate the difficulty the Bishop went through to do this. After the hurt, I hope people will look to a new direction and find their spirituality. I will look for a new place to go." - Dorothy Domkowski, St. John's, Amsterdam
"There were deficiencies in the process. The process was prescriptive and the prescription drove the activity....It's painful. It hurts. Like any other transition we have to move on." - Rick Johnson, St. John the Baptist, Schenectady
"I was devastated, heart-broken. I just didn't think [the Bishop] would do it. I don't understand. I will continue going to church. I don't know where yet, probably St. Augustine, but we'll see." - Mary Greenwood, St. Peter's
"I was very tearful. My entire family was baptized here; my parents were married here. We'll continue coming here until May, then figure out what parish we're going to belong to." - Maureen Matthews-McKnight, St. Peter's
(Evangelist correspondents Maureen McGuinness and Beth Lynch contributed to this article.)