Shock, sadness, anxiety and grief are normal reactions when we hear difficult news we weren’t expecting. I am hesitant to use the “hurricane” metaphor, because our brothers and sisters inHouston, Florida and Puerto Rico know what a real hurricane is like and what we are experiencing in the proposed reorganization of our religious and spiritual lives hardly compares with how their lives have been devastated. On the other hand, the call to reorganize the parish life of St. George and St. Dominic Savio is a kind of mini-hurricane. There isn’t any loss of life or property, but established routines are being disrupted and that is stressful. An unknown future creates anxiety and there is sadness in the suggestion that we leave places that are spiritually familiar to us.
The proposal to merge St. George and St. Dominic Savio into one parish with the St. George campus being the center of Worship and Care for the Poor and the St. Dominic Savio campus being the center for Catholic education and lifelong faith-formation is like a mini-hurricane. Real hurricanes are discovered and tracked weeks before they make landfall and the “storm” we are finally waking up to has on the horizon and tracked for 20 years. The high winds, storm clouds and heavy surf manifested in 2005 when we, and other parishes in our area, could not sustain our Catholic schools. The Catholic Church in our area was shifting and the Catholic Church in St. Louis began to enter a period of contraction. Shock, sadness and anxiety are appropriate emotional responses. We should have begun discussing in 2005 the reality we cannot now escape, but there is a silver-lining in the clouds. We have the opportunity to choose our immediate future together, rather than have it dictated to us by others.
Other parishes aren’t doing what we are doing and powerful forces are going to overtake them and determine their futures for them. That’s too bad because all the signs are present to take action now, but fear holds people back. We live in “the southeast deanery,” the rough borders of which are the Mississippi River, River Des Peres, Hwy. 44 and the northern border of Jefferson County. 70,000 Catholics live in our deanery and, interestingly enough, there are 35,000 on our side of 270 and 35,000 on the other side of 270. The 35k Catholics on the other side of 270 are served by six parishes and the 35k Catholics on our side of 270 are served by thirteen parishes. With the coming priest shortage, we cannot sustain all these parishes. This is why I asked the Vision Team to come up with a solution that included one priest between the two parishes.
Everyone is aware of the migration of Bosnians from south St. Louis to the Affton-Lemay area and now onward into Mehlville and Oakville. The reason we could not sustain our school in 2005 is because there are fewer Catholics in our area and families are having fewer children. So, we have the same number of fishing poles in a barrel with a diminishing number of fish.
Few worry when a real hurricane is weeks away from landfall. They hope it will change direction. When the storm is a week away, then people start to make some plans, but they still hope the hurricane won’t come their way. Two days before landfall and the storm surges, roads are clogged, grocery shelves are empty and “suddenly” it’s too late to escape the coming disaster. We are attempting to pay attention to the signs in the sky and get ahead of the inevitable. We have some time (“a week”) to prayerfully prepare a move to a safer position.
What gives me hope? My experience with Holy Cross Academy. I have hope because I have seen how collaboration works and our children benefit every day from the trust our school parents put into the planning process. It is my hope that you will engage with the St. Dominic Savio & St. George Vision Team in a similar planning process. Rather than letting fear take over – join us in designing a stronger, more vibrant parish for the future.
The goals we have in mind are as follows:
- Pervading Hospitality
- Authentic Meaningful Worship
- Intentional Discipleship
- Volunteer Empowerment
- Purposeful Stewardship
- Relevant Outreach
What we need are parishioners who are committed to accomplishing these goals and, quite frankly, I see these goals being acted out in both parishes on a daily basis. But we need many more of our brothers and sisters in the pews to our left and our right to join us if we are going to become the people God calls us to be. Here’s how you can contribute. If you haven’t already done so, join a group of parishioners to work on a goal. The various committees include:
- Facility Review
- Community Life/Welcome/Hospitality
- Worship and Prayer
- Life-long Faith-formation and Catholic education
- Service to the Poor and Needy
Feel free to drop your name in the collection basket or at the rectory and we will work at getting you involved.
Sacred Heart of Jesus,
pray for us
Fr. Paul J. Rothschild