Letter to the Editor: Bishop not listening, perishioners need to speak up and be heard
I have been an actively practicing Catholic my entire life and feel an obligation to express my opinion as to what is currently being proposed within the metro area. As an active Catholic I taught CCD at the elementary school level (as a senior in high school); I lived at the Newman Center in Grand Forks as a peer minister; and I have given of my time and talent in my current parish life by teaching religious ed., church council, finance counsel, cooking at Churches United, etc. My point is, I am expressing my opinion as an involved and informed Catholic.
In my eyes church means community, family, sanctuary, guidance, giving, receiving; at the end of the day it is where I hang my hat; it is home. I grew up as part of a church community where Catholic families came together for prayer, celebration, mourning and entertainment. We supported one another both financially and emotionally; in essence it was and is my extended family. I did not grow up in a community where a Catholic Education Network was available. However, God forbid you missed CCD. Wednesday nights were sacred religious education nights and nothing was planned over them, around them, or instead of them.
The current Fargo Diocesan proposal for realignment, closure, and clustering is taking community parishes and making them into district parishes. Where there are two there shall be one large parish. We do not live in Denver, Chicago, or even the Twin Cities; this is Fargo and West Fargo, North Dakota. We still know and support our neighbors, co-workers, family and friends. I cannot envision how going from a 250, 600, or 900 family member parishes to a 1200 or 1600 member parish is in alignment with 'Come home Catholics' or parish families/parish life. I do not want to be bused from the Hub or the Dome because our 1,600 member parish has parking space for 300; or get to church 45 minutes early for a seat in the church; or plan my daughter or sons wedding two to three years in advance as there are only so many weekends in a year. If I wanted to go to church in the Dome I would, but I don't. I do not want to lose my way of life! I live in the West Fargo/Fargo community. And we are still a community, a parish community of St. Ben's, Holy Cross, St. Anthony's or Blessed Sacrament. I am not a member of the North Side church or the South side church, and frankly do not envision myself ever being a member of this concept.
I fully understand this is 2011 and change is inevitable, but what is the purpose of this change? What is OUR vision and mission as Catholics? Is it to build bigger and better for the good of the Catholic school education, is it to give better opportunities to our children, is it to ease the overcrowding of our schools, is it to financially strap our parishes, what? Has the bishop and his team done their math, crunched their numbers, taken their surveys, polled their members? Is the Diocese being totally transparent? Is the Diocese open to suggestions and dialogue with the parishioners who make up the Diocese? Do our opinions count? Are the parishioners supportive? Do we have the families and children to make this plan successful? Do we have the financial backing to make this plan successful? Does the Diocese have a "Plan B" when the finances aren't there? How will we mend financial loss, emotional hurt, and parish community destruction? Is this change really necessary, and if so, again, why? Why have we not been asked or involved prior to this proposal being announced? Why does this NOT feel right, appear well planned, or seem to be an honest and open proposal?
I, as one parish family member, cannot sit by and watch this happen. I urge others to stand up and let your voices be heard loud and clear. Become informed, become active, get involved, become visible to the Diocese and in public, in a passionate way. Not only for your Catholic way of life, but for our parish communities' way of life. This Diocesan proposal will impact all our Christian neighbors of all faiths, not just the Catholics and not just the local communities. Think about it - we are all entwined.