From Cleveland to Philly - Thoughts on Manayunk Restructure

Well, with the “Sword of Damocles” hanging over our head here at St. Mary/St. Lucy, March 23rd is the day when the “Strategic Planning Committee supposedly is going to make their recommendation to Archbishop Chaput concerning the reconfiguration of Manayunk. A final announcement should follow soon after that.

These types of restructuring have been done at numerous (arch)dioceses throughout the country for a number of years now. Detroit was one of the first. Boston and San Fransisco are two larger Archdioceses which have done so in more recent years. Boston did “round 1” several years but Cardinal Sean O’Malley decided on a different approach in “round 2” allowing clusters of parishes much more leeway in deciding how they should/could restructure several parishes in a specific geographic area to address their pastoral needs. Although I found his approach rather creative and pastoral in nature, to be fair, this is their second “go-round.” Thus, they have some experience that Philadelphia (for example) has not yet acquired.

In a recent blog about the reconfiguration in the Archdiocese of Cleveland, I got to thinking about the process that we have gone through here in the Manayunk section of Philadelphia and what resources I used just to try and get information into my head to assist myself as the process went forward.

Two books in particular I found informative. Listening to the People of God by Charles Zech and Robert Miller (who actually works in the Office for Strategic Planning for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia) was one. A relatively short book, Google Books describes it as a book that, “Analyzes parish restructuring and generates recommendations from the perspective of parishioners.” It was actually the results of a number of surveys that the authors conducted following parish mergers/closures/restructures around the country, is somewhat technical in nature but I found it helpful to get some background information. What Miller and Zech (in my opinion) did especially well was to point out where (arch)dioceses got it wrong. Based on their findings, it would behoove those in authority to go the other direction and follow Zech and Miller’s recommendations.

Another interesting book was Struggle for Holy Ground by Michael Weldon. One reviewer said that this book, “…offers a study for any parish leader to use as a reference when facing such a conflicted issue. This work explores the roles of ritual and pastoral care and proposes a series of new rites: group reconciliation, atonement, lament, leave-taking, memorial, and inauguration, based on the personal experience of those involved in parish restructurings.” This book comes at the issue from a bit more emotive side and Michael goes into the emotional, spiritual experiences that people had. But he also much excellent insights, advice and concrete suggestions that could be incorporated after the decision to close/merge/consolidate a parish has been announced.

What I especially found helpful was his very specific descriptions on how different people will act - and react - depending on the situation. He was “spot-on” as I experienced some of his examples first hand. It helped me in that I knew - ahead of time - what “could” happen, was able to identify it when it happened, and was not taken by surprise when it occurred.

No matter how much reading, information gathering, consultation, one has been consistent everywhere, this is VERY HARD!

Any local Philly people out there? What are your thoughts?

12 Comments Add yours

  1. J J Millhouse says:

    Father Zlock, I pray that the enrollment in all of the Philly Parishes rise especially St. Mary’s. I attended St. Mary’s elementary school from 1964 to 1972 with many fond memories. I moved to Houston, TX in 1978 and return to Philly annually to visit family. I try to make Mass at either St. Mary’s or St. John’s while in town.
    Take care and God Bless.
    J J Millhouse

    1. Fr. Charles Zlock says:

      J J …I have relatives in Houston (Actually in the Woodlands) and have enjoyed the southern hospitality there on a few occasions. In invite you to continue to monitor what is happening in the Parish of St. Mary (at ). There is a post there now that goes into details about our new “Manayunk/East Falls/Roxborough Regional School” (St. Blaise) that you might find interesting.

      Certainly I always welcome your comments on my own webpage/Facebook/Twitter platform.

      God bless, Fr. Zlock

    2. Fr. Charles Zlock says:

      J.J. Thanks for your thoughts and encouragement. May I suggest that you keep an eye on the St. Mary web site ( ) and St. Lucy website ( ) to keep informed about what is happening here both to our schools and parishes. God bless, Fr. Zlock

  2. Marlene Breslin says:

    Fr. Zlock, We are lucky to have you here in Manayunk, especially during these trying times with so many changes to our churches and school. I for one appreciate your openess and fairness in bringing our area concerns to the Archdiocese.

    1. Fr. Charles Zlock says:

      Thank you for the interest and the compliment. God bless! Fr. Zlock

    2. Fr. Charles Zlock says:

      Marlene, your kind word of encouragement are most welcome and appreciated. I know this might shock you, but it doesn’t always happen to us pastors. Fr. Zlock

  3. Al Jara says:

    I feel we have a cluster of two. St. Mary and St. Bridget. Why have the other pastors abandoned us? The archdiocese got it wrong in Manayunk before and are compounding their error.
    Why can’t I shake the feeling that the people in Manayunk and East Falls are geting the shaft from the archdiocese. I can’t believe it’s Archbishop Chaput since he’s the new guy. It must be the bishops feeding him their agenda.
    I’m in the middle of WAKE UP LAZARUS ON CATHOLIC RENEWAL by Pierre Hegy. Not a bad read but somewhat statistical.

    1. Fr. Charles Zlock says:

      I’ll look up the book. Let me know your thoughts once you finish it. Fr. Zlock

  4. Michael F Miedzwiecki says:

    Dear Fr. Zlock,

    My questin pertains to the townhall meeting of Jan. 29, 2012. I was under the impression that the parishoners, from all 5 manayunk parishes were invited to attend. Iam a member of St Josaphat parish. I was informed about the meeting through our parish bulletin, & as you know many people from St. Josaphat were there. I have read and been hearing tha St John the Baptist was not informed of the meeting & that is the reason no one from St. John’s attended. One reply on a website said that neither they nor Fr. Lyons had any knowledge untill some time after the meeting when they read about it in the review. I would like to know if St John the Baptist parish was invited to or informed of the townhall meeting?

    Michael F. Miedzwiecki

    1. Fr. Charles Zlock says:


      Just spoke with the gentlemen from my parish who help organize the meeting. He personally sent (US Mail) letters to the Pastors of Josaphats, John and Holy Family. Reasons was that we were not sure weather emails would be seen so we made sure that they received information and invitation “hard copies.” Several St. Josaphat parishioners were also informed personally.

      I informed St. Lucy/Mary people myself via pulpit announcement, parish bulletin and web sites. Thus all five parishes were informed.

      Thanks for your interest. Fr. Zlock

      1. Michael F Miedzwiecki says:

        Thank you for the reply Father. It is good to know that parishoners, from all 5 parishes were invited & all would have the same opportunity to speak thier mind.

        Michael F. Miedzwiecki

      2. Fr. Charles Zlock says:

        You are quite welcome.

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