Manayunk Reconfiguration: My Initial Thoughts

“How are you doing, Father, with all of this?” This is the question that I have been asked most often not only today with the announcement of the reconfiguration of St. Lucy and St. Mary of the Assumption, It is also the question that has been posed to me most often over the past several weeks. It deserves comment.

Last night as I informed both parish councils (over pizza and glasses of limoncello) I could not have been more touched by the kindness, graciousness and concern on the part of my Parish Council members and the parishioners at large. Every priest should be so fortunate.

So what am I feeling? First of all, tired - very tired. Pastoring two parishes with very divergent personalities, two Parish and Finance Councils and two parish complexes is a challenge.

Second, impressed, honored and humbled. I have been fortunate to have magnificent qualified, selfless volunteers and a very competent staff to assist in the venture. We spent several weeks putting together and submitting a counter-proposal to the Archdiocese in the hope that we could keep the three Manayunk ethnic parishes open for now. We have physical plant and contractual issues with the parish buildings to try and raise income to support our Catholic mission, even into the future. Because of the Blue Ribbon Commission , we’re closing closing one school (Holy Child) which has its own to-do list. We are merging and creating a new regional Catholic school - St. Blaise - which involves additional archdiocesan and “Implementation Committee” meetings. We established a new “St. Mary Heritage Grant” fund to financially assist families who wanted to send their children to the new St. Blaise Regional Catholic School. I could not have hoped that such a relatively small parish could accomplish so much in so little a time. Talk about leadership!

I feel extremely supported and loved. EACH DAY, I receive at least six to twelve text messages, e-mails, phone calls, gifts and the occasional meal delivered to my door (Do I really look that thin?) from parishioners, staff and people who care and want to make sure that I’m doing ok.

I feel sad and frustrated. These issues are just SO big. We’re facing problems that were years in the making and not our doing. It’s bigger than me and I can’t fix it. I see people who I have come to know and love. I see their grief, their frustration, their sadness and I can’t make their pain go away. And it’s EASTER! I’m showing God the calendar and saying “Hey, Lent’s over, remember? Where’s the resurrection?

I also have hope. I really believe in the “New Evangelization” originally proposed by Pope John Paul II which has become the raison d’etre of Pope Benedict’s pontificate and, I believe, is the animating force behind Archbishop Chaput’s vision for our Archdiocese. Benedict keeps speaking of a “new springtime.” I believe it’s coming. I see parts of it already happening in new and exciting organizations and leadership initiatives especially in the Philadelphia area.

A pastor once said, “Let me give you three pieces of advice. First, be kind to your people. Second be kind to your people and third, be kind to your people.” Guess that all I can do for now in these difficult and challenging times. I can only return the favor. They’re certainly been kind to me.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. kassie says:

    I’m sorry to hear about the reconfiguration but I hope it all goes smoothly. Stay strong!

    1. Fr. Charles Zlock says:

      Kassie, good to hear from you. Thank you for the encouraging words and keep the prayers coming. Fr. Zlock

    2. Fr. Charles Zlock says:

      Will do. Actually reconfiguration on the “official level” is progressing very well. After the announcement, our respective staffs gave a lot of thought and discussion to what would have to be done in the parishes. Thus a good amount of “pre-planning” was accomplished before the Archdiocese even stepped in. The professionalism of the staffs was humbling and exemplary especially since most members of the parish staffs and Parish Finance and Pastoral Councils were NOT happy about the decisions. Nevertheless, they put that aside for the good of the parishioners. Recently Bishop Thomas and Msgr. McCulken attended on of the “Transition Committee” meetings and said that what we had already done, along with the cooperation among the four pastors, was really “modeling” for the rest of the Archdiocese how such a process could be accomplished. Nice compliment.

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