|The Case for St. Stanislaus
September 23, 2008
Churches will be closed shortly in Northern Berkshire County, just as they are being closed elsewhere in the Diocese of Springfield and throughout the state. It's the obligation of the diocese to collect and consider all of the necessary information and make the right choice, a tough task that will be made easier if it works closely with parishioners, which hasn't always been the case up to now.
Bishop Timothy McDonnell and Monsignor John Bonzagni have met with 11 parishioners from St. Stanislaus Kostka Church in Adams, including Laurie Haas, who presented a detailed report making the case against closing the church, which is scheduled to shut its doors in about three months. The argument for St. Stanislaus is a strong one, based on its solid attendance and in particular a financial viability that many churches in Berkshire County do not share. A certified public accountant commissioned by Ms. Haas found that St. Stanislaus' lower maintenance costs contribute significantly to that viability, and its small campus also makes it easier to keep the church building and surroundings in good shape.
St. Stanislaus is also a spectacularly beautiful church and would be a huge loss aesthetically. It is also the heart of the Adams Polish community, which is not a small consideration. The current plan in Adams is to close St. Stanislaus and St. Thomas Church and offer services at Notre Dame. The closing of any church is painful and every church has its adherents, but St. Stanislaus emerges as a poorer choice the more that is learned about the options.
Monsignor Bonzagni argued in The Transcript last week that it is irrelevant to compare the finances of different parishes because when a new parish is combined all of the finances would be combined as well. This assumes, of course, that disgruntled Catholics will stay in the "new parish" or will contribute to this "new parish" as generously as they did before. Parishioners do have loyalties to specific churches, like St. Stanislaus, and those loyalties extend backwards for generations. This reality continues to elude the diocese.
The party line from the diocese hierarchy is that the churches are buildings and parishioners' attachment to the buildings makes it difficult for the diocese to make necessary closings, but these buildings personify the church in communities like Adams and their long history. Because weddings, baptisms, First Communions and funeral services are all conducted there, they have great significance to parishioners. Yes, they burn a lot of oil, as the monsignor points out, and some will have to be closed, but to write them off as simply buildings reveals a detachment from the concerns of church-goers in Adams and elsewhere.
On behalf of a group of parishioners, Ms. Haas has appealed to the Congregation for the Clergy in Rome to keep the church open. This appeal to the Vatican is a long shot at best, but it may not come to that. Bishop McDonnell and Monsignor Bonzagni made a welcome trip west to meet with St. Stanislaus advocates and the argument made on behalf of the Adams church are difficult to refute.
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