Catholic Church Shutdown Avoided

By William Moyer
Sun Bulletin

July 5, 2008

Norwich to retain two facilities, shared priest

NORWICH -- St. Paul and St. Bartholomew Catholic churches in Norwich will both remain open, according to officials at the Diocese of Syracuse.

About 500 families in each parish had been waiting for 14 months to hear the diocese's decision about their churches.

A trustee at St. Paul's said the decision confirmed local leaders' recommendation to the diocese that both churches are needed in the Norwich area. "We will be a stronger parish by being linked together," said Thomas Whittaker, of Norwich. "We had already been doing common things. We look at ourselves as the Roman Catholic community of Norwich."

When Bishop James M. Moyni-han announced a massive downsizing throughout the south and central New York diocese in May 2007, he didn't mention any mergers or reconfigurations for the two parishes or other Catholic churches in Chenango County.

St. Paul's and St. Bartholomew's parishioners were finally told at last weekend's Mass that the two parishes would remain open, operate independently and continue to share a priest, according to Danielle Cummings, assistant chancellor and director of communications.

"The people will be at peace," said the Rev. Douglas Cunningham, pastor. "It was a very ambiguous, an uneasy feeling for a year, not knowing what would happen."

But six other churches in Chenango County are waiting for the diocese to determine their fates.

Syracuse officials had talked with their counterparts in the Albany Diocese, which borders Chenango County, about the possibility of developing a plan whereby Albany would supply priests for some parishes.

Those discussions have ended, said Cummings, leaving Syracuse officials with the task of developing their own plan for Immaculate Conception, Greene; St. Agnes Mission and St. John the Evangelist, both in Bainbridge; St. Joseph, Oxford; St. Malachy, Sherburne; and St. Theresa, New Berlin.

In Broome County, the diocese will eventually close and sell four buildings after those parishes complete mergers. The previously announced mergers of Christ the King and Our Lady of Angels, both in Endwell, and St. Andrew and St. John the Evangelist, both in Binghamton, could be completed in August.


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