Diocese Mulls Local Church Reconfiguration Valley, Towanda, Canton and Wyalusing Could Be Affected

By Tiffany Peden
Daily Review
August 23, 2008

The planning commission of the Diocese of Scranton recently recommended the potential reconfiguration of Catholic churches in seven Bradford County communities.

As part of the diocese's project "Called to holiness and mission: pastoral planning in the Diocese of Scranton," a preliminary recommendation was made to reconfigure churches in Sayre, Athens, South Waverly, Bentley Creek, Towanda, Canton and Wyalusing, according to statements from the Diocese of Scranton Planning Commission on the Diocese of Scranton's Web site.

The project is to focus on the "effective revitalization of all parishes," the release stated.

Groups of Parish Core Teams were created in different areas consisting of multiple parishes, according to the release. The Parish Core Teams made recommendations to the Diocese Planning Commission about what actions would be best for the parishes in their clustered areas, the release stated.

The Planning Commission reviewed the work and came up with preliminary recommendations for the cluster areas, according to the release, which resulted in the recommendations to consolidate some parishes and link others in Bradford County.

The Valley

The four churches in a cluster group in the Valley area are Epiphany Roman Catholic Parish in Sayre, St. Ann's Parish Hall in Bentley Creek, St. John's Catholic Church in South Waverly and St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church in Athens, according to the recommendation.

The Diocese Planning Commission made a preliminary recommendation to consolidate the four churches, the recommendation stated.

"We also recommend that the parish site be at Epiphany, pending the facility assessment results, with an additional worship site at Our Lady of Perpetual Help, which will be reviewed after two years," the recommendation stated.

The recommendation went on to further advise that the parish be served by one pastor and one parochial vicar, that there be a new staff position created for someone who would "address the pastoral care needs at the hospital and nursing homes," and that a new Mass schedule be developed, among other recommendations.

The reasoning behind the recommendation was the size of the parish communities relating to the projected number of priests in the future, the close location of the parishes to one another, and the potential for new initiatives to be created by combining resources, according to the recommendation.

Towanda and Canton

The planning board gave a preliminary recommendation that Sts. Peter and Paul's Rectory in Towanda have a linked parish with St. Michael in Canton, and further recommended that the Mission Church at Immaculate Conception in Ulster be closed, according to the recommendation.

After three years, the recommendation stated, the linkage would be evaluated.

Under the potential linkage, the recommendation stated that the two parishes should work on: "joint liturgical planning and training of altar servers," "combined planning for religious education and catechist training," "joint meetings of your pastoral councils and finance councils per Diocesan policy," "joint in-service retreats for staff and parish volunteers," and "a coordinated calendar, with regular office hours for the pastor in each parish."

It was also recommended that a plan be created to ensure the "financial viability" of St. Michael, and that a new Mass schedule be created, according to the recommendation.

A consideration in why it was suggested to link the two churches was the large geographic distance between the two, the recommendation stated.


In a preliminary recommendation for St. Mary of the Assumption in Wyalusing, it was advised that the parish consolidate with St. Joachim in Meshoppen, with St. Mary of the Assumption being the recommended parish site and a worship site being at St. Joachim, according to the recommendation.

Along with the recommendation to develop a new Mass schedule, the recommendation stated that a regular pastoral presence be established in Meshoppen, a youth minister position be considered to serve the youth in the area, and that steps be taken "to liquidate the rectory, the parish office, and parish lands attached to St. Joachim to satisfy outstanding parish debts, and consider using any surplus funds from these sales to support the parish cemeteries."

According to the recommendation, some considerations of why the proposal was made to have the two parishes consolidate was the goal to best use priest resources, and because of the Diocese Planning Commission's belief that St. Joachim is not financially viable.

The next step

The recommendation for consolidation is at this point just preliminary and not a final plan, according to a planning commission statement.

It was stated that parishes should actively seek input from parishioners about the potential consolidations or linkage.

Currently, the Parish Core Teams in the different clusters are to be discussing the recommendations and creating a response to them with input from the parishioners, according to the statement.

By Oct. 1, the teams are to submit their responses to the recommendations to the Diocese Planning Commission, which will review the responses and present final recommendations to Bishop Joseph F. Martino in November, according to the release.

After Bishop Martino consults with the Council of Priests and advisers, the final reconfiguration is scheduled to be announced in January 2009 and implemented in July 2009, according to the statement.

Tiffany Peden may be reached at (570) 888-9652; e-mail:


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