retirement means parish changes
By Paul Quirini
September 9, 1999
After spending 30 years as the first and only pastor of St. William's Church in Troy, Rev. Joseph Keyrouze retired from active ministry in June.
He now lives a few miles away in the rectory of Sacred Heart Church with its pastor, Rev. James Vaughan, who will retire next year after 27 years at his parish.
Their retirements in consecutive years isn't a surprise to their parishioners, because a committee comprised of members of both parishes has been preparing for life after Fathers Keyrouze and Vaughan.
"What we're trying to get across to parishioners is neither parish is closing," said Sister Rita Duggan, CSJ, director of stewardship at Sacred Heart. "There are going to be some changes for each, but the Church is people, not buildings. Any place we have the opportunity to say each parish will maintain its own identity, we do that."
Fathers Keyrouze and Vaughan both graduated from Catholic Central High School in Troy in 1943 and were ordained in 1950 by Bishop Edmund F. Gibbons. When St. William's went from being a mission of Sacred Heart to its own parish in 1969, Father Keyrouze was appointed its first pastor.
Father Vaughan, who served as an assistant pastor at Sacred Heart briefly in the early 1960s, returned in 1973 to become its pastor.
Both priests remained in their parishes ever since, but as each neared 75 -- the mandatory retirement age for pastors, according to Canon Law -- parishioners began to wonder what would happen once their pastors retired.
That concern led to the formation of a committee earlier this year to start planning for the future of both parishes after the retirements. The committee met three or four times before taking a summer break and will resume meetings soon. Father Vaughan, Sister Rita and Rev. Gary Mercure, associate pastor of Sacred Heart, also have attended these meetings.
Since the committee formed, Father Keyrouze has retired and moved into the Sacred Heart rectory, Father Mercure has been acting sacramental minister at St. William's, and Sister Rita has been handling administrative duties there. Father Vaughan plans to live at Sacred Heart's rectory once he retires.
One of the first topics addressed by the committee was the Mass schedule at each parish. With two daily Masses at 7 a.m. and noon at Sacred Heart, and one at 9:30 a.m. at St. William's, it was decided to eliminate the daily Mass at St. William's. Sacred Heart kept its 5 p.m. vigil Mass and Sunday Masses at 8 a.m., 10 a.m. and noon; St. William's kept its 4 p.m. vigil Mass but was left with just a 9:30 a.m. Sunday Mass.
Jean Koch, a committee member and parishioner of St. William's, said changing the Mass schedule wasn't an easy decision, but it was the best option available.
"We had hoped to keep the Mass schedule as it was, but it had to change because Father Gary was covering both parishes [this summer]," she said.
It has taken time for parishioners to get used to the new daily Mass schedule, but they seem to have made the adjustment, according to Father Mercure.
"Some of our people were going to the 9:30 a.m. Mass there, and their people were coming to the 7 a.m. or noon Mass here," he said. "People seem to be gracious about everything, and they understand we don't have enough priests."
Father Mercure worries about what will happen if he's the only priest serving both parishes.
"Today, we had a funeral here and a funeral there, plus the daily Mass at 7 a.m. and the one at noon. So, if I was by myself, I would've spent the whole day in church," he said.
Father Keyrouze occasionally helps Father Mercure with a funeral or Mass. "Now that he's here, I ask him to concelebrate Masses with me," Father Mercure said.
Parishioners of St. William's seem happy that Father Keyrouze lives close enough to remain involved liturgically, Sister Rita pointed out.
"I think they're glad to see him back, and they're happy the pressure of administration is off him," she said.
That responsibility now is Sister Rita's, and she hopes to bring her experience at Sacred Heart during the past three years into her added duties at St. William's.
"I'm working to learn about St. William's parish, the people, their needs. I've done administration at Sacred Heart, but to do it at two parishes is new to me," she said.
Sister Rita wants parishioners to grow comfortable with each other and not worship exclusively at their own parish. "We're encouraging people to attend either church because it's basically the same staff in the parishes. We're noticing they do, by the trading of offertory collection envelopes on Monday mornings," she said.
Laurie Gilmore, a committee co-chairperson and Sacred Heart parishioner, said the retirement of Father Keyrouze has affected St. William's more at this point, "but after Father Vaughan retires, I'm sure we may have to have some changes at Sacred Heart."
Sister Rita's handling of administrative duties at St. William's has been one of the more significant changes since Father Keyrouze retired, and Mrs. Gilmore hopes there will be continued talk about joint activities and "trying to make use of the people who are active in both parishes," she said.
Announcements are being made in both parishes, such as the open invitation to all to attend Father Keyrouze's retirement party during the summer, she pointed out.
The fear among some people that St. William's would close after Father Keyrouze retired seems to have subsided, Mrs. Koch pointed out, thanks to Father Mercure's openness with parishioners there.
"Many were apprehensive because Father Keyrouze had been here for so long, but everything seems to be going quite smoothly," she said. "Father Gary has presented it very positively in his homilies and his conversations with parish council members, and people are much more comfortable that St. William's Church will continue."
Jack Madden, a committee member and Sacred Heart parishioner, agreed that both parishes can stay open, but he worries that losing two priests in two years will necessitate other changes that require additional help.
"I don't think there's any problem with the laity working together and keeping both parishes open, but it's going to create problems, as far as Mass schedules are concerned," he said. "We are a sacramental Church, and we need an ordained priest to do that."
As the committee meets again, Sister Rita imagines one of the topics will be activities in which Sacred Heart and St. William's can participate together.
Confirmation classes and retreats are some of the joint ministries planned for next year, and Sister Rita hopes there are other ways that the two parishes can work and worship as one.
"We're not taking giant leaps but small steps that will incorporate both groups," she said.
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