NORWICH – Starting in January, Diocese of Syracuse Bishop James M. Moynihan and other Church officials are gathering in retreat to review an eight-inch thick binder – the contents of which will most likely re-shape the local Catholic landscape.
The weighty binder is filled with data and proposals that were submitted by numerous geographic parish alliances – known as Pastoral Care Areas – upon request this past Thanksgiving as part of an ongoing diocese reconfiguration process. Among the eight inches, three pages will represent the future of all eight churches in Chenango County, and 13 will cover just the two congregations in the City of Norwich. The numerous plans were directed to outline different ways near-by churches can collaborate or restructure their resources, in an effort to head-off a sever decline in the number of priests and priestly ordinations currently affecting the diocese.
“It’s racing out of whack,” said diocese Vicar James P. Lang, referring to the priest shortage.
Reconfiguration controversy arose in March when, due to the lack of church leaders and an economic downturn in the area, it was announced by Bishop Moynihan that St. Bartholomew’s in Norwich would close in favor of the city’s elder parish, St. Paul’s. Since that time parishioners and officials from both sides of the aisles have fought, although not always together, to keep both St. Bart’s and St. Paul’s open, eventually submitting a detailed pastoral plan highlighting the importance of both religious communities.