Church reconfiguration plans on hold

JOHNSON CITY – No news could in fact be could news for Catholics in Chenango County, according to reports from the Diocese of Syracuse, as its “unprecedented” sweep of parish reconfigurations continued Wednesday.

Parishioners in Broome County learned of eight orders to merge or link 16 churches in their area during a press conference at St. James Church in Johnson City yesterday afternoon. However, plans for Chenango County have been postponed until next winter at the earliest.

“The churches of Chenango County are in a pretty self-sustaining mode,” said Diocese Bishop James Moynihan, “so we can keep things going there for a while just the way they are.”

An outline for the seven local parishes and one mission should come sometime after January or February, diocese Vicar James Lang said. That’s when talks with the Diocese of Albany can resume regarding the county-wide proposal submitted at Thanksgiving which would involve priests from Syracuse and Albany sharing pastoral duties across diocese borders near Otsego and Delaware counties.

Lang, who is the head of the Syracuse’s pastoral planning office, said the cross-diocese idea has been discussed in the Catholic Church before, but never carried out.

“There aren’t models in the Catholic Church for this,” he said. “It hasn’t been done before.”

However, Lang said the proposal highlighted the creativity necessary in large scale reconfiguration, which also hasn’t occurred before.

Chenango County was one of 32 Pastoral Care Areas in the diocese that were required to develop reconfiguration proposals for the bishop by Thanksgiving.

If accepted, all eight congregations in the county – St. Malachy’s, Sherburne, St. Paul’s, Norwich, St. Bartholomew’s, Norwich, St. Joseph’s, Oxford, Immaculate Conception, Greene, St. Theresa’s, New Berlin, St. John the Evangelist, Bainbridge, and St. Agnes’ Mission, Afton – would be ministered by two fewer priests, taking the number from five to three.

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