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Diocese Q&A confronts concerns

SCRANTON – In an effort to clear up confusion and concerns about the ongoing parish consolidation process which is half complete, the Diocese of Scranton issued a lengthy question-and-answer regarding the preliminary recommendations released last month.

The core message: Nothing is finalized, regardless of what you hear or see.

Topping the list was a note that the closing of some parishes before the process was even half complete does not justify “cynicism” in the process itself. Those parishes were not closed as a result of the ongoing consolidation review.

The lengthy eight-step process involves individual parish teams, cluster teams of representatives from several parishes near each other, a diocese-wide planning commission, an outside consultant, and ultimately Bishop Joseph Martino making the final decision based on recommendations. The closings in recent months came because those parishes were already in the process of consolidation, and “their work and decisions were respected and the consolidation continued.”

The Q&A notes the preliminary recommendations were released before the Sept. 1 completion of a diocese-wide facility assessment, but that the assessment will be considered when the final decisions are reached. Cluster and core teams can rethink their positions as information becomes available and the process continues.

While the preliminary recommendations – made by the planning commission after cluster teams had submitted their recommendations – include some churches partnering with other churches outside their cluster, the Q&A urges parishes to continue working only within their cluster. Eventually a task force will be formed to consider any cross-cluster recommendations, but the members of that task force will still report to their respective cluster teams.

While the preliminary recommendations set time frames for consolidations – within three years in many cases – the Q&A cautions about making plans based on those time frames, since the decision isn’t final.

Along the same lines, the Q&A reassures parishioners who are scheduling weddings that there will be a pastor and a parish available to honor their plans, even if the church they originally arrange for the wedding is closed before the big day. “Couples might try and identify at least two options,” but can expect “a firm commitment of time and location by Feb. 1, 2009.

The Q&A flatly denies any rumors that some churches have been given special status during the process. The document is available at www.dioceseofscranton.org

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