Another difficult time has arrived for the Catholic faithful, as area parishes prepare for mergers brought on by the retirement of priests and the need for expensive building repairs.
St. Thomas Church on Bristol Street in Southington will close its building, which needs expensive repairs, and its pastor, the Rev. Joseph Cronin, will instead lead the Church of St. Dominic on Flanders Road. The Rev. Ronald May, of St. Dominic, is retiring on Aug. 1. The Rev. A. Waine Kargul, of Mary Our Queen Church, will also retire in the coming year.
In March, Wallingford's Most Holy Trinity Church on North Colony Street linked with Our Lady of Fatima Church on Hope Hill Road. The two will later merge with Church of the Resurrection on Pond Hill Road.
These changes will be painful for some parishioners, but the Archdiocese of Hartford is expected to lose 25 priests to retirement in the next five years, and there are not enough new priests coming up to replace them.
Other communities have gone through this process. In 2017, the archdiocese decided to create 127 parishes out of 212. In Meriden, the parishes of St. Laurent and St. Mary joined St. Joseph, Holy Angels and Our Lady of Mount Carmel to form Our Lady Queen of Angels Parish. St. Stanislaus Church merged with Saints Peter & Paul in Wallingford to form St. Faustina Parish. St. Rose was left unchanged.
Of the 127 parishes in the archdiocese (which encompasses Hartford, Litchfield and New Haven counties), 68 remained as they were before 2017 and 59 merged into unions of two to six churches. A total of 26 church buildings closed as part of the reorganization.
“People are sometimes resistant at first,” Archbishop Leonard P. Blair said four years ago about the changes that were being made then, “but over time they come together as one family of faith, and the result is greater unity and new vitality to various forms of parish life and outreach.”
As we opined on this page at that time, there may be a silver lining: The churches that do remain open will surely be better attended, and perhaps that will bring the “new vitality” that Blair foresaw.
May that be the case.