Birth of a Parish

May 15, 2003
Birth of a Parish
By Howie Mansfield
Church of the Holy Trinity formed through merger of three Binghamton parishes

BINGHAMTON — The wait is over. For three Southern Tier parishes involved in the St. Clare Project, the final decision has been made on the future of these churches. On May 9, Bishop James Moynihan announced that the Church of the Holy Trinity will be formed from St. Stanislaus Kostka, St. Ann’s and St. Joseph’s parishes. Holy Trinity Parish will be housed in the current buildings occupied by St. Ann’s Parish, 346 Prospect St.

Brother Edward Falsey, OFM Conv., has been named administrator of the new Church of the Holy Trinity. Brother Edward, coordinator of the St. Clare Project, said he is happy with the bishop’s decision. “I’m very excited about it. We have a great opportunity here,” Brother Edward said. “Sure, there is loss, sadness and grief, but it comes back to the death and resurrection paradigm. We need to live that metaphor and be a strong new Catholic community in the area.” Father Jim Lang, diocesan vicar for parishes, talked about the process of collaboration that brought these three parishes together. “The biggest stumbling block was over the buildings and which one the bishop would choose, but the people really came together to take ownership for what this new parish would look like,” Father Lang said.

The discernment process began in May 2002 after Father Paul Keebler, then pastor of St. Ann’s Church, retired and Father John Mikalajunas, then pastor of St. Stanislaus and St. Joseph’s Churches, left to begin a pastorate at St. John the Evangelist Church in Binghamton. Three vacancies were left, leaving a substantial void to be filled. The Conventual Franciscan Friars in the Southern Tier agreed to help form a strong Catholic presence in the three churches. Brother Edward took over as administator of St. Stanislaus and St. Joseph’s Churches and Deacon Leslie Distin, Ph.D., diocesan director for permanent diaconate personnel, became administrator at St. Ann’s Church.

The three churches, through the St. Clare Project, worked to discern their future through dialogue for over a year. Representatives and trustees from each parish participated in the conversation. “The overall process went well. People were open to working together and allowing the Spirit to work in their hearts. But I tried to put things in perspective for them in the bigger picture. The priest shortage is here, and we need to be actively involved in the process with the diocese, and this is a trend that will happen across the diocese,” Brother Edward said. “The people were wonderful on the commission that created the new parish. We struggled, but we worked through it.”

Brother Edward said although there were and still are strong feelings about the specific church buildings, the commission didn’t get too involved in the decision on which building should be kept for the new parish. “In the end, it’s the bishop’s decision, so we just offered an assessment and there was a survey done,” said Brother Edward. “St. Stan’s is the newest of the three buildings, but had the least amount of flexibility. St. Joseph’s was too small for the bigger parish and St. Ann’s offered the best opportunity for change and renovation.”

The commission also voted on the new church name and brought their choice to the bishop. Bishop Moynihan has the final decision on the church’s name, but he agreed with the overwhelming choice of the commission. “Your clear choice, which I affirm with great joy, is that the new parish would be dedicated to the Holy Trinity,” the bishop wrote in a letter mailed to parishioners. A collaboration process will be used in other areas of the diocese as part of pastoral planning, Father Lang said. “The process is clear,” said Father Lang. “I go into the parishes, make the announcement and they start collaborating.”

One of the highlights of the new parish will be its work with the Sisters of Ss. Cyril and Methodius. The religious order will arrive in Binghamton this summer and work at Holy Trinity Church. The Sisters of Ss. Cyril and Methodius will reside at the former St. Joseph’s rectory which will be renamed the Holy Trinity Convent. “This is a big piece, because nowhere else in the diocese will you have a combination of the Fransican Friars working with the sisters toward the good of the parish,” Brother Edward said. “They will be focusing on the mission of Holy Trinity and work in specialized areas such as youth ministry, liturgy, visiting the homebound and sick, along with training lay people. It’s a unique opportunity and we are thrilled about it.”

Mass in the Polish language will be continued at Holy Trinity to maintain some of the ethnic heritage from St. Stanislaus. Father Christopher Boretto, chaplain at Lourdes Hospital in Binghamton, will periodically celebrate the Polish Mass for the Polish-speaking members.

Bishop Moynihan said in the letter that the unused assets of Holy Trinity Church will be “determined collaboratively and at a later date.” These assets include St. Stanislaus and St. Joseph’s Churches, school buildings, and other pieces of property. “I would acknowledge that change is difficult for all people. The success of your new venture will depend on the energy and faith that you bring to it,” the bishop wrote. “I hope that we can embrace the outcomes of the period of dialogue as a new birth that provides a renewed hope and energy for the people who dwell in these neighborhoods or have supported these parishes.”

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