The diocese has brought in Brother Edward to smooth the reconfiguration process
By luke eggleston / SUN staff writer
Franciscan Brother Edward Falsey was there at the beginning and the Syracuse Diocese intends to use him to help facilitate the reconfiguration process until it ends.
After many successful years quarterbacking the merger process that ultimately produced Holy Trinity in Binghamton, the diocese recently appointed Brother Edward to the new position of associate director of pastoral planning.
According to Vicar for Parishes Father James Lang, he had hoped to install Brother Edward in his new position last year.
“I’m looking forward to him being here,” Father Lang said. “We wanted him here last year.”
The Franciscans, however, wanted Brother Edward to further solidify the new parish he had helped establish.
“The parish was still forming its identity and was still working on moving through its infancy and onto its adolescence in terms of its identity and what it could accomplish,” Brother Edward said.
Brother Edward added that it was important to him that the new parish community was moving in the right direction by the time he left.
Holy Trinity was the culmination of one of the diocese’s first mergers. The process began in 2002 when the diocese determined that St. Joseph’s, St. Ann’s and St. Stanislaus Kostka were to merge. The Franciscans maintain a strong presence at nearby Ss. Cyril and Methodius Church and Bishop James Moynihan asked them to lead the merger process. Brother Edward’s educational background, which includes a bachelor’s degree in community organizing, made him an easy choice to coordinate the merger.
Father Lang noted that since it was among the first mergers to occur during the reconfiguration process, there was little precedent locally for the challenges awaiting the parish communities as they came together.
Brother Edward said he was surprised at the transition’s smooth evolution.
“It actually went very well. It went much better than I expected it to. It went faster than I expected it to. Once people understood what we needed to do and what we needed to take care of they either got on board or they went away,” Brother Edward said.
The crucial element in the process was communication, the Franciscan friar said. Communication enabled the communities to focus on their commonalities.
“They all knew each other. They all went to school together and many of their children had married one another. The only thing they weren’t doing together was going to Mass together on Sunday mornings,” Brother Edward said. “They were going to Mass a block away from each other. So when they got to meet each other and got to know each other they realized they all lived in the same neighborhood and it just broke down some of the barriers.”
Once the initial barriers were dealt with, the process moved along organically, according to Brother Edward.
“I tried to let that happen more and more naturally than I tried to force it,” he said. “I had the people get together and I had the parish councils get together.
I had the altar rosary meet together.”
He said the fulcrum for the transition was establishing a core group to filter and disseminate information to the parish communities involved.
“I did start with a core group. We called it the commission,” Brother Edward said. “The core group processed everything — the demographic data for Broome County and for the diocese. They’re the ones that processed it and they brought that stuff back to the other organizations and I tried to be present at as many meetings as I could to answer questions for everybody. I think part of what worked was that core group.”
Since then, Brother Edward has been involved in facilitating several other mergers, linkages and other reconfiguration processes that have brought parish communities closer together in Norwich, Binghamton, Utica, Jamesville and DeWitt.
Aug. 16, several chapels, missions and parishes closed. Now Brother Edward will focus on what he described as “the second layer,” parishes that will need to merge or link with others within one year.
“Now we will facilitate the conversation with the next layer of reconfiguration and what needs to be done, how do we get there, and what we need to do to make that happen,” he said. “Then we move on to the next stage and deal with whatever issues come up next.”
He reiterated that communication would be crucial for any of the parishes involved in the reconfiguration process.
“Probably the most important thing is communication. You know there’s no perfect format for communicating with people but if you can give people the right information and get the people to talk about it and you let people emote about how they’re feeling about losing their parishes — and it’s going to be like losing a parent — and you give them a place to grieve and that really helps the whole process. We did that well in our process,” Brother Edward said.