Cleansing Fire

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Rush-Henrietta Attendance Collapses Under Lay Administrators

December 18th, 2010, Promulgated by Dr. K

Since clustering their three parishes back in June, the Rush-Henrietta community has failed to release their Mass attendance totals. That is, until now. According to the cluster bulletin, attendance at these parishes has fallen 50% over the past ten years, far worse than the Diocese of Rochester average. I went through and performed my own calculations, and came up with an approximately 42% decline in Rush-Henrietta Mass attendance over the decade. That’s still shamefully bad. Let’s take a look at the Mass attendance numbers for each of these three parishes over the past decade, while analyzing all available attendance figures.

Church of the Good Shepherd (Henrietta) – Capacity: 663 – Decline since 2000: -688 (-53%)

2000- 1,303
2001- 1,335
2002- 1,152
2003- 1,183
Data unavailable from 2004-2006 and 2009
2007- 945
2008- 880 (Nancy DeRycke first year as “Pastoral Leader”)
2010- 615 (Barbara Swiecki first year as Pastoral Administrator)

Guardian Angels (Henrietta) – Capacity: 374 – Decline since 2000: -134 (-21%)

2000- 633
2001- 634
2002- 614
2003- 627
Data unavailable from 2004-2009
2010- 499 (Barbara Swiecki first year as Pastoral Administrator)

St. Joseph (Rush) – Capacity: 250 – Decline since 2000: -205 (-38%)

2000- 535
2001- 571
2002- 537
2003- 491
Data unavailable from 2004-2009
March 2010-430
2010- 330 (Barbara Swiecki first year as Pastoral Administrator)

Total decline since a lay administrator was assigned sole leadership (calculated by attendance figures with a priest pastor/administrator minus October 2010 attendance)
Good Shepherd: -330
Guardian Angels: Unknown. 2005/6 totals unavailable. Ms. Swiecki assigned as administrator in June 2006.
St. Joseph: -100

Summary
T0tal Rush-Henrietta attendance 2000: 2,471
T0tal Rush-Henrietta attendance 2010: 1,444
Decline from 2000-2010: -1,027 (-42%)

One will notice when looking at the above figures that Mass attendance was largely stable from 2000 to 2003, with the possible exception of Good Shepherd, who experienced a 120 person decline. All three of these parishes were led by a priest at this time. The numbers really start to get interesting when lay administrators are assigned to these parishes. This unfortunate arrangement of dubious Canonical legality happened in 2006 for Guardian Angels, 2008 for Good Shepherd (perhaps earlier if one counts the co-administrator leadership toward the end of Della-Pietra’s priesthood), and 2010 for St. Joseph. Nancy DeRycke and Barb Swiecki have so far accounted for a 330 person decline in attendance at Church of the Good Shepherd. The figures are unavailable for Guardian Angels, but it is likely the attendance fell sharply during Ms. Swiecki’s tenure there. Lastly, St. Joseph’s attendance fell by around 100 persons since Barb Swiecki took the reigns. So what are the fruits of Bishop Clark’s lay-run parishes experiment? Less people in the pews, and nearly 1,000 souls put in peril in Rush-Henrietta.

I’m sure someone will quip, “but clustering caused the decline!” To an extent. These numbers were spiraling downward before the clustering and decrease of one weekend Mass per parish, especially at Good Shepherd.

But never fear, for “The Pastoral Council and the Evangelization Committee are working on ways to increase our attendance.” One can only imagine what kind of fluff these groups will produce.

2012 is quickly approaching, thanks be to God.

Click here to witness the fruit of another lay administrator, Sr. Joan Sobala, during her tenure at the once-orthodox and traditional, St. Anne church in the city southeast.

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18 Responses to “Rush-Henrietta Attendance Collapses Under Lay Administrators”

  1. avatar Louis E. says:

    You may want to wait for 2013,if Archbishop Dolan’s praise for the saying “for the first year,change nothing but your socks” is taken to hear by the next bishop.But what is the relative ranking of “Pastoral Leaders” like Nancy DeRycke,”Pastoral Administrators” like Barbara Swiecki,and “Pastoral Ministers” like Helen Delaney?…can the consultors possibly agere on which gets to be diocesan administrator if Clark’s resignation is fshed out of the Vatican in-basket before a replacement is named?

  2. avatar Abaccio says:

    If a lay woman becomes the administrator of the Dor, I’ll eat my hat. Smart money’s on Fr Hart, Fr. McKenna, or Fr. Mulligan if such a situation were to arise.

  3. avatar Anonymous says:

    A lot of people must have demographically moved out of Rochester in the last 10 years! There must have been an exodus!

  4. avatar Bill B. says:

    I still think the exodus is very big part of the exodus. We had four children and all four went to warmer climates. I cannot blame them (youth that leave here). The southern Catholic Churches welcome them and build huge churches for them.

  5. avatar Anonymous says:

    I was just ststing what would be the response of the DOR to this stastic. We know some people have moved but not the numbers to explain the huge drop. So instead of real reflection, they come up with all sorts of poppycock.

  6. avatar Mike says:

    The population in the City Of Rochester has been dropping but I have a hard time believing the same is true of the suburbs. If it were so, where are all the vacant, boarded-up houses in the ‘burbs and why aren’t their apartment vacancies soaring?

    No, the people haven’t left the suburban towns, but the Catholics have been leaving the suburban parishes.

  7. avatar Faithful says:

    I do not pretend to be a Canon Lawyer, nevertheless, I think I know more about Canon Law then the average lay person. By average lay person, I don’t mean the folks who run this blog- as it is clear they have some working knowledge of theology. I mean by “average lay person” the person in the pew.

    In any case the idea of a lay person to run the business end of a parish in the absence of a priest is not foreign to Canon Law. The problem is as I see it that the people appointed to do so, whether sisters or lay persons think this means they become a pseudo-pastor, and begin to think of the parish and the people as “entrusted to their care.” They begin to think of the priest who celebrates Mass in the parish as the “assisting priest.” (as his assignment to the parish is in the capacity of their assistant. To the extreme they can even see the priest as an intruder- getting in the way of their plans for the parish) They think of the priest as having no right to try to form the parish, or set pastoral policy. They want him to “do his thing” which is to say “celebrate Mass” and then be on his way.

    Perhaps in this day an age of priest shortage, until the Church gets more vocations, a workable model might run like this. Every area of a Diocese has a priest assigned to it. There might be 10 parishes in the area, perhaps the priest could take up residence at the main one, and the one with the biggest Catholic population. He would be pastor of all 10, but at the 9 where he is not in residence a lay administrator could be appointed to take care of the day to day running of the parish, and provide communion services in his absence. At the same time the priest would still be avaliable for emergencies, etc. Also the lay person has freedom to make day to day decisions, even regarding some of the Spiritual programs, but answers directly to the pastor, and the pastor retains total authority over everything. Perhaps the pastor could do a rotation so that each parish has Mass at least once a month, etc. I think there are ways to make such a model work, until the vocations crisis turns around.

    The reality is that there IS a shortage of priest. Even if the pope himelf was bishop of Rochester- it would not change the sitaution as it is right now. Some things are going to have to give (parish closings and consolidations, lay “administrators” etc) until things turn around. Therefore I think there are ways to make the model work while respecting solid Catholic principles. The problem is not with the idea, the problem, it seems to me is how it is being carried out. The only other option is closing parishes when no priest is avaliable for it.

  8. avatar Anonymous says:

    In Rochester, the respect for the priest has hit an all time low. All the governing nuns and femaile lay administratershave removed the authority of the priest and substituted their own authorityn his place, with the blessing of the bishop.

  9. avatar Dr. K says:

    Isn’t Henrietta one of our growing suburbs, so much so that it was once tossed about constructing a new Cathedral there?

    So why the very sharp decline in attendance?

  10. avatar Faithful says:

    Anonymous:

    And therein lies exactely the problem I was talking about- the WAY in which the idea of “pastoral administrator” is being carried out. It seems the manner in which this is being carried out is with the idea that “This is a new model of parish leadership which is superior to the old model. We are ushering in a new era of Catholocism…” rather then “This is just a temperary fix and not ideal unless or until the vocations problem turns around.” Why would a young man be interested in the priesthood when it is all but emasculated in some dioceses? My point is that if a diocese is forced to go with a model of lay leadership in parishes, it must be careful not to undermine solid priestly identity, or confuse roles.

  11. avatar Mike says:

    Canons 515 through 552 deal with the subject of parish priests. They are all available here.

    Canon 517 ß2 appears to address specifically the issue of “lay parish administrators.” It reads as follows,

    If, because of a shortage of priests, the diocesan Bishop has judged that a deacon, or some other person who is not a priest, or a community of persons, should be entrusted with a share in the exercise of the pastoral care of a parish, he is to appoint some priest who, with the powers and faculties of a parish priest, will direct the pastoral care.

    I don’t think it takes a canon lawyer to understand exactly what this means – and doesn’t mean.

  12. avatar Anonymous says:

    The diocese hired the Center for Governmental Research to study the numbers and find out why Catholic elementary school enrollment keeps going down. There was a meeting on August 16 with the CGR, the bishop, the CFO of the diocese and other diocesan administrators, Catholic school administrators, board members, and parent representatives, parish priests, etc. The bottom line is that the CGR’s numbers do NOT show a correlation between population decline and the decline in student enrollment. The population has remained statistically stable. The CGR found that not only has school enrollment greatly declined, but that there has been a huge decline in people in the pews and a 40% decline in babies being baptized over the last couple decades. It was pointed out by the CGR gentleman giving the report that there must be something else at work besides a decline in population.

  13. avatar Louis E. says:

    Abaccio…it’s in the canons that a diocesan administrator has to be a priest,but does that stop Rochester,given the propensity to let lay women administer/lead./minister parishes?

  14. avatar Scott W. says:

    But never fear, for “The Pastoral Council and the Evangelization Committee are working on ways to increase our attendance.” One can only imagine what kind of fluff these groups will produce.

    Translation: continue the treatment. We bleed the patient. If the patient continues to die, then obviously we are not bleeding him enough.

  15. avatar Anonymous says:

    Why be a physician if you have to answer to nurses about working your practice. The same with a priest.

  16. avatar Nerina says:

    Regarding population stats: in Victor the population continues to grow (the school district has just proposed another expansion project due to projected increased enrollment numbers), yet attendance continues to drop steadily at our church. Given the increase in population, you would expect our church to be “busting at the seams” (we hold about 400 people when full), but most Masses are about 1/2 full. Currently we average 800 parishioners per weekend (over 4 Masses). I know of many Catholics either staying at home or now attending other churches.

  17. avatar Mike says:

    Anon. 3:39,

    DOR actually paid CGR to do that “research”? They could have just checked a few posts here on Cleansing Fire and on my old blog and obtained the same info for free.

    This post would have been especially helpful, while this one would have shown that not all dioceses are experiencing our woes.

  18. avatar Anonymous says:

    Actually, Henrietta is the second largest town in Monroe County, next to Greece (2010 Census estimates).

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