Archdiocese announces plan for local parishes

By: Jennie Miller | Southfield Sun | Published February 29, 2012

 Church of the Transfiguration is among the 214 Catholic churches in southeast Michigan tasked with creating a cluster or merger plan with other churches. It was formed in 2007, when five Southfield churches closed.

Church of the Transfiguration is among the 214 Catholic churches in southeast Michigan tasked with creating a cluster or merger plan with other churches. It was formed in 2007, when five Southfield churches closed.

Photo by Edward Osinski


SOUTHFIELD — No Catholic churches in Southfield were among those slated for closure or merging in the parish plans laid out by the Archdiocese of Detroit Feb. 20.

However, two parishes — Our Lady of Albanians and Church of the Transfiguration — were among 214 of the Archdiocese’s 267 parishes tasked with creating cluster, merger or collaboration plans in the event that they lose their priests or go into debt.

In the action plan, three buildings are slated for closure, and there could eventually be 22 fewer worship sites by the end of 2013 as a result of 38 parishes being merging into 18 parishes.

The Archdiocese cited a decline in parishioners and a shortage of priests as reasons for the action plan. It estimates it will have 30 percent fewer priests 10 years from now. According to the 2010 U.S. Census Report, of the 4.4 million people in the six-county Archdiocese, 32 percent are estimated to be Catholic, or 1,435,000, half of whom are registered with a parish and 30 percent of whom attend Mass regularly and contribute financially.

Despite a $135 million capital campaign that is currently under way to strengthen parishes, a call on all Catholics to engage in evangelization and a priority mission to encourage priesthood as a vocation, the action plan was pieced together with the collaboration of 1,500 parishioners from throughout the six counties in the Archdiocese, an advisory board and Archbishop Allen Vigneron.

Our Lady of Albanians, at 29350 Lahser, was tasked with developing plans to be either a cluster or merger partner with St. Paul Albanian in Rochester Hills. These plans would only be implemented in the event that one loses its current pastor — either if he retires, passes away or is reassigned without an available replacement — or if either begins to experience a net operating deficit.

Church of the Transfiguration, at 25231 Code Road, has been told to identify a cluster partner and develop a cluster plan with Farmington churches Our Lady of Sorrows and St. Gerald, and Farmington Hills churches St. Alexander, St. Clare of Assisi, St. Colman of Cloyne and St. Fabian.

A cluster is two or more parishes that share a pastor but maintain independent finances and separate parish councils. A merger is two parishes coming together to form a single parish with a single pastor, and combined finances and parish councils.

Five years ago, Church of the Transfiguration was formed following a merger between St. Bede, St. Ives, St. Beatrice and St. Michaels, all of which closed, and the new church opened at the old St. Michaels’ site.

“We already went through our big change back in 2007,” said Sharon Myers, business manager for Church of the Transfiguration. “Right now, we won’t be affected by this — we have to come up with a plan per the archbishop in case something happens to our pastor or we fall into a financial problem. If he passes away, if he gets moved and if they cant find somebody to replace him. We have Franciscan priests here. So if the Franciscans decide they can no longer staff our parish, then that would affect us, because then the Archdiocese would have to send a diocesan priest here.”

The first time around, when the parishes merged, there were mixed feelings from parishioners, Myers said.

“There were multiple responses,” she said. “There were people who had been in their parishes that were baptized and married in their parishes. There was a lot of sadness and grief. But there were people that accepted the change and gladly participated in it once they went through their grieving process, and there were some that were too grief stricken to participate and went to other (churches). There’s a whole range of emotions.”

Church staff reached out as much as it could to parishioners.

“We continued contacting the parishioners of all the parishes for a solid year into the merger, and we continued mailing and reaching out to all the parishioners (who’d left),” she said. “Slowly we were able to see who wanted to continue, and we did have some people that came back after being gone a year or two and decided they wanted to be a part of the merged parish.”

If it ends up that the parish will have to merge once again, or this time cluster, church staff is working on its plan to ensure a smooth process.

“We have to collaborate with neighboring parishes on finances and religious education programs — that’s the plan we all have to come up with,” she said. “Every parish is responsible for collaborating with neighboring parishes.”

The plans are to be submitted to the Archdiocese no later than June 30.

For more information about Our Lady of Albanians, call (248) 353-3410. For more information about Church of the Transfiguration, call (248) 356-8788.