Vincentians are asked to leave St. Stanislaus B&M parish in New Haven, CT

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Archbishop’s address:

To the Catholic Faithful of New Haven,

“To those who love God all things work together unto good” (Romans 8:28). These words of St. Paul have given strength and encouragement to the Church through the centuries. Today we are confronted with a number of challenges, as are many other religious bodies, posed in particular by the diminishing practice of the Faith and of church attendance by any number of Catholics, which is matched by the ever diminishing numbers of priests to serve our parishes, many of which were established in the heyday of Catholic practice and housing expansion in Connecticut. This was evident before the crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic and will require close monitoring post-COVID.
It is with this in mind that in recent years the Archdiocese of Hartford has embarked on a process of Pastoral Planning. The goal is to take an honest look at the situations and structures of the Catholic population of the Archdiocese in order to begin making changes that will assist in re-organizing the local Church not just for today but also into the future. Sometimes this has involved difficult choices – reconfiguration, mergers, closings – but these changes have already led to rejuvenation in a number of our parishes, cities, and towns.
While the churches in the city of New Haven experienced some alteration during the first wave of Pastoral Planning in 2017, the plan now is to initiate an even more substantial change to support its Catholic population. Instead of simply closing or merging weakening or failing parishes, the goal is to bring the priests, churches, ministries, and resources of the city together, uniting them in the hopes of creating a stronger, more vibrant Catholic community and culture. Thus the Archdiocese will now be implementing a new, united “municipal model” for the city of New Haven. The several parishes in New Haven will be brought together into a single new entity, still keeping a number of existing church buildings and serving thousands of diverse parishioners.
To begin this process, effective December 1, 2021, St. Mary Parish will have a new Pastor appointed who eventually will serve as what Church law calls a priest “moderator” (CIC 517.1), a “first among equals” collaborating with some of the current Pastors and other soon to be named clergy, as together they take up the various pastoral ministries of New Haven. All will be united together in their efforts to minister in a comprehensive way. The Vincentian and Dominican Fathers who have served New Haven were offered the opportunity to participate in this new configuration but for various reasons they declined. The Dominicans in particular were presented with several options which would have provided a house for them in the Archdiocese and even in the City of New Haven. However they determined that these alternatives were not feasible for them at this time. I am happy to say, however, that some of these Religious will remain in ministry in the Archdiocese.
The St. Mary’s Church campus was chosen to be the center of the new plan after extensive study because it is perfectly situated to be the geographical and spiritual focal point of a municipal model for New Haven. With its centralized location and functional rectory space, so much of what needs to be done to serve the Faithful can be most effectively coordinated from the St. Mary’s facilities. The church also houses the tomb of Blessed Michael McGivney, a priest of the Archdiocese of Hartford on a path to canonization, God willing. We earnestly seek his intercession as we embark on this new plan to revitalize the Faith in our Archdiocese.
As noted earlier, there was a time when New Haven, like many cities, was teeming with immigrant Catholics. In the 1930’s New Haven was home to over 70,000 Catholics. Today that number is approximately 10,000.  While St. Aedan, St. Anthony, St. Francis, St. Rose, St. Michael, St. Stanislaus, St. Bernadette, St. Martin de Porres, St. Joseph, and St. Mary’s Churches all remain open in various pastoral configurations, a substantial number, including Sacred Heart, St. Brendan, St. Boniface, St. Casimir, St. Donato, St. John the Baptist, St. John the Evangelist, St. Louis, St. Patrick, and St. Peter Churches, all once proud churches of New Haven, have closed out of necessity. Likewise, 20 parochial schools have closed as well.
With regard to the Catholic presence in the city of New Haven, there is no doubt that besides the configuration of parishes, account must also be taken of institutions like the Knights of Columbus with their international headquarters, Yale University with the Saint Thomas More Catholic Chapel and Center, Albertus Magnus College, All Saints Catholic Academy located on Ferry Street, and the privately run St. Martin de Porres Academy.
All of this requires a diversity of pastoral care for ministry to Spanish-speakers and various Hispanic/Latino cultures, as well as Black Catholics; ministry to traditional ethnic groups, including the strong Polish and Italian communities; ministry to the young adult and university students; assistance to the Knights of Columbus; and service to the people of the broader Archdiocese of Hartford. This is what the municipal model in New Haven must supply, and it will require a collection of motivated and very capable diocesan priests to provide this array of ministries.
Change is not easy and transitions are challenging, but I am confident that just as linkages and mergers elsewhere in the Archdiocese have been successful, they can also be successful in New Haven. I ask you to join me in praying for a return to participation in the life of our parishes by our many non-practicing Catholics and for a great increase in priestly ordinations for our Archdiocese, and please know of my appreciation and prayers for all of you.
                                                                        Sincerely yours in Christ,
                                                                        Most Reverend Leonard P. Blair
                                                                        Archbishop of Hartford


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