BRISTOL - Two Bristol churches will merge with each other by June 29, creating a new parish within the city.
The merger decision, part of a two-year planning process by the Archdiocese of Hartford, was announced by Archbishop Leonard P. Blair and the Office of Pastoral Planning, at St. Thomas Seminary in Bloomfield Sunday. In total, the Archdiocese’s 212 parishes will be reduced to 127.
In Bristol, the new parish, named St. Francis de Sales, will be formed with the merger of St. Anthony and St. Ann churches. St. Gregory the Great, St. Joseph and St. Stanislaus will remain as they are.
In Terryville, a new parish, St. Maximillian Kolbe, will be formed with the merger of St. Thomas Church of Thomaston and the two Terryville churches, Immaculate Conception and St. Casimir.
The planning process was undertaken in an effort to deal with dwindling numbers of priests, changing demographics and the maintenance costs of aging buildings
“I hope people will realize that the purpose of pastoral planning is not only about ensuring a more sustainable future for them, it’s also about a future in the church for their children and grandchildren,” Blair said in a press release announcing the decision. “My hope and prayer is that we will be revitalized by a new generation of young Catholics who believe and practice their faith, and who hear and respond generously to God’s call, whether in marriage and family life, or as priests and religious sisters or brothers.”
The continued use of the buildings of churches involved in mergers will be subject to local determination over time, according the release. As the pastoral process continues, new uses for buildings will be considered.
The names assigned to each new parish came from Blair, who followed the results of a “Saints for Tomorrow” survey on the pastoral planning website, in which almost 1,000 people responded with potential names. A church building will always retain the name by which it was dedicated, the release states, even if part of a new parish with a different name.
According to the archdiocese, their number of parishes grew from 195 in 1965 to 212 in 2015, but over the same time, average Mass attendance fell 69 percent (from 395,102 in 1969 to 123,502) and the number of active priests is down 88 percent (from 535 to 186).
In New Britain, St. Jerome and St. Maurice churches will merge to form St. Katherine Drexel Parish, effective June 1; St. Mary and St. Ann churches will merge to form St. Joachim Parish; St. Andrew and St. John the Evangelist churches will merge to form Holy Apostles Parish, and St. Joseph and St. Peter churches will merge to form Divine Providence Parish. Holy Cross, St. Francis of Assisi and Sacred Heart churches are unaffected.
In Berlin, Sacred Heart Church and St. Paul Church merged in early March as part of the process, with all but one Sunday 9:30 a.m. Mass at Sacred Heart Church being moved to St. Paul following the St. Paul Mass schedule.
In Newington, a new parish, Annunciation, will be formed with the merger of St. Mary and Holy Spirit churches.
No changes were announced for churches in Forestville, Plainville and Southington.
Throughout the archdiocese, 144 parishes will be involved in mergers, resulting in 59 new parishes. The mergers involved unions of two to six parishes, with 68 parishes unchanged. 186 church buildings will remain open, while 26 will closes, “inasmuch as regularly scheduled Masses will no longer be held in them,” according to the archdiocese.
The Hartford Archdiocese consists of Hartford, Litchfield and New Haven counties, and was established as a diocese on Nov. 28, 1843, becoming an archdiocese on Aug. 6, 1953. There are 186 archdiocesan priests serving 545,980 Roman Catholics within the archdiocese. The archdiocese now serves 112 towns and cities, with 212 churches in the three counties.
For more information, visit stewardsfortomorrow.org, where a podcast explaining the planning process is available.
Charles Paullin can be reached at 860-801-5074 or firstname.lastname@example.org