Thursday, October 17, 2013

When Another Church Closes

Infants and adults were baptized into Saint Athanasius Catholic Church in Roseville, MI., since its founding in 1958.

Formation in the faith at the Macomb County parish supplemented what the primary educators by parents needed to get their children on the path of what is right and moral.

Hearts were reconciled with God, family, among others in the sacraments of Penance.

People received who they are at Mass: The Body of Christ.

Couples were married.

And, more.

Singles enjoyed the clubs they organized for decades.

Retreats gave pause for people to put their lives into perspective once more.

Funerals found people grieving over the loss of family, friends, church members, among others who needed a Christian burial.

Now, the vibrant edifice will close soon and the shuttering of the church's doors at 18720 E. 13 Mile Road, Roseville, MI., 48066, will present pain and heart-ache for many, especially the elderly who invested much time and energy into building and bonding and being the People of God.

The office will be silenced when no more calls are made and e-mails at stop the flow of communications, sentiments and stories of loss and grief.

Life is like that with its trials and tribulations; it's consolations and desolations.

Like a roller-coaster ride, humans hurt in the feelings felt deep within the believer's heart.

Parishioners will talk to each other about their mourning that will shine through their saddened faces right down to the core of their being where the Kingdom of God flows freely.

Public rosaries will cease and perpetual help devotions pleading the intercession of Mary, a favorite patroness, will no longer be recited.

Small communities of families will meet before and after Mass as the moment of the funeral of this fully active, conscious and participatory community of enthusiasm, and more, is set by archdiocesan officials.

Back in the 50s, an archbishop of Detroit was there to formally establish St. Athanasius Church.

He probably won't be there for the shuttering.

Eighteen people will unfold the future of St. A's sister parish, Sacred Heart Church at Gratiot and Utica Road that snakes its way up to St. Lawrence Church, one of the surviving Catholic parishes that are folding these day like flies swatted dead.

And, while it looks like parishioners determined their faith with this committee or that, a lack of priest personnel is central to countless closures in the Archdiocese of Detroit.

I remember.

While a pastor at St. Jospeh's in Lake Orion, MI., cable television was the means by which the People of God were told of their fate. 

Anxiously, I awaited and watched with glued eyes to the TV as Saint Christine, in Brightmoor's community at Fenkell and Lahser in northwest Detroit was situated.

Now, the once thriving edifice and school is filled by the neighboring Leland Baptist Church next door.  Only the Father Clement Kern Center that the parish bought while I was a pastor there, remains as a resource center.

Perhaps the Trappist monk, Thomas Merton, says it best:

I do not know where I am going, a paraphrase of his prayer notes.

Yet, one trusts that God enfolds him in his trail.

And, he, like the St. Athanasius parishioners surrender to what is the reality thrust upon them.

Their grief may be great.

However it is, grief needs to be processed in the loss of life, a love, a limb, and more at this once vibrant parish.

Over the months I watched its life ebb.

And, will witness more of the same in a wider church of Detroit, and, elsewhere, that seems to lack a vision with its dwindling numbers of attendees, and, fewer men choosing the life of a priest.

Culture wars seem to occupy its officials, coupled with lifting a tremendous debt incurred over a decade with those steering the ship, so to speak, amid the AOD's Cardinal building the fledgling Pope John Paul II Center in Washington, D.C., that the Knights of Columbus purchased.  More debt and spending. . . and. . . leadership lack awaits Pope Francis' renewed openness after a long dry spell.

In the meantime, pastoral care must be provided by those dubbed as Shepherds of the flock.

Rest in peace, dear St. Athanasius Parish family.

Rest in peace.

1 comment:

  1. For the record, Fr. Lawrence Ventline self-describes himself as a "pastor... for 34 years." He last served as a pastor in the mid-90s. He is currently a priest of the Detroit archdiocese without assignment. His posted remarks are his, and do not speak for or represent the opinions of leadership at the archdiocese or the pastoral teams at the three Macomb County parishes involved in a proposed merger: Our Lady Queen of All Saints in Fraser, Sacred Heart and St. Athanasius in Roseville. While these transitions evoke a wide-range of emotions, it is equally important to recognize that on-site, locally-based pastoral planning has been underway for close to three years between and among these parishes. It would be unfair to suggest there has been a "top down" mandate. And misguided to ignore the difficult and dedicated work of the parishioners charged with bringing forth a recommendation.

    Ned McGrath
    Director of Communications
    Archdiocese of Detroit