By Erin O'Connor
WESTFIELD - Holy Trinity Church is celebrating over 100 years of service to the community by operating with a "business as usual" attitude amidst reports that the church may be targeted to close.
"We don't now what the future of the church is at this point," Father Parent Rainy, the residential pastor, said. "This is the beginning of a conversation of the future of the diocese. We are going on as normal, we will continue activities."
The reports came after the release of a demographic study of the Springfield Diocese, started in 2004, came back with a series of findings based on population to priest ratio, baptismals and funerals, parishioner attendance, total outstanding debt indicator and other factors.
The report was prepared by Dr. John Mullin of the University of Massachusetts's Center of Economic Development and commissioned by Monsignor John Bonzagni. Bonzagni said March 2, that the report started a conversation by the Diocese of Springfield to plan for the future of churches and parishes in western Massachusetts and to assist in addressing financial difficulties.
The report said Holy Trinity Parish would link with St. Mary's Parish, St. Casimir Parish and St. Peter Parish and then a residential pastor would be assigned at the location of St. Mary's Church.
Rainey said, because of its proximity to other churches and looking at the population of Westfield, the Mullin report expects that by 2010 there will be two priests available to serve all of the people of Westfield.
Pastoral Associate Renee Asmar said the facts of the report are outdated as their collection began two to three years ago when the church was at a difficult point in time.
"Since July of 2004, Holy Trinity has a perfect track record of meeting financial obligations," Asmar said.
Asmar said the report counts the amount of priests that are only of the Diocese while Holy Trinity is hosted by Father Rainey and Father Luke who are on missionary orders and not of the Springfield Diocese.
Both priests are Missionaries of LaSalette.
"The general consensus is that fewer Catholics are attending church in this part of the country," Rainy said.
According to a statement made by Springfield Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell, in 1980 there were approximately 351,000 Catholics living in the Springfield Diocese's four counties and today there are about 234,000, a drop of one-third.
"It is like a pendulum swinging back," Rainey said in speaking of the church's population. "The 60's had the Baby Boom and now things are returning back to normal, if you look at the history of the church." Why Holy Trinity?
According to Rainey St. Mary's parish is larger than Holy Trinity's and Blessed Sacrament is in a different area of Westfield and that is why Holy Trinity was chosen for the possible closing.
Rainy said that the trend of lack of individuals going into the priesthood started long before bad publicity of the church began.
According to Asmar it was mentioned at the Pastoral Planning meeting that parishes (given the reality of priest shortage) accept "Trained Lay Professionals" to help shoulder the ministries to free the priest for the sacramental life of the people and to be "priest."
An Active Parish
A campaign for improvement to replace two roofs of the former Holy Trinity School building that is now known as the Parish Life Center. One roof has already been funded.
The Parish Life Center is home to classes for young people and it is a place to gather Asmar said. The third floor is a youth center.
"If you want to learn then everything will fall into place," Asmar said.
"We are trying to help the youth have ownership in the church," Asmar said adding that the music is louder during this Mass.
"A youth mass happens Sunday evenings of every other week. There will be a Youth Mass on April 8 at 5 p.m.
Young adults in their 20's, 30's and 40's are invited to a program where they will come to an informal venue at the Parish Life Center.
"For this type of venue it is inviting no fear, no need for that type of anxiety. People can relax and integrate the stuff of life," Asmar said.
Asmar said the program is to be run by a lay ministry but the priest can make a guest appearance from time to time.
"If a kid starts misbehaving you should never have to deter them from coming to mass," Asmar said.
At 10:30 a.m. Mass parents can bring their children to the Parish Life Center for "Forming of Faith" classes that last one-hour in length.
"It is no longer about going in and feeling dread," Asmar said. "It is about getting re-connected with ourselves."
Confession hours are 3-3:45 p.m. on Saturdays or by appointment.
"The point is reconnecting," Asmar said. "One aspect is helping to realize that they [people] are not shunned but the wisdom of those years is valuable. Absence does not mean bad it is how you relate to that journey. Everything is an opportunity for growth and understanding. Help hold the church," Asmar said.
More information about Holy Trinity Parish can be found by contacting 568-1506.
Daily Mass goes Monday thru Friday at 12:10 p.m. Sunday Mass is at 7:00 a.m., 8:30a.m. [Polish], and 10:30 a.m.
"We are going on," Rainy said. "This is only a possibility. A decision won't be made for two-three years. The report said it would not be implemented until 2010. Until we here different it is business as usual."
Rainey has worked at a number of parishes in New England over the last 30 years.
"I enjoy interacting with the parishioners, meeting them on a personal level and being involved with liturgical, social and various committees," he said.
Holy Trinity Church opened its doors in 1904.