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Bishop Issues Decree for Alpena Parish Merger
STEVEN J RAICA
Divina Miseratione et Apostolicæ Sedis Gratia
Merger of the following parishes in Alpena, Michigan: St Bernard, St Mary, the Immaculate Conception, St Anne, St John the Baptist.
St Anne Parish has served the French Catholic faithful in Alpena, Michigan since 1883. St Bernard Parish has served the Catholic faithful in Alpena, Michigan since 1864. St John the Baptist Parish has served the Catholic faithful in Alpena, Michigan since 1958. St Mary, the Immaculate Conception, Parish has served the Polish Catholic faithful of Alpena, Michigan since 1883.
During that time, the faithful have heard the Word of God, have worshiped and have received the sacraments of the Church in their respective parish communities. Now, in an effort to strengthen the preaching of the Gospel and to ensure the vitality of the Catholic community through a vibrant parish life, with concern for stewardship of resources and the right of the People of God to receive assistance from the Church, especially the Word of God, spiritual sustenance and the sacraments, it is necessary to make new provisions for the spiritual care of the parishioners of these parishes.
To that end, the parishioners were asked to make known their needs and desires. The recommendation of the Parish and Personnel Task Force that concluded its study from 2007 – 2009 and made known its recommendations on April 27, 2009, specified that the four parishes in Alpena be merged into a single community by the year 2014. From 2007 – 2009, the Parish and Personnel Task Force engaged in a broad consultation including, but not limited to, parish-wide meetings (town halls), and discussions of future pastoral planning with vicariates and at the diocesan level. The pastoral staff and the combined pastoral council of the four parishes in Alpena, reported that the time had arrived to merge the parishes to strengthen the pastoral activity in Alpena. In fulfillment of the norm of canon 515, §2, regarding any notable change in a parish, the bishop must fulfill the formality of hearing (audito) the Presbyteral Council. On March 3, 2015, the Presbyteral Council met and recommended that the merger go forward after having reviewed the demographic, sacramental, and financial data of the parishes in Alpena, thereby supporting the implementation of the recommendation of the Parish and Personnel Task Force.
Therefore, in accord with canons 120 – 121 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law, I, as Bishop of Gaylord, hereby decree the merger of the four Alpena parishes mentioned above in fulfillment of the outcomes of the Strategic Plan:
- The four territorial parishes of St Anne, St Bernard, St John the Baptist, and St Mary, the Immaculate Conception, be merged (unio extinctiva) into one new parish. The name of the new parish will remain for the time being as the Catholic Community of Alpena and the people of the Catholic Community of Alpena, at some indeterminate future time, can recommend a name for the new parish.
- The merged parish will consist of the membership of the St Anne, St Bernard, St John the Baptist, and St Mary, the Immaculate Conception. By law, all baptized persons within the territorial circumscriptions of these parishes will have a pastor who will be spiritually responsible for them. (Cf., canon 515, §1). The boundaries of the new parish will include the boundaries of the current four parishes.
- The parish administration of the Catholic Community of Alpena will be centered at St Anne Church.
- At the request of the combined Parish Pastoral Council, the liturgical and sacramental life and the place of worship of the Catholic Community of Alpena will be centered at St Anne Church. St Bernard Church, St John the Baptist Church, St Mary, the Immaculate Conception Church, will be used for some sacramental ministrations, funerals, special events and celebration of the patronal feasts of the Church, and to meet the pastoral needs of the faithful.
- Reverend Richard Schaeffer will serve as the administrator of the Catholic Community of Alpena until June 30, 2015, after which time, on July 1, 2015, Reverend Joseph Muszkiewicz will become the Pastor of the Catholic Community of Alpena. Father Schaeffer and Father Muszkiewicz are to foster the spiritual care of the faithful entrusted to their care, in light of the provisions of canon 519.
This decision is motived by a number of factors, among which are the ongoing decline of the faithful participating in their respective worshiping communities, the reasonable proximities of the parishes in the merger and their respective church edifices and parochial campuses, the desire to avoid duplication of services whenever possible, the spiritual welfare of the communities, the spread of the Gospel, the promotion of unity among the People of God, the enhancement of collaborative ministry and the better and more effective utilization of limited and available clergy.
In light of the challenge of Pope St John Paul II, in his Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, this decision is taken to strengthen “the proclamation of Christ to reach people, mould communities, and have a deep and incisive influence in bringing Gospel values to bear in society and culture.” (n. 29)
Before May 23, 2015, the parish registers of the former St Anne Parish, St Bernard Parish, St John the Baptist Parish and St Mary, the Immaculate Conception Parish containing the records and registers of baptism, confirmation, First Eucharist, marriage and death, along with the parish records and historical documents are to be forward to the parish office of the Catholic Community of Alpena located at the new parish offices at St Anne Church where they are to be faithfully preserved and maintained in accord with canon 535, §§ 1-5. Any registers, records and historical documents not needed for continued administration of the present parishes of St Anne, St Bernard, St John the Baptist, St Mary, the Immaculate Conception, and their adjoining campuses, are to be forwarded to the Diocesan Archives.
According to the norm of canon 121, all assets and liabilities, whether movable or immovable, of the former St Anne Parish, St Bernard Parish, St John the Baptist Parish, and St Mary, the Immaculate Conception Parish, will become the assets and liabilities of the juridic person of the Catholic Community of Alpena. In all financial matters involving wills, trusts and foundations to maintain the patrimony and churches of St Anne, St Bernard, St John the Baptist and St Mary, the Immaculate Conception, the intention of the founders and benefactors is to be respected. Any acquired rights are to be safeguarded. Furthermore, ownership of all ecclesiastical goods and all objects of artistic or historical value belonging to the parishes of St Anne, St Bernard, St John the Baptist, St Mary, the Immaculate Conception will be transferred to the Catholic Community of Alpena and administered in accordance with the prescriptions of Church law with due regard for the intention of benefactors (cf. canons 32 passim; 1284, § 2).
The effect of the merger (unio extinctiva) of St Anne Parish, St Bernard Parish, St John the Baptist Parish, St Mary, the Immaculate Conception Parish, is the termination of the independent juridic personality of the former St Anne Parish, St Bernard Parish, St John the Baptist Parish, and St Mary, the Immaculate Conception Parish, which each now possesses by law. Thus, each of these parishes individually will no longer be a subject of obligations and rights in canon law corresponding to its nature as a juridic person, nor will each be capable of acquiring, retaining, administering, or alienating temporal goods according to the norm of law.
I direct that this decree be given to the pastoral leadership of the parishes of St Anne, St Bernard, St John the Baptist, and St Mary, the Immaculate Conception, and that its contents, especially the dispositive part of this decree, along with the “Process to Initiate Recourse against an Administrative Decree” be communicated to parishioners of all four parishes on the weekend of Saturday, May 2 - Sunday, May 3, 2015. I further direct that this decree be published on the website of the Diocese of Gaylord (www.dioceseofgaylord.org) which will be presumed to be the official notification of this action.
Anything to the contrary notwithstanding.
Given at the Pastoral Center of the Diocese of Gaylord on this the 1st day of May, in the year of our Lord, 2015, the feast of St Joseph, the Worker.
+Steven J Raica
Bishop of Gaylord
Vicki L Looker
Process to Recourse Against a Decree
The Process to initiate a recourse against an Administrative Decree
The process to initiate a recourse against administrative decrees, such as the establishment, merger, modification or suppression of a parish or the closure of a church building is found in Book VII, Part V, Section 1 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law. The principle expressed by the Code itself is that there be no contention between one who feels injured and the author of the decree (cf. canon 1733). If it is necessary to propose a recourse petition against a decree issued by the bishop or by authorities subject to him, the following points may be of some assistance.
1. The pastor alone represents the parish in all juridic affairs (cf. canon 532). Only the pastor may propose recourse in the name of the parish. Individuals may not claim to represent the parish, nor can groups of individuals claim to represent the parish in proposing recourse. An individual, however, may propose recourse only in his or her own name. Similarly, a group of individuals may propose recourse collectively, but representing themselves and no others. They may not claim to represent a larger group, or the entire parish.
2. Canon 1734 establishes that, before proposing hierarchic recourse (i.e., a petition for examination of a decree by the proper Dicastery of the Holy See), one must seek revocation or emendation of the decree, first. This must be done in writing to the author of the decree, within a peremptory period of ten (10) available days (tempus utile) from legal notice of the decree. Accordingly, prior to the close of business on the tenth (10th) available day after the legal notice of the decree, a written request for Bishop Raica to revoke or amend the decree must be sent or delivered to:
Most Reverend Steven J Raica, DD, JCD
Diocese of Gaylord
611 W North St
Gaylord, MI 49735-8349
a. Recourse petitions must state exactly what is being petitioned and
the reasons why;
b. Recourse petitions that are not specific as to what is sought or why it is
petitioned, will not be accepted and will not be considered as delaying the
initial ten (10) day limit;
c. Requests for an extension of time will not be honored;
d. Recourse petitions sent by facsimile (fax) will not be accepted.
3. If a valid petition for revocation or emendation of a decree is received within the ten (10) day time limit, Bishop Raica has thirty (30) days from receipt of the recourse petition to respond. If no response is given in thirty (30) days, a negative response is to be assumed (cf. canon 1735).
4. If, after a legitimate recourse petition has been presented, Bishop Raica does not amend or revoke the initial decree, hierarchic recourse may be proposed to the Holy See. This must be done within a peremptory time limit of fifteen (15) available days. This recourse cannot validly be proposed unless one has first written to Bishop Raica, asking him to revoke or amend the decree, as in Number 2 above. This recourse is to be made in writing, along with the reasons for seeking the recourse, to the proper Dicastery of the Holy See.