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Putting in the final work for TIF, for now

In Parish Transition on May 30, 2011 at 2:09 PM

Hello! I hope everyone’s had a wonderful spring so far.

The Together in Faith planning committee is winding down its work before summer goes full force. This past Thursday, the group met to discuss how we would go about making the final recommendations. Taking a close look at finances, ministries and activities at SS. Peter and Paul, and the other parishes in our planning group (St. Aloysius, St. Patrick, Our Lady of the Rosary), has better prepared to make suggestions about where our parishes should go from here.

As an example, some of the questions we’re being asked to respond to: What are some best practices that should be duplicated? What recommendations could be made about future mergers? We’ll look at all the data we’ve analyzed over the past few months and submit our answers, which will then all be compiled. Then, they go to the big man in charge, the Archbishop, for him and his people to analyze and get back to us.

So, we ask that you continue to keep the committee in your prayers for the next few weeks as we make our final recommendations. There’s still a lot of work to do.

-Kristin Lukowski, parish council member, Together in Faith committee member

Together in Faith meetings back in session

In Parish Transition on May 15, 2011 at 9:20 AM

Hello! Things have been quiet over these past few weeks as the parish got back to normal from Lent and Easter. As we move through the Easter season, meetings and other activities are picking up again.

This Thursday was our first Together in Faith meeting in a month, and we’re starting to work on the “final recommendations” we’ll be putting together for the archbishop. This past week, we discussed the finances is our parish group (SS. Peter and Paul, St. Aloysius, St. Patrick, Our Lady of the Rosary), including where parishes get their money from (fundraising, grants, collections). We also discussed evangelization efforts at the parishes, youth and young adult activities, and other ministries.

The Together in Faith committees only meet three more times before the final recommendations are made, so we have a lot of work yet to do. In the next few weeks, we’ll be looking at important parish activities, best practices, and condition of existing buildings. As always, we ask you keep the planning group in your prayers.

-Kristin Lukowski, Together in Faith committee member, parish council member

Together in Faith meeting of April 14

In Community Happenings, Parish Transition on April 15, 2011 at 4:02 PM

The Renaissance Vicariate’s Together in Faith II group met again the evening of April 14. For this session, the breakout groups focused on the buildings belonging to each of the parish communities.

Within our planning group — SS. Peter and Paul, St. Aloysius, St. Patrick, and Our Lady of the Rosary — there aren’t any properties (old convents, rectories, schools) for sale or lease, although there are a number in the rest of the vicariate. St. Aloysius is moving their parishes offices out of one building owned by the archdiocese and into another, but that’s not part of the parish itself. At SS. Peter and Paul, we lease office space to the University of Detroit Mercy Law School clinics, but that space is currently in a lease. (Meaning, we’re not currently looking for tenants.)

We also discussed the seating capacity of the parishes. With an official total of 500 seats, SS. Peter and Paul can easily accommodate more Mass-goers. And although daily Mass draws a handful and each of the weekend Masses draws a few dozen, the church does still occasionally fill up for holy days and law school events, among other occasions.

Then, the groups took a look at the Mass times within the planning group. SS. Peter and Paul and St. Aloysius have daily Mass, with St. Patrick’s offering weekday Mass twice a week. Actually, SS. Peter and Paul has the second-busiest Mass schedule in the vicariate, with only Old St. Mary’s in Greektown having one more weekend Mass. Although, with the upcoming changes in parish leadership, there’s no way to tell if we’ll continue with the current Mass schedule long after July 1.

Because of Easter, the group doesn’t meet again until May 12. As always, we ask that you keep the committees and the archdiocese in your prayers as the data is analyzed and potentially difficult decisions are made.

-Kristin Lukowski, parish council member, Together in Faith II committee member

Fr. Kesicki submits letter on SS. Peter and Paul’s future

In Parish Transition on April 12, 2011 at 4:44 PM

If you haven’t seen the recent letter from Fr. Kesicki yet about the future of our parish, here it is below:

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Thank you for your patience and support as we have worked through the status and leadership challenges facing Saints Peter and Paul. With the approval of Archbishop Vigneron, I am able to share with you the outcome of our deliberations.

Effective July 1, 2011, Fr. Robert J. Scullin, SJ, will serve as the Priest Administrator of Saints Peter and Paul in addition to his current responsibilities as Pastor of Gesu Parish. Br. Denis Weber, SJ, will be missioned to Saints Peter and Paul as the next director of the Warming Center, and will also assist Fr. Scullin as Pastoral Coordinator for the parish.

Many of you already know Fr. Scullin. Prior to his current mission as pastor of Gesu, he served as the Provincial for the Detroit Province. He has a passion for parish ministry and for the people, city and church of Detroit. We are grateful to Fr. Scullin for taking on administrative responsibilities for SsPP in addition to Gesu.

Br. Weber entered of the Society of Jesus in 2004 after 13 years in Social Work. He has an MA in Social Science from Case Western Reserve University. Most recently, Br. Weber is completing Regency formation where he has served 3 years as Pastoral Associate at Gesu Parish in the Diocese of Cleveland. His focus has been on liturgy, adult faith formation and pastoral care. We look forward to the combination of pastoral experience and a heart for the poor that Br. Weber brings to this new mission.

With Fr. Scullin’s seasoned oversight, Br. Weber’s experience and your on-going support and participation in the life of the parish, we anticipate a solid foundation going forward. We are in the process of identifying a few local Jesuits to assist with Masses.

I am grateful to Fr. Mark George, SJ, and Fr. Ben Jimenez, SJ, for the leadership and service they have shared at SsPP Parish and Warming Center these past two years. Their new missions will be announced at a later date. In the meantime, they will be working with Fr. Scullin and Br. Weber to plan for a smooth transition.

Let us continue to keep one another in prayer during this time,

Very Reverend Timothy P. Kesicki, SJ
Provincial, Chicago-Detroit Province Jesuits

Together in Faith II — review of March 24 meeting

In Parish Transition on March 31, 2011 at 6:43 PM

Last week marked another Together in Faith vicariate meeting, and another coming together to take a closer look at the parish and city. It was the first time we were taking a real look at the parish’s internal information, rather than city data that affects the parish.

We looked at how the parish has changed in the few years as far as sacraments go, for example. Taking a look at the data, we found that baptisms, wedding and funerals have stayed pretty steady over the last few years. We imagine that a large part of that is because the beautiful interior of the church helps us maintain a strong marriage ministry. However, also within the past few years, we have seen a significant drop in registered parishioners.

We were also asked to take a look at data compared with the changing population, but since so few people who attend SS. Peter and Paul actually live within the parish boundaries, that part didn’t really affect us. We see a wide community of people who do attend the parish and why — parishioners with a University of Detroit Jesuit High School affiliation, for example.

Looking at an area map showing where registered parishioners live, we see that there’s a cluster of people who are physically close to the parish, and then a line of parishioners stretching northwest up toward the Grosse Pointes, St. Clair Shores and beyond. It’s pretty clear that people don’t attend SS. Peter and Paul because it’s close to them, but because the parish means something to them.

This trend holds pretty steady for the other parishes in our planning group — St. Aloysius, St. Patrick and Our Lady of the Rosary — although Our Lady of the Rosary does see some Wayne State University Students.

We have two weeks until our next meeting, as March had a fifth Thursday. At that meeting we expect to discuss Catholic buildings in the area and their possible alternate uses, if the Mass schedule is appropriate for the size of the congregation, etc.

As always, we ask that you keep the planning group in your prayers.

-Kristin Lukowski, Together in Faith planning group member, parish council member

Town Hall Meeting 1/19/11

In Parish Transition on February 28, 2011 at 11:50 AM

To follow are the minutes compiled from three sources:

Opening Remarks

Fr. George called the meeting to order at 6:45 p.m. with an opening prayer.

Update from Province and Archdiocese Representatives

Jim Waldvogel recognized Jenene Francis to provide an update on the proposed change of Ss. Peter & Paul’s canonical status from ‘Parish’ to ‘Religious Order Church’.  Ms. Francis stated that following the announcement to change Ss. Peter & Paul’s status, the Province received considerable pushback from parishioners as well as requests to consider other options.  The Province took the feedback to heart and has decided to table the decision for the change in status in order to address the concerns and evaluate the decision as well as explore other potential options.  Ms. Francis stated the Provincial does NOT want to close the parish.  The Jesuits are committed to both Ss. Peter & Paul and the Warming Center.  We’re in a position where we need to think creatively.  The process of evaluation is something each parish is going to do, in-depth evaluation.  Working with neighboring parishes in the AoD.

Jim Waldvogel then recognized Lory McGlinnen from the Archdiocese who reported:

  • The Archdiocese is conducting an in-depth analysis of each parish in the archdiocese; every parish in the AoD has to be engaged in it
  • Ap. Vigneron approved process and timeline to start. The planning process will begin on February 1, 2011
  • There will be a 5 month study to address reflection questions with facilitators focusing on the following five areas of parish life:
  • Evangelization
  • Youth ministries
  • Christian outreach
  • Faith formation
  • Support for Catholic schools
  • Based on data but also take into consideration gifts and talents, etc. from each parish, asking planning groups from the parishes to come together, talk about what’s important to you, your parish, what you could enhance, etc.  Series of reflection questions, data from census, county, etc.  Mapped with information from parishes for guided reflection process.  Process will take several months.
  • The plans will go to a special council for review in November and then to every parish in the Archdiocese.  Then in the fall questions go back to the parish group.  Then refined plans back to the APC in November.  Then to the archbishop for the Archdiocesan Pastoral Plan.  Collaboration of ministries — evangelization, youth, young adult, Christian service, faith formation, schools.  Feb through Dec — end of that, archbishop hopes for one archdiocesan pastoral plan.  Lift up and improve ministries, have a better church presence.  What is the reality of the Catholic community? Who’s doing what? What it means for the future?

Jenene Francis: this was hot off the press, so we couldn’t get the information ahead of time.  Jesuit parish, so we employ an Ignatian spirituality, listen with both head and heart.

Listening and Reflection

Jim Waldvogel then opened the meeting to comments and questions:

Dennis Fitzgerald: asked to be provided a list of directives in order to maintain our status as “parish”.  He was upset that our Pastor knew about the change in status as of last June/July and did nothing to prevent it happening.  What is the timeline?  Who is going to tell us (from the province) what to do and how to get it done?  Is there a list of directives to follow to maintain our parish status? Now that the Province is tabling the decision until November, he would like someone from the Province to come and tell us what we need to do in order to prevent a change in status.

Jenene Francis: Fr. Kesicki spoke with the archbishop about the parish in late October and how it was doing.  The Parish Council met in November and now we are here in January.  There have been no back-room politics going on.

Elysa Toler-Robinson: stated that there is a great deal of anxiety and would like the Province to send a pastor who could provide stability.  Will there be a pastor here to minister to our spiritual needs, especially in this state of influx.

Jenene Francis:  That is a question I will take back to Fr. Kesicki.

Frank Cusumano: asked who will be part of our planning group for the Archdiocese review and how they will be selected.

Lory McGlinnen: responded that it is up to our parish council and pastor.  It hasn’t been selected yet, the AoD is asking the pastor and parish council to select people.  4-5 people from each parish, then grouped with like parishes.  All parishes are up for canonical change, but SSPP is unique because they have to look at pastoring, also a good time to look at planning.  She further explained that although there is a joint responsibility between the Bishop and Provincial; Ss Peter & Paul is in a unique position.  It is the only religious order parish in the Archdiocese.  It is independently run including: it maintains separate finances, owns its own building and the Province assigns the Pastor.

Jenene Francis: stated that although one of the challenges at Ss Peter & Paul has been to find the right pastor, the proposed change in status is more of a resource issue.  The bishop and provincial have joint leadership of the parish.

Tom Barrow: confused, unclear as to how we got in this position.  Economics, spiritual attendance.  How did we get here, and how do we go about resolving it.

Jenene Francis: it’s a challenge finding a Jesuit with the right skills for the parish and community.  It’s not just the crunch of declining membership, buildings, etc.  We are searching as well to try and find a creative way to maintain the parish’s presence.  Resources of the Jesuits and the parish are dwindling, the proposed change in status is more of a resource issue.

Hilary Robie: commented that the planning review with the Archdiocese is a new opportunity.  She is optimistic for this opportunity and believes it now provides us with a framework to do a more compete self-examination.  We didn’t have resources for self-examination.  If we don’t have resources for current mission, is it possible that other missions in the church come out of this, for which resources are available.

Tom Barrow: but the provincial is the major player, they have to make the resources work.  The primary issue isn’t the light bill, it’s the resource of spiritual issue.

Carol Goll: commented that as part of the planning session, we should consider more lay administrators.  She suggested that if a new pastor could not be found, we consider a lay administrator.  We would still need a priest for sacraments such as weddings, baptisms and funerals but the bulk of the administrative functions could be handled by the laity.  She pointed out that in the past; we have had an active and talented laity assisting in running our parish.  What can we expect to be the outcome of this meeting? And what about events that happen here?

Jenene Francis: it is my hope that question will get back to the parish council, when they select a planning group.  Once we know the direction this is headed, we can organize work and resources to do what you need to do.  The group will be shaped by the vision that is formed in the next 6-12 months.  We have committed Jesuits who are trying to address our spiritual needs.

Ray Saraga: this administrative talk is too vague. What are the issues at stake?  I come to this church because there are fewer people here, the priest is more accessible.  What is the product?  Is it selfish to say we expect a pastor here? But can we do it without being selfish?  Hence, the critical issue is to find the right pastor.

Joan Robie: I’m here, I’ve returned, and I The reason I currently attend Ss Peter & Paul is because of Fr. George.   “administrivia” — we don’t need that now, it causes anxiety.  As a long-time Detroit resident she has attended all eight churches in downtown Detroit.  This isn’t the first time this has happened, finding those people who have gone through this.  We’re all here because of one another, and small doesn’t mean you shouldn’t exist.  We need help from someone who has gone through this.

Prof. Mike Bryce: spoke about the history of Ss Peter & Paul noting it was once the cathedral in Detroit.  He attempted to research where Jesuits have closed churches elsewhere and believes the current proposal is unprecedented.  He believes the Province must do more to explore other options.  He further pointed out that if we participate in this study with the archdiocese, we need to know at the outset if it really may help.  For example, if after the study one of the options is to close Ss. Peter & Paul then the Province and the Archdiocese must be up front about it.  He believes that we really need a dialogue with the Provincial and not the study. He does not want Ss Peter & Paul to close.  Why have the other Jesuit parishes closed, or merged?  The anchor this church has been in downtown Detroit, the fact is something more has to be done by the province — what solutions could exist?  At what end is merging or closing churches?

Lory McGlinnen: I don’t know, but it’s important to be direct and honest about the final product.  As far as churches conjoining, I don’t see how a merger is a possibility.  We need a dialog with the province, to see what solutions could or could not come.

Jenene Francis: there is no checklist for us to follow.

Bill Young: stated that his concern is that Ss Peter & Paul is so unique that the study with the Archdiocese may not adequately address our situation.  Although he is open to the study, he pointed out that the Jesuits have so much more to lose by clustering and/or closing our parish.

Charles Rutherford: the Jesuits have more to lose — they’ve already lost the Detroit provincial office.

Dennis Dilworth: also spoke of Ss Peter & Paul’s history noting our Church has existed over 150 years, and attendance has waxed and waned  He stated that for forty years, the Jesuits have been trying to close it down and mentioned the time the parishioners had to be beat off the possibility with a lawsuit, and won.  He does not believe we can exist with only a part-time pastor.  He believes there is only one reason for the decline over the last couple years and we need new leadership.  Today, the church is solvent, they have an investment program, they pay their bills.  Why come here — the Jesuit tradition.  The issue here is between parishioners and the Jesuits.  Go forward with new leadership, but keep it open.

Bill Young: this parish is unique in its connection with the university and physically, it isn’t along with the other parishes.  Concern — we have to meet goals of the province, not of the archbishop.

Jenene Francis: Jesuits like to talk about our way of proceeding. It’s not a nice, neat process, but listening to the movement of the spirit.

Bat Seymour, III spoke passionately of his family’s generational history with Ss Peter & Paul.  With his own Jesuit background, he understands a need to have stated metrics for success.  He believes that ultimately the only metric that counts is whether the Jesuits are committed to us.  His personal hope is that the Jesuits do not turn their back on Ss Peter & Paul or the City of Detroit.

Charles Rutherford: 3,000 Blue Cross workers are being moved downtown.  Also Rock Financial and other businesses coming into the midst of the downtown area.

Dave Shay agreed with Bat Seymour and expressed his pride in having attended the University of Detroit High School.  He commended the Jesuits for keeping the high school open and remaining in its present location even when there was a time they could have moved.  He believes the Jesuits need a physical presence in downtown Detroit. It’s good to be a part of something that didn’t make numbers sense but felt right — like how Catholic Central and Brother Rice left the city, but UD Jesuit stayed.  To not have presence in downtown Detroit says something about the commitment.  Do we want to be a part of that visionary leadership, or just think with our head? Something different — why drive 25 minutes to come to church?  The desire for transparency isn’t disrespect — we want to understand and maybe come up with alternatives.

Dennis Dilworth: will services remain the same?

Elysa Toler-Robinson: I believe the leadership should have been here. Those persons whom you represent at the top — they should have been here.

Jenene Francis: no changes at this time in services, etc.

Jon Zemke: when whatever happens happens, what happens to the finances?

Jenene Francis:  We’re not talking about closing.  We are looking at where SSPP is going and what kind of parish it is going to be.

Charles Nutt: the previous pastor really enjoyed being here.  We’ve got to have a fit here — we’re all called to the royal priesthood of Jesus.  If we do find someone, does the province keep the status as a parish.  They tried to move the community before and they said no.

Don Robinson:  I’ve been a member of four or five churches in the city, and almost all of them have closed or blended.  The change in status is simply a slippery slope to closing us down.

Dayna Milbrand spoke about the importance of the Warming Center and the need for its continued success.  The current ministry is the warming center, and that was my way of being a minister to this city.  The financial industry is taking a chance to come back here, and they’re doing this with money from their own pocket.

Dennis Fitzgerald: read an e-mail from Cole Young about how there is less sense of ownership in other parishes.

Kristin Lukowski: would closing/merging the parish be a decision based on short-term or long-term views?

Others expressed a desire that the Province help us understand the driving force behind the change in status.  Many believe we may have creative solutions, including having lay persons play a larger role in the business side.  Some believe clustering may be an option.

There were additional comments on the need for stronger leadership.

Joan Robie: we will have a dialogue with provincials, but we’re still leaving with no answers.

Some expressed disappointment that the Provincial was not meeting with us.

Jenene Francis: the provincial does want to meet with us.  The next steps are to participate in the process the AoD is proposing.  Representatives will be selected.

Closing and Wrap up

Jenene Francis: thanked everyone for their comments.  She assured everyone that the Provincial does want to meet with us and was interested in everyone’s comments.  All feedback is being considered and additional feedback is still welcomed.  The next step will be to go back to the parish council to select and recruit people to participate in the planning process.  Following a closing prayer, the meeting concluded at 9:30 p.m.

To follow are comments left on Note Cards after the meeting:

“As a visionary – it is the young people that will not only pave the City but the Parish as well.  Let us work toward tapping this most important resource.”

“My biggest concern is that Ss. Peter and Paul will close.  It was stated that this was supposed to be a life-giving and re-energizing process.  It absolutely hasn’t felt that way from the start of the process.”

“My questions were answered by what the spokespeople refrained from saying.”

“I feel the writing is on the wall for Ss. Peter and Paul.  Leave Fr. George here.  He is a very good Fr.”

“People are here at this meeting because they care deeply about their parish.  Please remember this.”

“I found there was a disconnect between the attendees and the presenters.  It seemed the attendees used the phrase “change in status” and “close” interchangeable.  Even when Jenéne emphasized Sts. P & P would not “close” – people didn’t hear it or seem to accept that. Personally I find a “change in status” as a wonderful opportunity to move forward without some of the dysfunction of the status quo.”

“I feel the Archdiocese will combine ministries and then move it totally to the complex on Washington – Losing eh Jesuits”

“Please bring the Archbishop Vigneron and Provincial Minister for a meeting.  Just tell the truth.  It is better to know now than later.”

“When will we have the process all accomplished. (1) Money funds; (2) Jesuit full stewardship; (3) reach out to community; to get more parishioners.  This Church is a bulwark to the community and it would be a tragedy to close! DOT”

“Ss Peter and Paul need to recruit a Jesuit who has a passion for the history of Detroit as a great city experiencing a comeback.”

“SS Peter and Paul is a parish of educated professionals.  Whatever involvement the laity need to step up to we will do it.  We are an extended family, a Jesuit family.”

“Hopes: (1) Being present and being a visionary leader; (2) The Good Shepherd looks after all the sheep, not just the most desirable.  Frustrations:  (1) Be transparent as to motives.  The lack of transparency feels disingenuine.  We can take (and desire) a more direct approach.”

“Hope for positive continuous dialog.  Fight for our Jesuit parish in downtown Detroit.”

“(1) The Jesuits should create a website that the community and the Province may communicate together; (2) The Jesuits need to disclose its criteria for closing the church.”

“I see an Ark (… and it’s starting to rain.)”