Dear brothers and sisters,
Last week, Bishop Paul R. Sanchez and I held a meeting with the Spanish-speaking leaders of St. Margaret Mary’s community to listen to their concerns regarding the closing of St. Margaret Mary Chapel next month. I am grateful that all participants have shown a great deal of patience and understanding. While many expressed a profound sadness that the worship site has to be closed, everyone understood that such a decision has been in the making for a long time.
In one of my previous letters published in this column, I have explained in detail the reasons for Bishop DiMarzio’s decision to close the Chapel at this time for the good of our parish. That decision was made after many years of study and consultation with diocesan and parish experts. In the end, everyone believes that it will bring greater unity to our parish, provide greater vitality and more possibility for spiritual and pastoral services. As the two communities come together in one place, we will be able to focus our human, physical and financial resources on building up the Church, and not on maintaining a church building for the sake of having an additional worship site. To our people who have been worshipping at St. Margaret Mary’s Chapel, surely the closure will be emotionally hard. Yet, it will also facilitate a definitive return to the mother church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, from which St. Margaret Mary’s community originated some years ago. To the entire parish community, this will be a unique opportunity to show that we are indeed one united parish family and not two separate groups existing parallel to each other.
With a view towards integrating fully the community at St. Margaret Mary into their home at Our Lady of Mount Carmel, I have met with members of our parish’s Pastoral Council and Trustees to discuss ways to accommodate the needs that will arise from this closure. Specifically, as the Spanish-speaking community at St. Margaret Mary’s moves back to the mother church for Sunday Mass, there will be a lot more people at the 12:30 pm Spanish Mass, already the most crowded liturgy in our parish. Since my arrival, numerous people have requested that I consider providing another Spanish Mass, or at least a bi-lingual Mass, to accommodate this real need. This need now becomes more urgent in light of this new situation. Since we cannot add any more Mass to the current Sunday Mass schedule due to the shortage of priests and parish resources, the logical solution would be to convert one of our FIVE English Masses into a Spanish or a bi-lingual Mass.
As you can see, no solution will be perfect, because any change will necessarily affect many people and their habit. As your pastor, I face the difficult task of evaluating all options, consulting with various people, before making a decision that I believe would be best for our parish. I want to respond to the urgent need at hand in a way that would affect the least number of people possible. After considering various factors, including demographics, current Mass times, and availability in English, as well as the number of people who attend each Sunday Mass, I believe that the 10:00 am Mass offers the greatest flexibility for adaptation that could address the need in question. This past Monday, I have presented that idea to the Pastoral Council, your canonically elected representatives, for their opinion. The Pastoral Council, Trustees, and Liturgical Ministers have offered me the following options for possible consideration:
Convert the 10:00 am Sunday Mass from English to Spanish, or
Convert the 10:00 am Sunday Mass from English to bi-lingual, or
Adopt either of the above options AND move the 10:00 am Mass to 9:30 am to allow sufficient time between Masses since the 10:00 am Mass is currently too close to the 11:15 am Mass
I am grateful for these concrete suggestions of your representatives, and with this letter, I am presenting them to the whole parish for your awareness. Recognizing the importance of this decision and how it might affect some of you, the Pastoral Council has advised me to wait a few months to see how things will play out in terms of Mass attendance after the closure of St. Margaret Mary Chapel, both at the 12:30 pm Spanish Mass and the 10:00 am Mass, before making a final decision. I realize that this waiting may disappoint our Spanish-speaking parishioners who desire an immediate solution, but I hope all will understand the complexity of the issue which, because it affects so many people, should not be solved by a hasty decision. I will continue to listen and evaluate the pros and cons of the Pastoral Council’s suggestions in the next few months and will make a decision when the wider parish community is adequately prepared for such a change.
Naturally, some of you may have strong feelings about either an English, Spanish or bilingual Mass. I pray that in speaking to one another about those feelings, you will allow the Holy Spirit to move your hearts so that the spiritual good of our united parish family may prevail. As we reflect together on the sacrifice that the Lord is asking us to make in this situation, let us keep before our eyes the ultimate goal of our mission as Church, namely, that it is “for the salvation of souls.”
Please keep me in your prayers as I continue to navigate this new situation in our parish.
Devotedly yours in Christ,
Msgr. Cuong M. Pham