Dear brothers and sisters,
Last weekend, at the request of Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, and after consulting with our Parish Trustees and your Representatives in the Parish Council, I had the difficult task of announcing to our Spanish-speaking parishioners about the possibility of closing St. Margaret Mary’s Chapel in the near future. I am grateful that the faithful who worship there have shown a great sense of understanding. Many of them affirmed that they already knew for a long time that such a day would necessarily come. Others expressed a sense of sadness and disappointment. As a pastor, I do share with all of them the intensity of emotions in my heart these days.
There are many reasons for this decision at this time. Most important among them, as you can understand, is the fact that our parish can no longer spend almost ten thousand dollars a month to keep on life support the huge building that serves a relatively small congregation. Since last July, when Catholic Charities vacated their offices from that building and moved to other locations, our parish had no rental income from any source other than the modest Sunday Mass collections. The cost has become burdensome to the parish as a whole.
For us as Catholics, the local church is very important. It is the locus of our spiritual and commual life. So many of our most important moments in life are celerated there. However, as any homeowner can attest, keeping a local church open is very expensive, humanly and financially. Huge sums are needed to maintain its buildings. Priests and ministers are spread thin to staff them. Committees, councils, organizations and programs soak up volunteers. A problem arises when we begin to think that our primary purpose is just to keep the buildings going – self-preservation – and lose sight of their mission. What we need to do is to assess how the assets of our parish – human, physical, financial – can be best used to accomplish the spiritual mission.
With a view towards involving our whole parish in this process, I will appoint an Advisory Group which will make recommendations to me and the Bishop regarding the details of the transition and how our parish as a whole can ensure the uninterrupted spiritual and pastoral services to those who will be directly affected by this closure. I ask for your patience, understanding and support as we move forward with this plan. In the end, I believe this process will unify our parish, provide greater vitality and more possibility for new ministries. It will enable us to focus on building up the Church, not the church building. For those who worship at St. Margaret Mary’s, it will actually be a return to the mother Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, from which that community was formed only some years ago.
For the next two weeks, I will be in Rome for a Canonical Retreat and to carry out an important mission on behalf of our Diocese. I will have an opportunity to meet with the Holy Father and other Superiors at the Holy See. It is my intention to pray for our parish family, for each one of you, at the Tombs of the Apostles and our holy sites. Please keep me in your prayers as well.
Devotedly yours in Christ,
Msgr. Cuong M. Pham