Catholic parishes in the Bradford area will become smaller, leaner and stronger, all while continuing to grow.
So says the Rev. Raymond Gramata, pastor at St. Bernard of Clairvaux, referencing anticipated changes to churches coming Feb. 13. The initial plan for parish restructuring in the Eastern Vicariate of the Catholic Diocese of Erie came last year, and the specifics were announced this week.
St. Bernard of Clairvaux and St. Francis of Assisi, both in Bradford, will become partners but maintain separate identities. Meanwhile, Our Mother of Perpetual Help in Lewis Run will be merged with St. Francis of Assisi and become a secondary mission church.
“It's new. There are going to be question marks along the way. It's going to be a stronger faith community,” Gramata told The Era on Tuesday.
The plan calls for the Rev. Stanley Swacha, currently at Hill Trinity in Erie, to be brought in as a senior associate who would be able to help with celebrating Mass at St. Francis. He will live at St. Bernard.
In the meantime, the Rev. Stephen Collins, currently pastor at St. Francis of Assisi and Our Mother of Perpetual Help, will leave the area to lead St. Bonaventure Parish in Grampian and St. Timothy Parish in Curwensville.
Our Mother of Perpetual Help will continue to have one weekend Mass and one obligation Mass, Gramata said.
Also, there'll be one parish council and two fiance councils, Gramata said. St. Francis’ finances will remain apart from St. Bernard’s.
The restructuring plan may seem new, Gramata said. But in reality it's a return to the beginning of the Catholic roots in the Bradford area, he indicated. In the 1940s, St. Bernard was the only Catholic parish in town, he said. Our Mother of Perpetual Help and St. Francis of Assisi were then added to meet a growing need, he added.
Now things will become smaller, leaner and stronger, Gramata indicated. The Catholic faith, or in any faith, is more than the four walls of a building, he said. There's also the world outside, something he calls the marketplace.
Elsewhere across the region, St. Joseph Parish in Mount Jewett will be merged with St. Elizabeth of Hungary Parish of Smethport. St. Joseph will become a secondary mission church, which means there will be Saturday evening or Sunday Mass.
Meanwhile, St. Theresa Parish in Shinglehouse will merge with St. Raphael Parish in Eldred. St. Theresa will be a secondary mission church of St. Raphael Parish, and the St. Mary Mission of Sartwell will remain a secondary mission church of St. Raphael Parish.
Meanwhile, preliminary parish changes announced in April have been withdrawn for some communities in Potter County and one in McKean County.
St. Bibiana of Galeton will continue as a stand-alone parish.
Under the plan, Sacred Heart Mission in Genesee and St. Augustine Mission in Austin will be identified as secondary mission churches with Sunday Mass. St. Eulalia in Coudersport and St. Gabriel the Archangel in Port Allegany will continue as partners.
In Elk County, St. Anne Parish in Wilcox will merge into Holy Rosary Parish in Johnsonburg. St. Anne Parish will be a secondary mission church of Holy Rosary Parish, and Holy Cross Church in Rasselas will become a secondary church of Holy Rosary Parish.
Holy Cross Parish in Brandy Camp will be merged into St. Boniface Parish in Kersey, while Holy Cross will become a secondary church.