Even though they knew for months that Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Greece was going to close, some parishioners felt an emotional punch when the June 27 final Mass and June 30 closing date were announced, said Deacon Dick Lombard, pastoral associate.
"Overall, the parishioners have taken the news as well as can be expected," Deacon Lombard said. "Of course they have anticipated it for some time now. It was not a revelation or a sudden thing, but just hearing it has kind of an emotional punch to it. People are resigned."
On Feb. 22, Bishop Matthew H. Clark approved a decree to suppress Our Lady of Mercy Parish and adjust the boundaries of its neighboring parishes, a decision he made in consultation with the diocesan Presbyteral Council, according to diocesan spokesman Doug Mandelaro. The parish's finances and geographical area will be split among Our Mother of Sorrows and St. Charles parishes in Greece and Holy Cross Parish in Charlotte, Deacon Lombard said.
Our Lady of Mercy's closing was prompted by rising bills, plunging attendance and donations, and a projection of fewer priests available to serve the area, according to the six-parish Eastern Greece/Charlotte Catholic Churches Pastoral Planning Group.
"It has been a very long and drawn-out process," Deacon Lombard said. "Perhaps that mitigates the difficulty (parishioners) might have otherwise felt. People are indeed resigned. Although they may be understanding of the logic of it all, that doesn’t mean that they like it. We are a small parish and there are just economies of scale."
According to the planning group, an inventory of Our Lady of Mercy’s belongings will be created, and the parish will choose whether to sell or donate significant items. Items that do not have historic or artistic significance will be sold at the parish garage sale. Communion vessels will not be sold.
Father John Gagnier, pastoral administrator of Our Lady of Mercy Parish and pastor of Greece's Holy Name of Jesus Parish, said several events are planned to help parishioners transition to other area parishes.
The first of those events is a Service of New Life at 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 25, at Our Lady of Mercy, 36 Armstrong Road, Greece.
Parishes in the Eastern Greece/Charlotte Catholic Churches planning group will distribute information about their parishes following Our Lady of Mercy’s 9 a.m. Mass on Sunday, April 11.
"The people and the staff of these parishes (in the planning group) are wonderful," Deacon Lombard said. "They are caring and understanding and reaching out to us and praying. In the middle of all of this, this has been a very bright light."
At 7 p.m. April 11, musicians Gap Mangione and Cindy Miller will perform a concert at the church. Tickets are $15 at the door and proceeds will go toward closing events, which are being planned.
The parish’s transition subcommittee also is compiling a memory book to preserve memories of the parish and school.
Father Gagnier noted that decisions on the sale of Our Lady of Mercy Church will be up to the diocese. After Our Lady of Mercy is closed, a Sunday-morning Mass will be added at Holy Name of Jesus Parish.
Deacon Lombard noted that as part of the transitioning process the diocese is working to place Our Lady of Mercy staff members in open positions at other parishes.
"(The closing is) very, very difficult, but it truly shows that we have no guarantee of things on this earth with the exception of God’s love," Deacon Lombard said. "It’s part of the journey of the people of this parish."