The consolidation and closure of parishes across the United States has become a fact of contemporary Catholic life. Responding to such an event is often traumatic. How do lay leaders allow their parish to heal when an approved ritual format does not exist? Through the voice of experience and local diocesan offices, Michael Weldon, OFM, has created a guide to the reconciliation process and the rites of parish closures in A Struggle for Holy Ground.
Composed of thirty-five interviews conducted from participants in the 1990 consolidation of ten parishes in Chicago's Englewood and participants in the 1995 San Francisco consolidation after the 1989 earthquake, A Struggle for Holy Ground offers a study for any parish leader to use as a reference when facing such a conflicted issue. This work explores the roles of ritual and pastoral care and proposes a series of new rites: group reconciliation, atonement, lament, leave-taking, memorial, and inauguration, based on the personal experience of those involved in parish restructurings.
Chapters include: "The Best We Could Do with Church? Demographics, Finances, and Culture,” ”Traditions of Reconciliation: Conflict, Communion, and Sacred Remembering,” ”The Negotiation of Crisis: Forgiveness, Trauma, and Sacred Space,” ”Remembering in a Different Kind of Way: Grief, Lament, and Healing,” and ”Towards New Rituals of Reconciliation at the Closure of Sacred Space.”
Michael Weldon, O.F.M., D.Min., of Francis and Clare’s Friary, Franklin, Wisconsin, is also an instructor at Sacred Heart School of Theology, Hales Corners, Wisconsin.
Seeing one's own church close and then having to connect with another is a traumatic experience for any parishioner. Most people react with anger and resistance. Many refuse to go to the new parish an stop attending church altogether. . . . This is a well-documented and thought-out presentation of how to help parishioners through the trauma of parish transition. . . . This is more than a book, it is a how-to manual for any bishop, diocese, chancery, pastor, staff or parish that is contemplating or in the midst of closing or combining one or more parish communities. If you want to see any success in this adventure, dont leave home or office without this book!
Reverend Tom Sweetser, SJ, Parish Evaluation Project, Milwaukee, WI
Borne out of personal experience, Franciscan Fr Michael Weldon OFM writes a healing book that offers other pastors a guide that he didn't have.
Crux of the News
This book would be a valuable aid to all those involved in the painful changes facing the Church and its churches today, especially bishops, diocesan officials, pastors, parish councils and ministry staffs.
Though he deals with issues on a sound scholarly basis, what comes through most clearly is what has often been absent from the process of parish closure and consolidation: a pastor's spirit that gives a human face to forgiveness and offers a wholesome vision of church.
". . . an uncommonly timely book."
In this first book of its kind, Father Michael Weldon weaves together the threads that have to go into the human and faith side of this tapestry. By combining insights on loss, lament, forgiveness, and reconciliation with the ritual and liturgical traditions of the Catholic Church, he proposes ritual events which can help ease the pain of loss, and integrate this experience into the wider horizon of Church and faith . . . This is a first-rate response to a neuralgic problem. It is recommended to all those involved in these painful but necessary events in Catholic life todaybishops, diocesan officials, pastors, parish councils, ministry staffs, and people.
Robert Schreiter, CPpS, Catholic Theological Union
. . . the book will be welcomed by pastoral planners, bishops, pastors, and parish liturgy coordinators.
Catholic Library World
Michael Weldon has a done a signal service to the Church in writing about church closings and consolidations. From now on no diocese should attempt closings or consolidations without carefully reading and studying this book. . . . I strongly recommend this book and the wisdom, insight and practical suggestions which make it so valuable.
From the Foreward by Archbishop John R. Quinn, Retired Archbishop of San Francisco, California
Troubled Catholics in high and low places have sad reasons for needing all of some of this probably unique book.
Review for Religions
With all of our sacramental wealth, we do not seem to have developed a way to negotiate through troubled waters. Into this gap steps Michael Weldon. He has taken seriously the trauma caused by church closure or consolidation. With this book, he provides us with insights into how to move through this painful loss with sensitivity and grace. He draws these insights from his own experience as a pastor as well as the experience of others. He then calls upon our rich religious tradition for both inspiration and direction. What follows are suggestions for ritualizing the loss, the pain, and possible reconciliation. The approach offered in this book is a real gift to a changing church.
Dianne Bergant, CSA, Professor of Old Testament, Catholic Theological Union
This book is an invaluable aid to any pastoral minister involved in parish closings or consolidations. Sensitive to the wrenching pastoral issues and offering rituals that draw on the best of Catholic liturgical tradition, Fr. Michael Weldon has made an outstanding contribution to one of the most heretofore neglected areas of pastoral liturgy.
Mark R. Francis, CSV, Superior General, Clerics of St. Viator, Pontifical Liturgical Institute of Sant'Anselmo, Rome