The Catholic Faithful, priests, deacons, religious, parish administrators and school leaders of the Diocese of Buffalo have embarked on a journey to reinvigorate Catholic faith, more fully optimize parish and diocesan resources, and increase the impact of our varied ministries throughout Western New York. Much as the disciples rediscovered the Lord – and had their hope renewed – while breaking bread together after walking with him on the long road to Emmaus, we are traveling together, supporting one another, facing our challenges and opportunities together, and seek a renewed spirit of purpose and solidarity, united by our common faith in the One who makes all things new.
Why is the Diocese of Buffalo initiating a major reorganization at this time?
The Diocese has embarked on a journey to optimize more fully parish and diocesan resources, and, importantly, increase the reach and impact of our varied ministries throughout Western New York.
Facing severe financial challenges and also trends that are common in dioceses across the country having to do with declining church attendance and school enrollment, we are looking at best practices elsewhere to determine how to preserve Catholic life and increase the impact of ministries across the region.
Is this reorganization result of the Chapter 11 process?
The financial challenges confronting the dioceses and many parishes – exacerbated by the Covid-19 threat – requires that we identify ways to make better use of resources – bring together capabilities and even ministries to serve and evangelize.
The Chapter 11 process will go on for an extended period of time, this effort is aimed at defining the best organization for diocesan ministries and parishes for a vibrant future, acknowledging financial challenges but not being limited by them in carrying out the work of Faith.
Can you say how many parishes or schools will be brought together?
The process of determining which parishes and/or schools should be brought together in order to make better use of resources is one that involves consultation with a broad range of parish leaders and parishioners. The fact is, it’s not about the impact on one parish versus another. This is a process that will shape the future of Catholic life in Western New York and will be the result of close collaboration and input from many across the diocese.
Given that Bishop Scharfenberger is the temporary administrator of the Diocese, why have you undertaken such a bold initiative that could involve major reorganization at this time?
Bishop Scharfenberger has been in close contact with the Apostolic Nuncio to communicate his efforts to bring about renewal in the Diocese and implement a process to deal collaboratively with the challenges it faces. He has the Nuncio’s full support and it is within his canonical prerogatives to address the needs of the diocese in this way.
Is there a timeline when decisions about reorganization or consolidations will be announced?
The listening sessions that are being conducted by region will be underway in late September and early October. The results of those will be the basis for considering what decisions need to be taken and in what timeframe. Again, there are no predefined conclusions. It’s about defining an approach that enables Catholic faith and ministry to thrive and to assert the notion that each and every parish of the diocese is a “Family of Families.” In some cases, that will mean bringing together parishes but not eliminating any one parish over another.
Who will be making decisions about the reorganization of parishes and diocesan functions?
This summer, Bishop Scharfenberger formed a task force to look at best practices nationwide and how parishes and schools elsewhere have confronted successfully similar challenges related to diminished financial resources and church and school attendance. The Diocesan Renewal Task Force comprised of lay professionals, diocesan leaders, parish leaders – all listed in the “Road to Renewal” section of the diocesan website – will be conducting regional consultations and then conferring with Bishop Scharfenberger to make specific recommendations. Again, this is a collaborative process that will necessitate broad input from parishioners, the Presbyteral Council various lay groups and others across the Diocese, however, final decisions will be made by Bishop Scharfenberger in his capacity as interim leader of the Diocese.
Can you please detail the process for arriving at decisions?
The process of the Road to Renewal process is aimed at delivering recommendations to Bishop Scharfenberger regarding how parishes can better partner together to share resources, pull together capabilities and ensure greater impact.
Bishop Scharfenberger has assembled a Diocesan Renewal Task Force (DRTF) to manage the process. Their scope is to review our current realities (mass attendance, parish financials, school attendance and financials, etc.) and to collect input from people throughout the Diocese. The task force is not a decision-making group. All decisions are reserved to the Bishop is his canonical role.
November 30, 2020 is the date for the delivery of recommendations from the Task Force to the Bishop.
No actions will be taken before November 30. Bishop Scharfenberger will receive the recommendations and may choose to further consult with additional groups.
There are no pre-determined conclusions to this process and we seek broad input and candid discussion in order to define options that will ensure a stronger, more sustainable model of Catholic life and ministry in Western New York.