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Buffalo Diocese considers merging parishes to share resources, priests

All 160 parishes would be assigned a 'family'
Abuse allegations have been leveled at the Catholic Church for decades
Posted at 5:28 PM, Jun 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-29 18:22:25-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — After filing for bankruptcy amid growing clergy sex abuse claims, the Buffalo Diocese is working on a “Road to Renewal.” Catholic Church Deacon, Paul Snyder, said he wants churchgoers to have an input on the renewal.

“What I have seen so far is in this Road to Renewal is its telling people in the pews what they need to do,” Snyder said. “I find that very surprising because it was never the people in the pews causing these problems.”

This plan comes as church attendance continues to decline.

“I don’t think people are not coming into the pews because they lost faith in the Church of Jesus Christ, but it's because of the bureaucracy of Bishops and Priests,” Snyder said.

Episcopal Vicar for the Renewal, Father Bryan Zielenieski, saids there’s a lot of factors fewer people are going to Catholic churches in Western New York.

“There’s a lot of factors that result in the decline of attendance,” Zielenieski said. “What we need to focus on is how we move forward from all of this.”

So, what is the “Road to Renewal”? The plan has four parts: creating a healing ministry for those who need to heal, welcoming people returning after the pandemic, and putting both churches and schools into families. Creating families means merging Catholic schools and churches into groups that would share priests and resources.

"We're looking to take out 160 parishes and put them into 36 families,” Zielenieski said. “It fixes a lot of problems when it comes to resources, spirituality, and clergy shortage."

7 Eyewitness News Anchor, Ashley Rowe, asked Bishop Michael Fisher in January about churches and schools merging in the next couple of years.

“We need to be evaluating how we do our ministry,” Fisher said. “And I think that’s what renewal will be about. But we also have to make sure we’re not leaving anyone behind, that they’re coming with us, that they have a say and have voiced what their concerns are.”

Snyder said he understands a renewal is necessary, but he wants the people in the pews to have a greater say before congregations have to merge.

"It's where their families were married. People were baptized,” Snyder said. “People were buried. They should have direct voice how this parish or that parish should go forward.”

Zielenieski said this plan will take a couple of years before churches feel the changes.

"There are no final decisions made yet. That's important for all of us to know we are still in the draft phase.” Zielenieski said.