(text of a letter sent to Bishop Richard Lennon, Diocese of Cleveland, April 20, 2009:)
Dear Bishop Lennon:
I am a parishioner at St. Mary Church in Bedford. Until 2000, when I began a new career which limited my time for parish activities, I served as a member and chairperson of Pastoral Council and as a member or chair of several parish groups including a School Task Force (1989), the parish component of the Diocesan Liturgical Review (1990), and a School Futuring Committee (1997). In addition, for over twenty years I directed a contemporary music group at St. Mary that assisted at weekly liturgies, and I continue to assist there as a cantor and substitute organist as the need arises and my schedule permits.
Although I was unable to participate in the parish cluster activities leading up to the recent preliminary decision to merge three Bedford-area parishes into one, I understand that the parish has filed a timely appeal of that decision. Meaning no disrespect to the teams that developed the cluster plan, I would respectfully suggest three reasons why merging all three into one parish housed at the present St. Pius X church is a mistake.
- As a musician who has played at all three parishes, I can witness that the worship space at St. Mary is by far the best of the three. (As a parishioner, I believe that this is at least partly because the staff and parishioners there have made liturgy a priority.) St. Mary has newer instruments and is both above ground and accessible to worshipers with special needs.
- If one worship space is to remain, the one located at St. Mary is better situated within the geographic area, being more central within the parish cluster. The current St. Pius X buildings are relatively close to parishes to the north and northwest, but the plan ignores a huge swath to the south and southeast. The space between St. Pius X and the nearest remaining parishes to the east (St. Rita), south (St. Barnabas), and southeast (Our Lady of Guadalupe) would be six, ten, and ten miles respectively.
- This distance between worship spaces will accelerate the movement of Catholics residing in this cluster to suburbs further out, encouraging sprawl and decimating the Catholic presence in these inner-ring southeastern suburbs.
The task set before the parish leaders, you, and your staff, is a difficult one. I respectfully suggest that keeping open the worship space at St. Mary would be a better way to reconfigure the parishes of this cluster.