St. Nicholas, Our Lady of Fatima Parish at St. Mary’s will share a pastor
WILKES-BARRE — A pair of downtown churches are set to begin the process of consolidation under one pastor as part of the Diocese of Scranton’s “Vision 2020 Blueprint Process,” according to a letter issued to parishioners by Bishop Joseph C. Bambera.
Saint Nicholas Parish and Our Lady of Fatima Parish at Saint Mary’s Church of the Immaculate Conception, a pair of Wilkes-Barre churches located within about a block of one another, will be “brought together in a linkage,” according to Bambera’s letter.
Many decisions remain, and “at this point it has not been determined who the pastor will be,” diocesan spokesman Eric Deabill told the Times Leader.
“Even before the multiple impacts of COVID-19 on our people and our parishes, we have been experiencing significant changes in regard to things such as: clergy personnel, financial sustainability of parishes, facility challenges and changing demographics in this part of the country,” Bambera said.
“While these realities require some challenging planning decisions, they also offer opportunity if we begin to take strategic action now.”
Bambera’s decision comes after consultation with pastors and members of each parish’s Pastoral Council members. There’s no word in the letter about when the consolidation will be made official; Bambera does note that there will be a transition period to enable the pastor and his team to plan for the future.
Additionally, a project team will be formed with members from both Saint Nicholas and Our Lady of Fatima, as well as with staff members from the Diocese of Scranton, to help “guide the process.”
This planned consolidation is part of the Diocese’s “Vision 2020 Blueprint Process,” a plan put into action at the end of 2019 with the intent to assist parishes facing challenges in the coming years.
Referred to as a “pastoral planning initiative” on the Diocese of Scranton’s website, the Blueprint Process considers a number of factors when looking to the future, among them the diminishing number of ordained priests expected to be available.
The Diocese projects that, in 2030, there will only be 69 active priests and 49 pastors, a big drop from the current numbers of 112 priests and 92 pastors.
Holy Family Parish in Sugar Notch and Saint Leo Parish of Ashley were announced to be consolidating last weekend, also under the “Vision 2020” process, after longtime Holy Family pastor Rev. Joseph R. Kakareka declared his intent to retire in September.
In Wilkes-Barre, the process of consolidating Saint Nicholas and Our Lady of Fatima into one parish will take some time, Bambera notes in his letter, but ultimately the bishop emphasized the importance of the parishioners in making this decision.
“Of course the engagement of all of you, the parishioners, will be the most essential factor in sustaining and continuing to grow a lively faith community in the service of the mission of Jesus Christ,” Bambera said.
“Be assured of my deep gratitude for all that you and your families have shared in furthering this mission over the decades past — and my participation with you in prayer and action toward a future filled with hope.”