On Saturday, catholic parishioners across the county collectively learned the fate of their beloved churches as Schuylkill pastors read letters prepared by Bishop Edward Cullen. In all, 32 churches will close their doors across the county and 21 area priests will either retire, go on leave, or be reassigned. Though, this restructuring plan is meant to keep the diocese solvent, which will ultimately keep more churches open, many Schuylkill catholics have voiced their dismay over the announcement.
Feelings of sadness, disappointment, and even anger are understandable. Some of these churches have been open for nearly a century and some parishioners have only attended mass at one place their whole lives. To some, a church is a second home. We worship there. We meet friends there. We marry our spouses there. We baptize our children there. And eventually, we walk our children down that same aisle and baptize our grandchildren at that same altar.
Churches are special places, but in this time of great sadness we all must remember that at the end of the day, churches are just that . . . . places. They are brick and mortar buildings where we gather as a community to praise God. Our faith doesn’t reside there. Rather, it resides in our hearts. Faith is one’s belief in God’s existence and trust in His will. Even though many of you are overcome with emotion over this affair, if you truly have faith in the Lord, you will accept the closings as a test aimed at strengthening your faith. It is easy to believe in God when things are going well. It is only when the chips are down and life’s vice tightens around you that your faith is really put to the test. I pray that all Schuylkill catholics possess enough trust in His infinite wisdom and guidance to accept these closings and remain faithful to the Holy Church.