(message from Fr. Nate Harburg, Pastor)
Dear Parish Family,
I have finally made a decision regarding the future use of parish facilities. I thank you for your patience, your advice, for your participation in the 2015 survey and 2018 survey and in our listening sessions in 2017, and most of all, for your prayers for me, for our parish leaders, and for our parish family. I thank the diocese and the Breton Group for their invaluable help.
After much prayer, research, and discussion, I have decided that of the three options on the Breton Group survey, the best option to strengthen parish unity, discipleship, and outreach (evangelization and Works of Mercy) is Option #1, which is to totally merge into one parish worship space at Mount St. Joseph Church, and to pursue the sale of St. Mary Church. Also, Bishop Hurley encourages us to explore the possibility of building a school chapel at our St. Mary School in Alma to be used for school weekday Masses, possibly funerals, and other devotions. Until further notice, the parish offices will remain where they are.
I informed the bishop of my decision last Tuesday and he approved it and instructed me to send him a formal letter. He will bring this decision to his consultors later this month for them to ratify. If it is possible, hopefully we will have a closing Mass at St. Mary Church eventually. This will be investigated. Our next steps as parish leaders will include exploring possible renovations of our Mount St. Joseph facilities, exploring the possibility of a building a school chapel, discussing and prioritizing these projects, and seeking approval from the bishop for a capital campaign.
Before I made this difficult decision, I prayerfully considered many discussions with Staff, Pastoral and Finance Councils, Building and Grounds Committee, and diocesan leaders; I considered the results of the 2015 parish survey and the written comments, the verbal comments made at the listening sessions in 2017 after we were required to close St. Mary Church because of safety concerns, the results of the 2018 Breton Group survey, and the results of the recent vote by our Pastoral and Finance Councils. The majority recommendation from both the parish at large and from the Councils was for Option #1. With much prayer, I have peacefully come to the decision that this option will best strengthen our ability to be Jesus’ hands, feet, and voice in our community. God will continue to guide us as we make plans for HIS parish!
I am humbled by the task the Lord has given me, i.e., to help unite two parish families into one Nativity of the Lord parish family, the former St. Mary parish and the former Mount St. Joseph parish. This journey began long before the parishes officially merged in 2013, which is when I was appointed parish administrator. I am encouraged by your trust in me and in our parish leaders during this long and difficult journey. At the same time, I am saddened that we have lost many parish family members in recent years. I thank God that many of you have joined me in reaching out to them. Let them see Jesus in us as we continue to reach out as His ambassadors. He longs to feed us in the Eucharist, and to forgive and empower us in the sacrament of Reconciliation.
Parish leaders and I know that this news may cause great pain for parish family members, especially those who grew up in the former St. Mary Parish and were baptized there, married there, etc. But I also know that Jesus will console all who come to Him, and so I invite ALL parish family members to pray for all who may be mourning over this news. Please continue to pray for me, for parish leaders, and for our bishop. If you have questions, feel free to ask me or our Pastoral Council chair, Brian Devine. May God bless and protect you, Mary accompany you, and St. Joseph intercede for you,
Fr. Nate Harburg, Pastor
February 3, 2019, Feast of St. Blaise