DAVENPORT — Parish leaders and other members of St. Mary Parish in Davenport met last week to discuss the parish’s future. They talked about parishioners’ needs and available resources with the parish’s pastor, Father Chris Young; sacramental minister, Father Joseph Sia; and the diocesan director of Parish Planning, Dan Ebener.
Bishop Thomas Zinkula told The Catholic Messenger that for many weeks he has been considering merging St. Mary Parish into one or more neighboring parish communities. That’s why the meeting was held at St. Mary Parish last week.
“At this point, no decision has been made to close St. Mary Church. I am exploring ways to assist the parishes on the west side of Davenport to grow as communities of faith.” The other west-side parishes are St. Alphonsus and Holy Family. St. Anthony in downtown Davenport is in close proximity to the west-side parishes. “I think it is important to be clear about the distinction between parish and church,” the bishop said. The parish is the people and the church is a building.
St. Mary is in particular need of assistance, Bishop Zinkula said. “The number of parishioners has been decreasing over the years. There are some financial and staffing concerns. The present situation is not sustainable long-term.”
St. Mary is the parish home for three separate faith communities: Hispanic, Anglo and parishioners who participate in the extraordinary form of the Eucharistic liturgy.”
The bishop identified questions to be considered: “What is the best way to serve the people on the west side of Davenport, including the communities at St. Mary, to grow in their faith? How might the St. Mary communities join with neighboring parishes to add faith-filled vitality, not only to those communities themselves, but also to the neighboring parishes that welcome them?”
The bishop said he sees discernment of these questions as “an opportunity to strengthen parish communities and to evangelize others by sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ. Deanery clergy and parish leaders have begun to explore these possibilities. Additional parish representatives of the three communities at St. Mary will be invited to join in this discussion as we look to the future of this area of the local church.”
Ebener said he was encouraged by last week’s discussion at St. Mary and hopes that the planning process will be seen as a positive for all involved.
Bishop Zinkula acknowledged that change can be difficult, “especially when we have not yet identified the best route to take. We will try to be open to the Holy Spirit and the people affected by these deliberations as we continue on this journey.”