Catholic churches in Summit and Schoharie and mission parishes in Edmeston, Roxbury, Schenevus, Springfield Center and Sharon Springs, will close this year in a reorganization of the Albany Diocese.

St. Thomas in Cherry Valley will become a mission of St. Mary `Our Lady of the Lake’ in Cooperstown, and both will remain open, according to a plan announced this weekend by Bishop Howard Hubbard of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany.

Other area churches and congregations are being directed to work on strengthening ties with other specified churches. Hubbard released decisions for priests to share details during Masses Saturday and Sunday. Local churches generated recommendations during the 30-month project, and Hubbard emphasized the role of laity in the ``Call to BE Church’’ study and reorganization effort. The church body faces a declining number of priests and aims to better use its resources.

The Albany Diocese has 124 active diocesan priests for an estimated 400,000 Catholics, though churches also are served by priests from religious orders or retired clergy, officials said. In the 1960s, the Diocese had about 400 priests, and the projection is there will be fewer than 100 diocesan priests in 2020.

The reorganization, which started in mid-2006, involved Catholics on 38 planning groups from 165 parishes throughout the 14-county diocese.

In total, 33 worship sites in the Albany Diocese will close through the end of 2011. Almost all of the recommendations from local planning groups with respect to their local churches were adopted, a news release from the Diocese said.

Planning for the future of parishes is happening across the state and across the Northeast. The dioceses of Rochester, Syracuse and Buffalo have closed between 20 percent and 30 percent of their churches. Through its plan, the Albany Diocese will close less than 20 percent of its worship sites.

The Albany Diocese, for this reorganization, defines a church as a building where Catholics worship, a parish as the geographic area or population served and a mission as a community of the faithful, generally not large enough to be a vital and viable parish on its own.

According to the plan:

 In Delaware County, Our Lady of Good Counsel Mission Church in Roxbury, a mission of Sacred Heart parish in Margaretville, will close immediately.

There are four parishes in the planning group. St. Paul the Apostle in Hancock, St. John the Baptist in Walton, which has the Holy Family mission in Downsville, St. Peter’s in Delhi, and Margaretville’s Sacred Heart, with St. Ann’s mission in Andes, will remain open. Linkages are to be strengthened.

 In Otsego County Planning Group No. 1, the three-parish Planning Group that includes Oneonta, Sidney and Morris will lose a mission church. Nativity of Blessed Virgin Mary in Edmeston, a mission of the Morris church, will close by July 1. St. Mary’s in Oneonta, Sacred Heart in Sidney and Holy Cross in Morris will continue to deepen linkages, as recommended to the diocese. Parishes are asked for continued support for quality Catholic School education.

St. Mary’s School is in Oneonta.

 In Otsego County Planning Group No. 2, with four parishes, will close two of its two missions. St. Mary’s in Cooperstown and St. Thomas in Cherry Valley will remain open but St. Thomas’ mission churches will close _ St. Mary’s in Sharon Springs by Dec. 31 and Blessed Sacrament in Springfield Center by Oct. 18.

St. Thomas will become a mission of St. Mary’s in Cooperstown on July 1, 2010, and the Cooperstown church and Cherry Valley misson will link with Otsego County parishes. St. Joseph in Richfield Springs and St. Joseph in West Winfield will merge by July 1 and will join the Herkimer Deanery immediately.

 Schoharie County Planning Group No. 1 has six parishes with two mission churches.

St. Joseph’s in Schoharie and St. Catherine in Middleburgh will merge by July 1, and the St. Joseph worship site will close by that date. The link with St. Vincent’s in Cobleskill will continue.

St. Anna’s in Summit will close by July 1, and St. Mary’s in Schenevus, a mission of St. Joseph’s in Worcester, will close on or before Ash Wednesday, Feb. 25. St. Vincent’s in Cobleskill and Sacred Heart in Stamford, which has a mission church at St. Philip Neri in Grand Gorge, remain open. The parishes are to strengthen linkages.

In Albany, two churches will close as they merge with two others. In Troy, six churches will close. In Schenectady, two churches will close and two others will merge into one. In Cohoes and Amsterdam each, three churches will close.

``Call to BE Church’’ drew more than 10,000 Catholics discussing their churches’ futures in more than 600 meetings. Participants reviewed needs and goals in aligning the diocese’s physical, financial and personnel resources to serve the greatest number of Catholics, while preserving the church’s commitment to inner cities, the poor, elderly and infirm, and other vulnerable populations, the release said.

The changes were made because Catholics have moved from cities to the suburbs, but even after parish closings and mergers, the number of parishes in the urban areas will be greater than in the suburbs.

Hubbard said his home parish of St. Patrick’s in Troy, where he went to school, celebrated his first Mass as a priest of the diocese and buried his parents, will close, and ``there’s no question that the closing of parishes is a difficult and painful process’’ for parishioners.

``We as a church must acknowledge the social and demographic trends that require change,’’ Hubbard said in the release. ``And remember our church must adapt, just as our ancestors’ church adapted to rapid changes in society throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.”

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