Two Catholic churches in Liverpool will feel the impact of the reconfiguration being undertaken by the Syracuse Catholic Diocese, but it's not as bad as it could be.
Immaculate Heart of Mary, located at 425 Beechwood Ave. in Salina, and St. Joseph the Worker, 1001 Tulip St. in the village of Liverpool, will be linked after their pastors retire, meaning that one priest will oversee both parishes.
"It's not a merger," said Father John Ahern of IHM. "The two parishes will remain as independent as they are right now. They'll just share one pastor."
Ahern called the impact on the two parishes "minimal" and described the Diocese's recommendations as realistic.
Bishop James Moynihan announced that area churches would be reconfigured last month, citing declining attendance, lack of financial resources and a shortage of clergy. Several area churches will close, either merging with or becoming missions of other churches.
We have to tailor our resources to fit what we do have, and at the same time, we want to meet the needs, Moynihan said when he announced the reconfiguration.
The reconfiguration was the result of a study undertaken by the Diocese to understand how to meet the needs of area parishes in times of declining church attendance and lack of resources. Moynihan and the Diocesan College of Consultors have been working since January to determine how to best serve the area's Catholic population.
Indeed, the Liverpool churches affected by the merger are lucky. Parishioners will feel little impact, as neither Ahern nor Father Charles Major at St. Joseph the Worker will be forced to leave his post. When one of them retires, a new priest will be appointed to his church; when the other retires, that priest will take over the pulpit at the other church.
"I think it's wonderful," Ahern said. "When I was appointed here, I only got to cover one parish. Whoever is appointed next will get to do two. It's very exciting."
Ahern said that both parishes do a tremendous amount of outreach and cover two very big communities. Nothing will change for the time being.
"Both of us can stay as long as we want to," he said. "We can continue to reach different areas. We can share our resources down the road, but right now, we're not combining any of our programs."
"It's very exciting," Ahern said. "I think we'll be able to do so much."