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Troy Parishes Maintaining Stability In Spite of Area Mergers, Closures

Troy's St. Alan parish has been directed to develop a plan for a potential merger with Birmingham's St. Columban parish, according to a report released Wednesday.

Troy-area Catholic parishes will be unaffected by closures and consolidations recommended Wednesday by the Archdiocese of Detroit in an effort to combat a shortage of priests and aid struggling parishes – at least for now.

Four Troy Catholic parishes – , , and – remain completely unaffected by the recommendations. However, the current cluster of Birmingham’s St. Columban Catholic Church and Troy’s St. Alan's Parish has been directed to develop a plan for merging in case either parish feels a merger is necessary in coming years.

Both St. Columban and St. Alan's were mentioned in a planning report from the 25-member Archdiocese Pastoral Council (APC), which recommended to Archbishop Allen Vigernon the closure or consolidation of 48 parishes and worship sites across Metro Detroit.

Within five years, nine of the Archdiocese's 270 parishes are proposed to close and another 60 are proposed to be consolidated down to 21. According to the Detroit Free Press, Vigneron has said he will decide by February whether to implement some or all of the recommendations.

South Oakland was divided into three planning groups to effectively communicate their future plans and collaborations.

Overall, the South Oakland Vicariate Planning Group Three — made up of Holy Name and St. Columban, Our Lady Queen of Martyrs in Beverly Hills, Troy’s St. Alan, St Anastasia, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and St. Thomas More, as well as St. Hugo of the Hills, St. Owen and St. Regis in Bloomfield Hills — was commended for having a “very good plan” already.

“What they have proposed is a realistic response to the trends these parishes are facing,” the report reads.

The planning group was then directed to begin developing plans for clustering or merging, beginning in 2012. These plans would be implemented when a current pastor is no longer available and a replacement couldn’t be assigned.

However, the plan noted that since all parishes in the South Oakland Planning Group Three were stable in both population and finance, and “are important for the Church to continue its mission in the Northwest region," the APC recommended no furthering clustering or mergers at this time. Similarly, though the South Oakland Planning Group Two detailed that they would not consider clustering and would instead close, some area churches were selected as parishes that could merge if necessary – St. Lucy Croatian was not one of them. St. Lucy Croatian was one of four parishes in the planning group not selected for a future merger.

“St. Lucy Croatian as a national, ethnic parish answers the needs of the Croatian community throughout the state of Michigan, and therefore would also stand alone,” the report reads.

In addition, no parochial schools within the South Oakland groups were recommended for closure or consolidation. Group two did note that they would consider looking into regional schools in the future if finances and the number of students were to go down.

In addition, while St. Columban and St. Alan are to develop a plan under planning group three for a potential merger, the APC noted that it would be up to both parishes to determine whether a full merger is appropriate.

Dorothy Zimmo, secretary at St. Columban, said the two churches have been clustered and under one pastor, the Rev. Don Demmer, for three years now.

Zimmo said Demmer and other church officials haven't had time to discuss the Archdiocese's recommendations, but said even if a merger occurred in coming years, it's hard to know what the impact would be.

"I don't think you really what would happen, until it happens," she said.

The APC recommended the South Oakland planning groups develop a Vicariate group to study the priest shortage issue, as well as develop a detailed strategic plan for the next three to five years.  

The Archdiocese of Detroit said Thursday at a news conference that officials are still gathering the names of the parishes that may close. Those interested can go to the archdiocese’s website www.aodonline.org to view documents pertaining to the future of their individual.

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