Deacon Paul and Helen McBlain write the Marriage Matters column for CatholicPhilly.com. Members of St. Joseph Parish in Collingdale, they have been married 50 years and have seven children and 21 grandchildren.

She says:

Kathy says: They’re closing our parish! We have just been advised that the parish in which I was baptized, made my first holy Communion, was confirmed and married, and where we are now living and raising our family has been “merged” into another parish and we are being told that is where we now must attend. I am not sure I want to go there and I am very distressed and confused about our family’s future faith life.

He says:

Joe says: What difference does it make? One parish is just like every other, and after all, isn’t the Mass supposed to be the same all over the world? We will go to this other place for a while, but if we don’t like it, we will just move on.

What do they do?

The “death” of a parish can be extremely difficult for those who have supported and loved the people and the place that has been a part of the fabric of their lives for many years. There probably will and should be a period of grieving for Kathy and Joe. “May we see better times! Lord show us the light of your face!” (Psalm 4:7). However, as much as we long for the things with which we are comfortable to stay the same in our lives, they never do.

Parishes close for a reason, hopefully, not for a whim. Demographics of parishes change. Economics of areas and people change. Territorial boundaries of a parish that made sense years ago can no longer sustain a viable parish complex.

Even though many dioceses are slow to recognize the fact, parish territorial boundaries are quickly disappearing in the minds of the faithful. In today’s world, families will drive to the other side of town to shop at a mall or dine in a restaurant they like and prefer. So, too, with their worship.

Kathy and Joe should spend some time visiting parishes together experiencing the liturgy, talking with the parishioners, checking out the opportunities of getting involved in the parish, and maybe even interviewing the pastor.

But always remember, the most important responsibility in their lives is the salvation of their immortal soul. “What profit is there for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?” (Mark 8: 36).

This is a time of new beginnings for this family. This will also be a time of compromise. Things will never be exactly the same as they were at their old parish. Eventually, Kathy and Joe will discover where they feel comfortable and which parish best feeds their souls and leads them to holiness.