Six Bronx Parishes Merge as Six Roman Catholic Bronx Churches Set to Close In August 2015

St Roch's Church on Wales Avenue in Mott Haven is scheduled to close by August 2015 as it merges with nearby St Anselm's Church on Tinton Avenue.
St Roch’s Church on Wales Avenue in Mott Haven is scheduled to close by August 2015 as it merges with nearby St Anselm’s Church on Tinton Avenue.

In one fell swoop (after 4 years of planning) the head of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, ushered in the largest reorganization of the archdiocese in its 208 years of existence.  Six parishes in The Bronx are slated to merge with six others which will leave the borough with 6 churches that will close by August 2015. In total, 112 parishes will be merged across the archdiocese.

Some parishioners breathed a sigh of relief to find out that their churches were not closing, particularly after years of worrying that they would end up on the chopping block.  The New York Times reported:

“And for some in the 24 parishes who learned that their church would remain open despite a merger, there was also a sense of relief.

Not far from the bridge onto City Island, 100 members of St. Mary Star of the Sea filled the pews for Sunday’s first Mass. They had been concerned that closing only Catholic church on City Island would prevent elderly congregants from attending services.

Jackie Kyle Kall, 89, the first woman to arrive at Mass, had already heard the good news. “The church is saved!” she said to a fellow parishioner, as she pushed open the church’s doors against the wind whipping off the water.”

Although I’m no longer a Roman Catholic or even a Christian, I was deeply saddened to see St. Roch’s on the list — the place where I was baptized but breathed a sigh of relief that St. Anselm’s Church, who will absorb St. Roch’s parishioners, remained safe for now.  St. Anselm’s is where my parents were married along with several other members of our family and its parochial school is where I spent the first 10 years of my educational life.

According to the Archdiocese:

“The following parishes will merge. The designated parish church is identified with an asterisk in the column on the left (TOP). As of August 1, 2015, although remaining a church which may be used on special occasions, Masses and the sacraments will no longer be celebrated on a regular weekly basis at the church on the right (BOTTOM).”

1. *Saint John

3021 Kingsbridge Avenue
Bronx, New York 10463

Visitation (CLOSING)
160 Van Cortlandt Park South
Bronx, New York 10463
2. *Saint Brendan
333 East 206 Street
Bronx, New York 10467

Saint Ann (CLOSING)
3519 Bainbridge Avenue
Bronx, New York 10467
3. *Saint Anselm
685 Tinton Avenue
Bronx, New York 10455

Saint Roch (CLOSING)
525 Wales Avenue
Bronx, New York 10455
4. *Saint Rita of Cascia
448 College Avenue
Bronx, New York 10451

Saint Pius V (CLOSING)
420 East 145 Street
Bronx, New York 10454


5. *Holy Family
2158 Watson Avenue
Bronx, New York 10472

Saint John Vianney (CLOSING)
715 Castle Hill Avenue
Bronx, New York 10473

6. *Holy Rosary
1510 Adee Avenue
Bronx, New York 10469

Nativity of the Blessed Lady (CLOSING)
1531 East 233 Street
Bronx, New York 10466

The full press release is as follows:

For immediate release: November 2, 2014


“This time of transition in the history of the archdiocese will undoubtedly be difficult for people who live in parishes that will merge.  There will be many who are hurt and upset as they experience what will be a change in their spiritual lives, and I will be one of them. There is nobody who has been involved in Making All Things New who doesn’t understand the impact that this will have on the Catholic faithful. It will be our responsibility to work with everyone in these parishes so as to help make the change as smooth as we possibly can.”

With these words, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, today announced the results of a multi-year pastoral planning process, Making All Things New, undertaken to strengthen and enhance parish life in the Archdiocese of New York and to assist the archdiocese in serving its Catholic faithful most effectively.  This pastoral planning process, which had its beginnings in 2010, sought the input and suggestions of parishioners, the leadership of religious orders of women and men, and the clergy, resulting in today’s announcement.

The first phase of pastoral planning, directed by Bishop Dennis Sullivan, then the vicar general of the archdiocese, picked up on the good work begun by Cardinal Edward Egan prior to his retirement as archbishop in 2009.  This initial work consisted in surveying the parishioners of every parish of the archdiocese; meeting with priests, deacons, and religious throughout the archdiocese; consulting with the archdiocesan pastoral council; and reviewing the observations offered by Cardinal Dolan from his own extensive parish visits since his 2009 appointment as archbishop. These elements were used to determine how pastoral planning should proceed, as well as to identify areas in which the archdiocese should concentrate its resources. Among the issues raised most frequently during these meetings were:

  1. The need for a strategic plan for Catholic schools
  2. Improved religious education and faith formation programs for children, youth, and adults
  3. Greater outreach to various ethnic groups, in particular Hispanic Catholics and recent immigrants
  4. Enhanced ministry to teens, college students, and young adults
  5. Better use of technology for more effective communication with parishioners
  6. Expansion of healthcare throughout the archdiocese
  7. An emphasis on the works of charity, particularly in affordable housing
  8. Enhanced transparency, especially on financial matters
  9. Promotion of greater involvement of the faithful in the life of the Church, especially in attracting new people to the faith, and winning back people who have left

Even while the pastoral planning process of the archdiocese was being developed and instituted, these areas of concern identified by the faithful, religious, and clergy of the archdiocese were being addressed:

  1.  Pathways to Excellence, a strategic plan whose principal purpose is to improve the education and formation provided by Catholic schools, was developed and implemented.  A key component of the plan is the establishment of regional school boards for non-parish based schools, with the governance of these schools on the local level. While this plan led to a number of schools closing, a record 60% of the students enrolled in neighboring parish schools, with all schools strengthened as a result.  This past year was the first in many years in which no archdiocesan schools closed.
  2. An all new, cluster-based religious education program for school age children is being developed, with a qualified director or coordinator of religious education for each cluster and the introduction of new technology to enhance learning.  In addition, a director for adult faith formation has been hired to develop new opportunities for on-going religious education in the archdiocese.
  3. The Office of Hispanic Ministry has been expanded, with a new, full-time lay director hired to work with all departments and parishes in the archdiocese to better minister to and with our Hispanic parishioners.  A particular emphasis has been placed on the upper counties of the archdiocese, which has seen an influx of Hispanic Catholics over the last several years.  Replicating the excellent outreach to Hispanics being done by a community of religious sisters in the Bronx, several women religious of another community will serve in the upper counties to visit, evangelize, and catechize as part of this new emphasis.  Regarding new immigrants, a long-term parish home is being identified for the Ghanaian Catholic community in an existing parish that might otherwise have been merged.
  4. A new office for teen ministry has been established, with the goal of remaining connected to young people, especially after they receive the Sacrament of Confirmation.  While all Catholic colleges and universities have campus ministry programs, FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) has recently expanded its campus ministry presence at two large secular universities in the archdiocese. A new director for young adult ministry is expanding programs for post-college age young adults, including monthly Masses and opportunities for fellowship, service, and faith sharing.
  5. A comprehensive plan utilizing technology to enhance communication within parishes and between the archdiocese and its parishioners has been developed and is being implemented. This includes the ability to hold archdiocesan wide “town hall” videoconferences, new websites for the archdiocese and its parishes, and the use of an email and text messaging system for better communication within individual parishes.
  6. ArchCare, the archdiocesan healthcare ministry, has been expanding into all ten counties of the archdiocese, with new programs including home healthcare, visiting nurse services, and PACE programs to supplement our existing nursing home system.
  7. Responding to the need in New York City for affordable housing for the poor and low income, Catholic Charities, through its affiliated housing entities has leveraged over $300 million for rehabilitation of more than 2000 family and senior units of housing and extended their commitment to affordability for years to come.  One project in particular is in the Morrisania section of the Bronx on a site previously occupied by St. Augustine’s Church that is currently being developed to offer 112 units of new housing for low income families and individuals with special needs.
  8. Annual condensed financial statements of all centrally managed programs, together with a report of total revenues and expenses of parishes and schools, are published in Catholic New York and posted online.
  9. Members of the faithful are now serving on the boards overseeing the regional schools.  The archdiocese is also jointly sponsoring a Master of Science degree in church management to train members of the faithful to assist our parishes as parish managers.

The pastoral planning process also brought to light numerous new pastoral needs and opportunities which are now either underway or undergoing serious consideration.  Responding to the growing number of Catholics in the upper counties, a second auxiliary bishop has been assigned to live and serve there. There are also needs in existing parishes, for example the need for a larger and more complete Saint Frances Cabrini Parish on Roosevelt Island, the need for an expanded church at Saint Mary’s Parish in Washingtonville, a potential move of Saint Michael’s Parish in Manhattan to accommodate the pastoral needs of those who will move to the new Hudson Yards development, and a more intense presence in the works of charity and healthcare in the upper counties.

            Making All Things New has also identified changes that need to be made to the existing parish structure of the archdiocese, one that was largely established between the mid-19 th to mid-20 th centuries.  Changes in individual parishes have, of course, always taken place.  For instance, in the last 50 years alone, 42 parishes have been consolidated, which includes 2007’s reconfiguration plan, which resulted in 21 consolidated parishes.  However, Making All Things New is the first planning initiative to incorporate the “ground up” involvement of every parish in the archdiocese.

Based on the input the cardinal received from the 368 parishes and 75 parish clusters (groups of about 4-7 neighboring parishes); a 40 person advisory committee comprised of clergy, religious men and women, and the faithful from across the archdiocese; the priest council; other close advisors and key staff, he has decided that:

  1. All parishes will work together more collaboratively within their clusters in providing services and ministries
  2.  48 parishes will merge with a nearby parish, resulting in 24 new parishes, with Masses and sacraments celebrated at both churches. There will be an evaluation every two years of these newly merged parishes, and every parish throughout the archdiocese.  To accomplish this, the archdiocese has established a parish planning office, to be directed by Eileen Mulcahy.
  3. 64 parishes will merge with a nearby parish, resulting in 31 new parishes, and while this new parish will have two churches, Masses and sacraments will only be celebrated on a regular basis at one church as of August 1, 2015.

There are a small number of new proposals for parish mergers that have arisen as a result of the cardinal’s own reflection on those proposals presented to him, as well as from his discussions with key advisors.  In keeping with the spirit of the Making All Things New process, Cardinal Dolan has asked that these new proposals be shared with the appropriate clusters and the archdiocesan advisory group so as to solicit their input.  These will eventually also be reviewed by the priest council of the archdiocese before a final decision is reached.  It is hoped that these new proposals will be acted upon soon so that final decisions are reached over the next several months.

Cardinal Dolan praised the efforts of the men and women who worked to develop the recommendations and suggestions that formed the basis of his decisions.  “I am grateful to the parish core team members, who gave so much of their time and wisdom in helping us plan for the future, and to the members of the advisory group who took the work of the parish clusters and developed the recommendations that were presented to me at the beginning of the summer.  It would have been impossible to reach this point without the thoughtful contributions of our parish core teams, the advisory board, and the priest council, all of whom approached their work patiently, prayerfully, and prudently,” he said.

Bishop John O’Hara, an auxiliary bishop of the archdiocese, who has directed the Making All Thing New process, acknowledged that, while change and transition often call for sacrifice, it was necessary for the archdiocese to exercise good stewardship in using its resources, including its priests, to carry out its mission.  He said, “We have heard from our people the anxiety they feel that they not be ‘abandoned’ after this process has concluded.  The parish is where they come in life’s happiest moments, like a wedding, first communion, or baptism, and where they turn when facing difficulties and hard times.  So, there is an understandable sense of loss, particularly for those merged parishes where we have announced that Masses and sacraments will no longer be regularly celebrated at one of those churches as a result of the merger.  It is now up to us, in the next phase of this process, to work with those parishes that will merge with neighboring parishes.  I also want to assure those Catholics in some of the more economically challenged areas of the archdiocese that this is definitely not in any way going to take away from the needed and necessary programs and initiatives in service to the less fortunate.”

Cardinal Dolan emphasized that, while the next pastoral and canonical steps must still be determined for the utilization and possible disposition of certain churches and unused buildings, the work of the Church in serving its people must and will go on.  He said, “It is imperative that we continue to find new ways of meeting the spiritual, education, charitable, and human needs of the people of God of this archdiocese. The archdiocese has long been a leader in providing affordable housing, and as part of our on-going discussions with the City of New York, we will now be able to explore several new sites as possible locations for housing. Caring for people with special needs is an ever-increasing ministry, and the archdiocese will look into new and creative ways to accomplish this as well.”

Because of the large amount of data reviewed for each parish, the thoroughness of the input from the local parishes and clusters, and the comprehensive study that led to the recommendations of the advisory group, only previously non-considered information and material that could have a significant impact on a parish will be accepted and evaluated, so as to determine whether a change in the initial recommendation is needed.

Making All Things New does not conclude with today’s announcement.  A plan for implementation has been developed which will include pastoral teams to work with any parish that is affected by mergers.  Although the timing of transitions will be made on a parish-by- parish basis, it is anticipated that most changes will be implemented prior to August 1, 2015.

In closing, the cardinal expressed his hope for the future.  He said, “One thing that has impressed me about Catholics in this archdiocese is their ability to come together in trying times.  That was brought home to me most vividly during the period when schools needed to close underPathways to Excellence.  Despite the sadness many felt in losing their school, everyone came together and worked to do what was best for our children, the schools, and the Church.  Or, look at how we came together at Hurricane Sandy.  I am confident that this same spirit will carry us through the next phase of Making All Things New, as the Archdiocese of New York begins a new chapter of serving Jesus and his followers in faithfulness and in love. Jesus is in charge, and He will never let us down.”


Please click here for Spanish.

Parish List 1 – Masses and Sacraments celebrated at both churches

Parish List 2 – Masses and Sacraments to be celebrated at the designated parish church; the other church may be used on special occasions.


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Ed García Conde

Ed García Conde is a life-long Bronxite who spends his time documenting the people, places, and things that make the borough a special place in the hopes of dispelling the negative stereotypes associated with The Bronx. His writings are often cited by mainstream media and is often consulted for his expertise on the borough's rich history.