Saturday, June 21, 2008

St. Agnes, St. Luke and Sacred Heart Catholic churches to close by August

St. Agnes Church in Flint.

The Flint Journal reports:

Parishioners at three northern Flint churches reacted with gasps and tears when they learned this morning that their churches will close by Aug. 1.

"I was married here and I hoped I'd be buried here," said Gary Debevec of Flushing, who attends St. Agnes Catholic Church on Pierson Road.

"I guess that's not going to happen now. This is breaking up a family."

St. Agnes, Saint Luke and Sacred Heart Catholic churches will close, and their parishes will merge with St. John Vianney Catholic Church to form a new community at St. John's, on Bagley Street in Flint, Bishop Earl Boyea announced Friday in a letter to the local church leaders.

The announcement surprised many, as it came prior to the completion of a diocese-wide study that that will determine the fate of 97 parishes in a 10-county area that includes Genesee and Shiawassee counties.

The study's recommendations are still under review, and should be ready for the bishop's consideration by the end of this month, said Michael Diebold, director of communications for the Catholic Diocese of Lansing.

"But announcements are being made now at some parishes, because some sites just can't wait," Diebold said.

The bishop explained in his letter that the Flint church closings were announced early due to "a particular urgency," caused by "declining parish membership and increasing financial strain which, if not responded to, would create further hardship for the parishes involved."

The news follows an announcement Friday that DuKette Catholic School, on the St. Agnes Church campus, also will close before fall. Children at DuKette will be invited to attend St. John Vianney School, the bishop said.

The North End Soup Kitchen, located at Sacred Heart, the North End Women's (NEW) Life Center, at St. Luke's, and Cornerstone Outreach Ministry, at St. Agnes, will remain open, he added.

According to the Lansing diocese, mass attendance at St. Agnes has dropped by 59.3 percent since 1995. St. Luke's attendance decreased by 49.6 percent, Sacred Heart's by 27.5 percent and St. John Vianney's by 31.9 percent during the same time.

Population shifts from the city to the suburbs account for most of the decline. Many of those who remain at the inner city churches now commute from the suburbs.

Mary Andrykovich drives from her Swartz Creek home to attend masses and events at St. Agnes because "I was raised in this church and was married here and this is like my family."

While Bishop Boyea said the new parish configuration "holds great promise for a strengthened and renewed Catholic presence in the city," some of St. Agnes's loyal parishioners said they would attend churches closer to their homes before considering attending St. John's.

"They can't make us go to St. John's," said a St. Agnes member who didn't want to be named. "I come here because I have a history here and I love the people. But I don't know anyone at St. John's. There are lots of churches closer to where I live."

Another parishioner complained that the closings are coming too quickly.

"August is way too fast to allow these older people time to make the change," he said. "It's not right to kick them out."

But some said they understood the need to act quickly.

"When the bills outweigh the money coming in, you've got to do something," one parishioner said.

Others, while wiping away tears, said they realized that the church is a body of believers, not a building.

"This is sad, but we're going to be OK," said Chris Gardner, of Flint, a St. Agnes parishioner who has been praying for years "for God's will to be done" in the declining parish.

"Whatever happens, God is in this," Gardner said. "We have to remember that it's the people that matter, not where we worship."


30 comments:

  1. Being from the Lansing Diocese and attending church in this area all my life, I was not surprised to hear that Sacred Heart and St. Luke's would be closed, but was taken back about St. Agnes. I believed them to be more self-sufficent than the other two. With the catholic population dropping in those areas of the city from its peak in the pre-1970 era, it's the wonder these parishes have stayed functional as long as they have. I for one am still saddened over the closings for they are the first closings in 25 years (St Francis in 1983 and St. Joseph's in 1974 are the ones that come to mind...) Even though they are not my home parishes, it still bothers me for what else does the Diocese and Bishop have in mind? Thank you for your updates Gordon. They are appreciated.

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  2. I know there are obvious economic issues at work here, but I also feel like one of the roles of a parish is to help the city of Flint, including non-Catholics. I fear that the Diocese is abandoning parts of the city. I know Powers wants to move but can't raise the money. I'm not saying they should stay, necessarily, but I feel like these schools and parishes are a stablizing force in Flint, and that should be taken into consideration, along with the economic issues. (And it goes without saying that the cost of the sexual abuse scandal is a huge reason economic issues are part of the picture.)

    I guess I'm still a little bitter about St. Mike's school getting shut down in the 70s. That could have been a positive element of the downtown area. And I was one of the St. Mike's kids who was "welcomed" into the community at St. John's school. It was not a fun transition, and that's why I ended up at St. Mary's.

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  3. I'm in total agreement of your last comments. You said it all...

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  4. It is easy to see that in another 5years parishs like St. Mary's, St. Mikes, St. Matts, All Saints and Holy Redeemer will also be considered for closing if the population trends don't change. I feel sad for the people that have attended any of those churches that are being closed. While the Bishop has plans to down size, it would be better if he developed plans to increase membership.

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  5. I cannot see All Saints closing since that will be the only active parish in the northern Flint area. Holy Redeemer is another parish that would not close; membership is high. As to St Mary's, St. Matt's, and St. Mike's, your guess is as good as mine. Let's face it: The Diocese Of Lansing knows what is going to happen with the mergers and closings.

    Gordon, check your e-mail.

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  6. St. Joseph was in the St. John St. neighborhood, right? Where was St. Francis located? What about St. John?

    I seem to remember reading something about St. Leo closing a while back.
    Anybody know about Christ the King? Such a small parish.

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  7. I have to agree with anonymous in that I was less surprised, though certainly no less saddened, about the closing of St. Lukes and Sacred Heart than of St. Agnes. I was baptized at the new St. Lukes parish when it opened in '65, but when it came time to start first grade I had to go to St. Agnes because St. Lukes was already closing its school and my parents wanted to avoid painful transition issues. What I really don't understand, however, is that St. Agnes recently put loads of money into a refurbishment, did it not? Parish closings have been on the horizon for years, yet if St. Agnes parish was running out of money, then what was the point of making such an investment? Or - was the parish itself under the impression that it would be the one parish in the North End to remain open, particularly in view of its investment? Something does not ring right here. Demographics and economic issues certainly play critical roles in the closings, and the sex scandals have also taken their toll, as geewhy mentions. I am sure the decision to close was not easy to ultimately make, but I am nevertheless highly skeptical about the "skill" of financial management and degree of transparency the diocese has demonstrated here.

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  8. I don't think the Diocese of Lansing has a very good track record on this issue. I know that the elderly priest at St. Mary's had salted away a large sum of money to keep the school open. When he retired to Marian Hall, the diocese came in and took the money. Technically, this may have been their right, but it was clear the money was there to keep the school open. The diocese then shut the school down and spent the money elsewhere. Perhaps some if it ended up being used to pay for the priest-abuse scandals.

    The bad blood between St. Mary's and the diocese went way back to the 70s when the diocese closed all the Catholic high schools to create Powers. St. Mary's didn't participate and held out with their own small high school for a few years. The diocese was not happy.

    The nuns at St. Mary's didn't get along with the diocese, I'm assuming, because it was clear they were going to shut the school down at some point. I've also heard the nuns did not like the new priest, who ended up abruptly leaving the priesthood.

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  9. With all due respect to the last poster in this subject, Flint Saint Mary's High School completely ceased operations in 1970 when Powers opened its doors. Saint Mary's continued with the elementary school which included grades 1 to 8, added a kindergarten in 1975, and eventually closed in 1992.

    Saint Francis of Assisi Church was located on the west side of North Saginaw Street, between West Downey and West Cass Avenues in the Beecher district. The church and school still stand, but it is unknown to this poster who occupies it. In fact, the elderly priest who left money to keep Saint Mary's open after his reassignment to Marian Hall was pastor of Saint Francis from 1949 to 1961. He was then appointed as pastor of Saint Mary's from 1961 to 1987. This humble priest was also known as the founder of the building bee dubbed "Operation Tornado" that brought together volunteers from all walks of life to rebulid homes after the destruction of the 1953 Flint-Beecher tornado that claimed 116 lives, with a large number of his parishoners at Saint Francis losing their lives in it. That man was none other than the late Reverend Henry Berkemeier.

    Saint Joseph's was located in the St. John's Street/Urban Renewal area. It was an active parish until the construction of I-475 forced its closure in 1973.

    Christ the King Church on Lapeer Road has mainly african-american parishoners. Their new church was constructed 5 to 10 years ago. I've heard no discussions of Christ the King closing. Saint Leo's on Flint's far east side in averaging 40-50 people attending their 4:30 p.m. Saturday evening mass according to diocesean reports. It could be believed that Saint Leo's will probably end up with the same fate that the three Flint northern Flint churches face by August 1.

    If money "taken" by the diocese is being used for scandal victims, God help us all if some of the monies from the yearly DSA(Diocesean Services Appeal) are going to that as well...

    Thank you.

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  10. Does anyone remember the name of the church over on Pasadena just west of Clio Rd. near or right at the intersection with Lavelle Rd.? I thought it was also called St. Francis, but now I'm not sure. It closed early on, very likely in the 70's, and was used for a time as an educational institution.

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  11. The church west of Lavelle on Pasadena is St. Vladamir's Ukranean Catholic Church at 3464 W. Pasadena. As to the large buildings that resemble a school/church on the north side of Pasadena at Lavelle, I remember them, but I never knew who owned them...

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  12. "I know Powers wants to move but can't raise the money."

    I'm on the PCHS Board of Education. I believe raising the money will certainly be difficult, but have seen no evidence that it can't be done.

    What I have seen is extremely strong evidence that if PCHS doesn't move, student population will continue to decline. There were 1,485 kids in that building in 1970. We are expecting about 640 this fall. An aging building costs more to maintain and fixed costs are being spread over less students. That's a recipe for failure.

    Although PCHS is not in the most desirable location, the fact is that we have very little trouble on campus (I would venture less than say Grand Blanc or Flushing) but perception is reality. The mission of PCHS is education. If the parents won't send their children to our location then we must go where they will.

    btw...did you see you were in the Powers Point Newsletter?

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  13. Dear PCHS Board of Education Member,
    Enrollment has fallen due to the cost of tuition, declining academic standards and at least a decade of very poor leadership. The relationship between Powers leadership and alumni is strained, which accounts for the poor track record of fund raising. Moving to a new building does not fix any of the problems facing Powers.

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  14. KUDOS and BRAVO to the last poster, and another message to the Powers Board of Education member who posted here on June 14th follows, and please read it carefully. I look forward to an answer from that member here on Professor Young's FLINT EXPATRIATES.

    If Powers continues to call for over $6,900 per student for tuition and fees per year, I wish the school much luck recruiting more parents to make the sacrifice. The average "non-professional" blue collar family today earning anywhere between $35,000 to $50,000 per year (and that includes BOTH parents) that struggle to survive will not be able to send their children there even with parish subsidies or grants from the Powers Board of Education. Teachers that are employed at Powers made the obvious choice to earn much less than the average public school teacher. Secondary teachers earn the average of $20,000 to $145,000 per year now based on their level of education. In 1993, the highest paid teacher at Powers earned roughly $35,000 plus retirement contributions and medical benefits paid by the school and/or the Lansing diocese. I know this because I served as a PCHS board member in the 1990's and voted on a tuition hike plus a 2 to 3 percent raise for the teachers. I am also a member of its alumni.

    The land which Powers was built on was donated. The building is paid off. When the school was built, there was a strong catholic existence in the north end of Genesee County, hence its construction there. How much has the catholic presence there dropped? Surely it has had to decline with the closing of the three aformetioned parishes. No wonder Powers wants to build in the south county area to draw the more prosperous families from Grand Blanc and northern Oakland County. Can anyone think of another organization that moved south for the same reasons??? Genesys Health Park, of course...

    My message to Powers High School officals is this: Stay where you are. The area was chosen to build there---deal with it. Why are the "powers that be" attempting to begin another round of serious debt with the way the federal economy is today? Common sense is not being used to consider the possible circumstances that could surround a new building.

    As for being an alum of PCHS, you'll never get another dime out of me for donating to "Circles Of Excellence" (something I regret to admit I have contributed to in the past) with the tuition rate at such an astronomical rate. Yes, survival of the school AND its employees is imperative, but wake up. You are keeping good families that cannot afford the prices out, wishing they could come in.

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  15. St. Matt's school was knocked down today. Another victim of Powers. Isn't it sad, all the Catholic High Schools in FLint were closed to make way for Powers and now Powers can't wait to bolt from Flint. Nice move. Screw the people that could really benefit from an education that is better than any of the Flint schools could provide.

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  16. Wow...where do I start? Anonymous # 1: Cost of tuition...Yes, $6,900is a LOT of money. We make every attempt to make tuition affordable to as many as possible. We give hundreds of thousands of dollars in tuition assistance each and every year (in addition to parish tuition subsidies). We also offer several ways for parents to earn tution credits. Tuition increases typically are less than 5% per year. By way of comparison, total expenditures for public schools in Michigan exceed $12,000 per pupil. Our tuition is also considerably less than other comparable Catholic high schools in Michigan.

    As for decline in academic standards I don't know what to say other than "prove it." See also:
    http://tinyurl.com/5b4798

    Poor leadership? Again, give me evidence.

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  17. Anonymous #2: "Strong Catholic existence in the north end of Genesee County"...Yes, you are absolutely correct. When PCHS was built, something like 80% of the student body lived north of the Flint river. Today, something like 80% of the student body lives south of the Flint river. The popluation shift in the county in the last 30 years has been drastic.

    Consider also a building that is 38years old costs more to maintain than a newer building. Add to that fact the reality of spreading fixed costs over a smaller population (which of course means higher per pupil costs).

    "Stay where you are." If all the evidence provided clearly shows that this option will prove fatal to the school, how is that an option?

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  18. Anonymous #3: PCHS is not trying to "bolt from Flint." It isn't in Flint. It's in Mt. Morris Township. And considering that a location has yet to be finalized, well, I guess you're speculating on where we'll ultimately locate.

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  19. I would like to comment on the last poster. Flint Holy Rosary remained open when all the other Catholic high schools in Genesee county closed to consolidate into Powers. Holy Rosary contained costs by having a 'shared-time' schedule with Flint Kearsley. 1/2 day at Holy Rosary (Religious studies, language arts, social studies) 1/2 day at Kearsley (science, arts, mathematics, etc.) Parents paid 1/2 tuition of what the other Catholic schools charged. It worked until 1993. Holy Rosary parents realized that a quality education could be provided by public schools, contrary to what had been drilled into our little parochial heads by the nuns. I graduated from Holy Rosary and have been a public school teacher for 30 years. My husban taught at Powers in the 70's and retired from the public school system after 30 years. Our children attend/graduated from a Genesee county public high school and receive(d) excellent educations. (Sorry for digressing from my first statement of 'correction'.)

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  20. "I'm on the PCHS Board of Education. I believe raising the money will certainly be difficult, but have seen no evidence that it can't be done.

    What I have seen is extremely strong evidence that if PCHS doesn't move, student population will continue to decline."
    The lack of logic here helps explain the mess Powers is in today.
    1. Powers can't raise the money. Powers hasn't raised the money to build despite trying for at least 10 years. In general the alumni don't support moving.
    2. What evidence is that Powers moving stops the decline of students? Isn't the high price tag of tution the biggest problem with declining enrollement?

    Finally the property near Powers could be bought cheaply, if not given. Instead of running away why doesn't Powers help the area out? Isn't that the Catholic thing to do? Or is a Catholic education just for the wealthy?

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  21. My nieces all went to a Jesuit High School in Tacoma, Washington, and I've seen their fundraising operation in action. All I can say is that it puts Powers to shame in terms of raising money for the school. Obviously, Flint is not the most fertile fundraising area, but as we know there are tons of Powers grads out there who could give money, but I know a lot of them have NEVER been contacted by Powers.

    Without even addressing all the issues raised by readers, I think it's safe to say that Powers could be doing a better job of raising money for the school, regardless of whether they move or not.

    Maybe it's time to hire a professional fundraiser instead of assigning that vital duty to administrators that were trained to teach, not raise money

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  22. Geewhy comments about the poor fundraising are dead-on. Take a look at the recent Powers Pride newsletter and notice how few alumi give back - it's sad. The development role at Powers has been held by former teachers that haven't done well. That can happen when there is little or no accountablity.

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  23. To the last comment just before Gordon's: BINGO! The mess Powers is in has just been summed up.

    "A Catholic education just for the wealthy..." That's exactly it...

    ..."and that's all I got to say about that..."

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  24. I'd like to make another comment here about Powers. I don't want to debate, but I'd like to add the following prior quotes and comments:

    "The land Powers was built on was donated. The building is paid off."

    How can a building 38 years old be in such bad shape as stated by the PCHS board member. Isn't it true that some area businesses donate items and labor to assist the well-being and structure of the building? I know that has happened many times. With it being a diocesean school can't the Diocese of Lansing assist in educational and building improvements at that site?

    "Stay where you are"...I agree. Powers built there on DONATED land, Powers CHOSE to build there.
    Why is Powers attempting to go into debt when sufficent funds cannot be raised? To quote from a famous fictional character: "Totally illogical..." That's exactly what it would be to take on a new debt, and a more than likely new problem.

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  25. "The lack of logic here helps explain the mess Powers is in today.
    1. Powers can't raise the money. Powers hasn't raised the money to build despite trying for at least 10 years. In general the alumni don't support moving.
    2. What evidence is that Powers moving stops the decline of students? Isn't the high price tag of tution the biggest problem with declining enrollement?"

    PCHS has never made any attempt to raise money for relocation.

    We have a survey that shows student population, if we stay put, will continue to decline. (I have also seen a study performed in 1989 that stated if PCHS didn't move we would suffer a "small but relentless decline in enrollment." Sad, yet true.) The study also projects that if we were to move to southern Genesee County enrollment declines would be reversed and we could probably attain a student body of 1,000 or more.

    Once again, $6,900 is a lot of money. But that is a different issue. Tuition didn't build the current building and won't build a new one. If a new building is built it will be through a capital campaign.

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  26. "How can a building 38 years old be in such bad shape as stated by the PCHS board member. Isn't it true that some area businesses donate items and labor to assist the well-being and structure of the building? I know that has happened many times. With it being a diocesean school can't the Diocese of Lansing assist in educational and building improvements at that site?

    "Stay where you are"...I agree. Powers built there on DONATED land, Powers CHOSE to build there.
    Why is Powers attempting to go into debt when sufficent funds cannot be raised? To quote from a famous fictional character: "Totally illogical..." That's exactly what it would be to take on a new debt, and a more than likely new problem."

    I never said the building was in bad shape. I said "Consider also a building that is 38 years old costs more to maintain than a newer building. Add to that fact the reality of spreading fixed costs over a smaller population (which of course means higher per pupil costs)." The Diocese of Lansing does not provide financial support to PCHS.

    As for staying put because we chose to build there 38 years ago, that's like saying you can only buy one home in your lifetime. Never mind what happens to the neighborhood, never mind that your friends and family move, never mind that the home no longer fits your needs, you have to stay. Now THAT is illogical.

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  27. "Without even addressing all the issues raised by readers, I think it's safe to say that Powers could be doing a better job of raising money for the school, regardless of whether they move or not.

    Maybe it's time to hire a professional fundraiser instead of assigning that vital duty to administrators that were trained to teach, not raise money."

    I agree...development is an area that, in the past, we have definitely not done a good job. We are making every attempt to turn that around. While we don't have what I would consider a professional fundraiser in that office, we have moved beyond "administrators" and are making significant improvements in that area.

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  28. "As for staying put because we chose to build there 38 years ago, that's like saying you can only buy one home in your lifetime. Never mind what happens to the neighborhood, never mind that your friends and family move, never mind that the home no longer fits your needs, you have to stay. Now THAT is illogical."

    I believe the part that is illogical is putting Powers into the position of such a deep financial debt with the possible construction of a new building. If Powers is struggling now, is it a guarantee that a new building would solve everything? Come on, probably not.

    "An aging building costs more to maintain and fixed costs are being spread over less students."

    True. The fact is the building is 38 years old. Buildings older than that have been remodeled with favorable outcomes. Would a partial or total upgrade to the building cost more than a rebuild?

    "I know Powers wants to move but can't raise the money."

    "I believe raising the money will certainly be difficult, but have seen no evidence that it can't be done."

    I see no evidence it can be done.
    Who will the people or organizations be to donate to the cause?
    Another poster wrote something to the effect of good families who simply can't afford to send their children to Powers simply because of tuition. Why build a new school if the student body might not increase and tuition definitely would?

    Parents have been arranging transportation for their children to G-2040 W. Carpenter Road for 38 years now, and for the time being, it will continue. The idea of a move should be shelved until the U.S. economy rebounds to a more stable outlook, and hopefully future parish closings or mergers are completed...Too much plus too soon equals FAILURE...

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  29. I was just in Flint yesterday for the annual family reunion and heard this news. My husband was saddened. He went to St. Agnes school, received his baptism, first communion and confirmation there. Some of his siblings were married there and his father's funeral was there. My brother-in-law and his family attend St. Luke's. We have good friends that attend St. John V.

    Interestingly, my grandparents were good friends with Father Donahue who left St. Johns in Davison to build St. Luke's in Flint. I imagine Father is spinning in his grave now, although I'm sure he would be obedient to the bishop.

    I was sad to see the condition of Flint on the north end. Houses are in such poor repair and it looks like the forest is trying to reclaim the land!

    I am happy to have found this blog though. Thanks for the interesting view and news about the old home town.

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  30. Poor leadership? Again, give me evidence.

    Exdemacrat wants evidence, here it is in 4 words.. TOM FURNAS , EARL BOYEA... there you

    from a Powers Alumni

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