Although Saint Mary Parish, Durand, was founded in 1901, and Saint Joseph Parish, Gaines, was founded in 1871, each reflected a pre-existing Catholic presence in its respective area. These parishes became part of the Diocese of Lansing upon its establishment in 1937. Although Saint Joseph is located in Genesee County and Saint Mary in Shiawassee County, these parishes are adjacent, and they are approximately 5-6 miles apart by road.
Since the inceptions of these parishes, generations have heard the Word of God, have worshiped and have received the sacraments of the Church in them. The faithful and their ministers have transmitted the gospel and conducted works of charity.
Both farms and railroads had long imparted distinctive qualities to these areas. In recent years, both have enjoyed diversification of their economic bases. However, both the city of Durand and the village of Gaines have experienced significant population declines from the 1990s to the present. Both parishes have experienced significant declines in membership and Sunday Mass attendance since 2005.
Now, in an effort to strengthen the preaching of the Gospel and to ensure the vitality of parish life, with concern for the best stewardship of resources and the right of the People of God to receive assistance from the Church, especially the Word of God, spiritual sustenance and the sacraments, it is necessary to make new provisions for the spiritual care of the members of these parishes.
This decision is based upon a number of factors, among which are the decline in the Catholic worshiping community in this area of the diocese, the proximity of the parishes and their places of divine worship, the desire to avoid duplication of services and the increasing expenses associated with necessary repairs and maintenance to structures, the spiritual welfare of the parish communities, the spread of the Gospel, the promotion of unity among the People of God, the enhancement of collaborative ministry and the better utilization of available priest personnel.
In light of the summons placed by Saint Pope John Paul II in his Apostolic Letter Novo Milennio Ineunte, this decision is also taken to strengthen “the proclamation of Christ to reach people, mould communities, and have a deep and incisive influence in bringing Gospel values to bear in society and culture.” (n. 29)
Now, the reasons have been evaluated with due consideration of the canons and the letter to ordinaries from Congregation for the Clergy, “Procedural Guidelines for the Modification of Parishes, the Closure or Relegation of Churches to Profane but not Sordid Use, and the Alienation of the Same’ (April 30, 2013).
Cumulatively taken, these reasons present a grave and sufficient reason justifying the actions of canon 515 §2.
In satisfaction of canon 515 §2 and attentive to canons 127 and 166, the Presbyteral Council was informed of the proposal and its counsel was sought. Its members were polled individually and unanimous support was given for this action (minutes of the Presbyteral Council, March 14, 2017).
This matter was also brought to the Diocesan Pastoral Council at its meeting of March 16,2017, and the minutes reflect unanimous agreement with this action.
Indeed, the parishioners of both parishes had been previously asked to manifest their needs and desires, and these were received into the Diocesan Coordinating Commission: Planning Tomorrow’s Churches, under the careful direction of the Office of Pastoral Planning.
Therefore, having judged that sufficient causes exist according to the law and the “Procedural Guidelines,” and satisfied that the good of souls will not be impaired but rather enhanced, I decree that Saint Joseph Parish, Gaines, and Saint Mary Parish, Durand, are to be united into a new parish, which I hereby establish, and which is to be known as “Saint Mary and Saint Joseph Parish.”
Its parish church is to be that church located at the former Saint Mary, Durand, and its territory is to be an aggregation of territories of the former parishes.
The church located at the former Saint Joseph, Gaines, is to be designated as an oratory of the new parish. Its administration is to be conducted in accord with the norms of Planning Tomorrow’s Churches.
According to the norm of canon 121, all assets and liabilities, whether movable or immovable, of both former parishes, will become the assets and liabilities of the juridic person of Saint Mary and Saint Joseph Parish. Furthermore, ownership of all ecclesiastical goods and all objects of artistic or historical value belonging to either are to be transferred to this new parish for proper administration in accord with the prescripts of Church law.
The principal offices of the administration of the new parish are to be those of the former Saint Mary Parish. The parish registers of the former Saint Joseph Parish containing the records of baptism, confirmation, Eucharist, marriage and deaths along with parish records and historical documents are to be forwarded to these offices where they will be faithfully preserved and maintained in accord with canon 535, §1-5.
I direct that this decree be notified to the pastoral leadership of each parish, and that its contents, especially its dispositive part, be communicated to parishioners of each parish on the weekend of Saturday, June 10 and Sunday, June 11, 2017. This may be accomplished by printing in the bulletin, or by posting in a public space of each parish church.
I further direct that this decree be published on the website of the Diocese of Lansing (www.dioceseoflansing.org) which will be presumed the official notification of this action (cf. canon 8 §2). The “Process to Initiate Recourse against an Administrative Decree” is to be made available as needed and placed at https://www.dioceseoflansing.org/officebishop/process-recourse-against-decree.
Anything to the contrary notwithstanding.
Given at the Curia of the Diocese of Lansing on this the first day of June, in the year of our Lord, 2017.