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Dianne Nechiporenko, Published February 13 2011

Bishop is not listening to parishioners

I have been an actively practicing Catholic my entire life and feel an obligation to express my opinion as to what is currently being proposed within the metro area by Bishop Samuel Aquila.

In my eyes, church means community, family, sanctuary, guidance, giving, receiving. It is a family within a family, a home within a home. I did not grow up in a community where a Catholic Education Network was available or parishes were megachurches. I grew up as part of a church community where Catholic families came together for prayer, celebration, mourning and entertainment. We supported one another both financially and emotionally. My parish family has always been my extended family.

The current Fargo Diocesan proposal for realignment, closure and clustering is taking community parishes and making them into mega-parishes. The bishop cites examples in other cities when he speaks of the need to do this: Denver, Chicago, Wichita, Kan., or even Lima, Peru.

But this is Fargo and West Fargo, N.D.! We still know and support our neighbors, co-workers, family and friends. I cannot envision how going from our smaller family parishes to a 1,700-member parish is in alignment with the current diocesan campaign of “Come home, Catholics” or parish families/parish life.

I understand that demographics are changing and cities are growing. Change is inevitable, but is the bishop’s plan really the best way to meet this change? Is not our vision to deal with this change worthy of any thought or consideration?

New megachurches, new one-class-per-grade schools, new parsonages … is this change really for the good of parish churches or Catholic school education? Is it really about trying to ease crowded classrooms, expanded Catholic education, or does it financially strap our parishes and destroy existing parish families? Why won’t the bishop show us the financial studies to support his plan? Why was there no consideration as to what the Catholic faithful feel they can financially support? Why does the bishop say our faith cannot be tied to our parish family?

The meetings held by the diocese to “clarify” the proposal have been contentious, with attempts to squelch questions or comments from the audience. Why does the bishop refuse any open dialogue with the parishioners who make up the diocese? Do our opinions not matter? Does the diocese not need the support of the faithful for the bishop to succeed? When this bishop moves on, how will we mend financial loss, emotional hurt and parish community destruction?

I cannot sit by and watch this happen. I urge others to stand up and let your voices be heard loud and clear. Become involved. Let your heart guide you, your faith passion drive you. Demand to be informed and heard. Let the bishop know we are people; we deserve his respect and attention. This isn’t just to preserve our Catholic faith. It is to protect the proclamation of the Gospel through the love of our parish families and communities.