Greensburg parish appeals merger decision to Vatican

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Some members of a Catholic parish in Greensburg have filed an appeal in Rome, asking Vatican officials to overturn Bishop Lawrence Brandt's decision to pair St. Bruno parish with another, to replace its Benedictine pastor with a diocesan priest-administrator and to cease its 4:30 p.m. Saturday Mass.

They believe the changes "signal an intention to eventually close the parish," the appeal said. They argue that St. Bruno has grown from 1,750 to 2,053 members since 2008 and should not be paired with St. Paul parish, which declined to 3,375 members.

"We are a vibrant and growing parish and help to sustain the diocesan coffers. We need ... a pastor who is in residence and is committed to providing us with pastoral care on a full-time basis," said the appeal to the Vatican's Congregation for Clergy.

Mark Parker, a spokesman for the group, accused Bishop Brandt of deliberately ending 94 years of Benedictine ministry at St. Bruno and of increasing the Greensburg priest shortage by allowing the former pastor to take a church in the Diocese of Pittsburgh. He said donations plummeted after the changes were announced.

"If we stay on this path, the diocese will have good reason to close the parish. ... If the bishop would have left us alone and just sent us a new pastor, we would still be in great shape," he said.

Jerry Zufelt, communications director for the Diocese of Greensburg, said, "We are confident that the decision will be upheld."

St. Bruno remains a parish equal in status to St. Paul, with whom it will share a priest and various ministries, he said. It is diocesan policy whenever parishes are paired or merged for the former priests to leave and new ones to come in, he said.

Bishop Brandt asked for another Benedictine priest to serve St. Bruno and St. Paul, said Archabbot Douglas Nowicki of St. Vincent Archabbey, the Benedictine monastery in Latrobe.

"I felt that, other than their current pastor, there was really was no one else to nominate," he said, citing a shortage of priests with the skills to handle a difficult parish transition.

According to the appeal, Bishop Brandt met with the unhappy parishioners July 19. The appeal said he told them that the parish's status hadn't changed, but that there was no guarantee his successor would keep it open. He advised them to appeal the matter of the 4:30 Mass to their pastoral council.

neigh_westmoreland

Ann Rodgers: arodgers@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1416.


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