Truth in Charity (May, 2024)

by Bishop Lawrence Persico

By the time you receive this edition of Faith magazine, we will have released all of the final plans for parish restructuring that we have been working on for more than two years, including those in Bradford, the DuBois area, the Clearfield and Oil City deaneries, and most recently, Erie County.

Speaking as someone who belonged to a parish that was merged with four others in my hometown, I recognize that change is not easy. We literally “belong” to our parishes — we feel at home and comfortable with our parish communities.

I won’t deny that it must have been great being a bishop when responsibilities included building churches and schools. But just as my predecessors surely had challenges, we, too, have reason for gratitude, joy and hope.

It’s true we now have fewer practicing Catholics and fewer clergy to lead them. But as we respond to those realities, we have an unexpected opportunity to renew our parishes, ensuring they are life-giving places of worship, places where people find encouragement and inspiration as they grow in their relationship with Christ, his church and each other.

These are not just ideals in the sky. Pastors and leaders have received guides designed to help them achieve these goals. Whether your parish is in a new partnership, has merged with another community or even remains unchanged for now, we have developed ideas to help you take advantage of this moment. The guides are available under the “Definitions, Prayers and Resources” tab at I encourage you to take a look at the one created for your parish situation. If you find an idea that speaks to you, talk with your pastor, someone on your pastoral council or someone involved with a parish organization. How can you nurture that idea with others and incorporate it into the life of your parish?

I trust the cover story of this edition will give you insight into the deep commitment our clergy have to their parish communities and to the many responsibilities they bear. Their health and welfare remain important priorities for all of us.

When I was first ordained, I was one of four priests at my parish. The pastor had oversight, but all of us shared responsibility for sacramental duties and outreach efforts. Unless a parish is particularly large, today a pastor is usually the only priest in his parish. In fact, he may be overseeing several parishes and/or mission churches on his own, traveling significant distances between them. It’s good to be reminded that priests do not reach retirement age until they are 75, at which point, those who are willing and able often opt to stay in a parish as senior associates.

With all this in mind, especially if your parish is in transition, being a supportive presence in your community is more helpful than you might imagine.

I hope you enjoy reading about the priests featured in our cover story, each of whom is working in diocesan administration. Many people are surprised to learn that I am the only priest in our diocese whose only work is full-time administration at St. Mark Catholic Center. Four of the other five priests who serve here also are pastors, an approach I believe enhances their work.

In the past, the responsibilities each of them has would have been shared among as many as three priests. We are blessed with their professionalism and energy, as well as their commitment to their spirituality and their priesthood. Their work is essential to the life of the Catholic Church in northwest Pennsylvania.

As we move into the summer, I invite you to join me in relying more than ever on the prayer we have been offering since we began pastoral planning in earnest in 2015: “For the vision to see new paths of possibility; for a spirit of mission that invigorates our every effort; and for the strength to be unafraid of what is new.”