The marriage of the two rural Monroe County parishes, which will take effect July 1, “just made sense,” said Fr. Michael Woroniewicz, pastor of both parishes.
St. Irene, with 300 families, and St. Joseph, with 400, have already become accustomed to doing some things together as clustered parishes. Now, they will form one parish with two worship sites, as envisioned by the Together in Faith plan.
“We really do need two worship spaces and two campuses,” Fr. Woroniewicz said.
The two churches are about eight miles apart, but Fr. Woroniewicz said that in his sprawling, rural corner of the archdiocese, “people are used to driving a distance — to Ann Arbor to go to the doctor or to Toledo to go shopping,” for instance.
One thing still to be determined, however, is what the new parish will be called. “I’m expecting the official decree from the archbishop any day now, with the new name,” Fr. Woroniewicz said May 14.
The most popular proposed names submitted by parishioners were All Saints, Holy Family and St. Gabriel the Archangel, he said, adding, “I’m supposing it will be one of those three.”
While both St. Irene and St. Joseph churches will still have two regularly scheduled weekend Masses — and the buildings will keep their present names — one or the other will be the only Mass site on most holy days and some other special occasions.
For example, Fr. Woroniewicz said Christmas Masses might be celebrated at Ida and the joint Easter Triduum at Dundee.
Various ministries will be offered at one site or the other, with the hope that, drawing people from both communities, they can be more successful, he said. Having a combined bulletin and only one parish office will also realize cost savings.
Robert O’Donnell, a member of the joint transition team from St. Irene Parish, said many people were not keen on the merger, at first, but most have come to accept it as inevitable “with the declining number of priests.”
O’Donnell said parishioners were pleased with the decision to keep both worship sites. “You’ll still be able to worship at the church you’re most used to,” he said.
He said he had been a member of the Dundee parish 29 years, since marrying his wife, Martha, who grew up there.
Sharon Horkey, a member of St. Joseph Parish since 1995 and one of the Ida parish’s representatives on the transition team, said the merger process had been helped along by a couple of socials — one at each parish — where people from the two parishes could get to know each other.
The socials also provided a chance for people to learn about opportunities for getting involved in the new parish being formed, she said.
Horkey said she believes the arrangement worked out pretty well and answered everybody’s concerns: “No one has said anything negative to me about it.”