Condolences to our brothers and sisters at Christ the Redeemer Parish in Elmira, NY. The parish is selling not one, but two of its three churches – Our Lady of Lourdes in West Elmira and St. Charles Borromeo in Elmira Heights – as well as other church properties. This leaves only St. Casimir’s Church. (For sale price information, see here.
This bulletin insert from February explains the situation succinctly. Parish membership and Mass attendance is down, expenses for 12 properties are up. By selling churches and related properties, the parish hopes to stabilize its finances. However, the experience of other parishes makes this unlikely.
Why? Because while selling or leasing properties other than churches (convents, rectories, and schools) can be helpful, selling churches intensifies the parish’s death spiral. A certain percentage of parishioners will leave the parish when their church closes. Some remaining parishioners will decrease their contributions. The emotional ties and commitment to the parish weaken, not only harming finances, but parish ministries and community spirit as well.
Based on experience, the next move would be to merge with Blessed Sacrament Parish, comprised of St. Patrick’s Church and Sts. Peter & Paul Church, and/or St. Mary’s Parish, all in the city of Elmira. Then additional churches would be closed, again in the name of decreased attendance and funds.
-- Susan M.