Pointing at the bulletin letter's date (link) at left will display it's title.
December 6, 2009
Signs of the Time. . .A Reflection
By Fr. Peter Dumont
As pastor of the Parish of St. Paul as well as the Parish of St. Peter, I must admit that November was a very busy month for meetings, given the initiation of the process for the unification of our parishes. In fact, the very first of those meetings occurred on November 2, and the last officially scheduled one on was on November 30th.
During this time I have listened to many ideas and comments and opinions. Many of them find their way into the minutes of the meetings. Others have come to me by e-mail and still others from one-on-one conversations together. I have reflected at length on the issues raised, not only as pastor, but also as they concern me personally. It has given me pause to remember my own personal journey and I will offer a few of these thoughts with you.
I was baptized and raised at Infant Jesus Parish in Nashua. At the time we had three priests in the parish, plus another in residence. We lived next to the parish convent where there were nearly 30 nuns who taught at the Catholic elementary school I attended (as did my 2 brothers and 2 sisters after me). We were aware of other parishes in the city and in the area, but remained attached to our own parish. When I was ordained for the Diocese of Manchester in 1971, there were two of us from my home parish among the ten who were ordained that year. My parish also had one of their own ordained a priest in 1970 and another to follow in 1975. In my year of ordination, as well as in 1970 and 1972, there were 10 men ordained each year, a total of 30 diocesan priests for service in the Diocese of Manchester in the first three years of that decade!
As of last year, my home parish was closed and merged with St. John the Evangelist in Hudson to form Blessed John XXIII Parish, served by one priest. The convent now houses 6 sisters who teach in a Catholic elementary school, one of only tow in Nashua, where there were at least seven 40 years ago. Looking back at the priests who were ordained the year before me and the year after me, as well as in my own year, there are now 9 of us left out of 30 who are active in a parish!
It goes without saying that we grew up n the heyday of Catholicism in New Hampshire. St. Peter Parish was founded just after WWII in 1948. St. Paul was founded in 1971, the year I was ordained, and was the 126th parish in our diocese. High Tide in NH happened about that time, and the highest number of parishes was 131. There are now only 98 parishes. Again, less than forty years ago there were over 230 active diocesan priests in parishes and institutions and today there are less than 80. Just last week, Fr. Paul Ruzzo, Pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Pelham, NH died at 53 years old. His parish was by no means small, as is sits on the Massachusetts/New Hampshire border, and it also sponsors one of the last parochial schools in our Diocese. The Diocese of Manchester now has 12 parochial elementary schools and another 9 regional or private elementary schools.
So times have certainly changed, not only for our diocese or our parishes but also for each and every one of us personally. I was baptized a Catholic in NH, I was educated in Catholic schools here and elsewhere for over 20 years, I was Confirmed here and have had my Faith nourished in the Eucharist since 1952. I was ordained in this Diocese and for the people of NH, and have served exclusively in parishes of the Diocese for the past 38 years. I may be less than happy with the decline I have experienced, but it will never diminish my faith in Jesus Christ, His love for me, His Gospel which I endeavor to preach to you, and your spiritual care for which I am responsible.