Parishes helping each other Churches sharing costs, joining forces


Forced to plot their future in a city of fewer Catholics than when their church buildings were built, some Baltimore parishes are redefining their missions -- sharing costs with others and joining with them to do more. Here are selected ideas the parishes are considering:

* ST. MARY, STAR OF THE SEA: This South Baltimore parish, on the edge of Federal Hill, could solve its problem of having no youth program by splitting the salary of a youth minister with two other peninsula parishes.

The Rev. Glenn F. Byrne, pastor of St. Mary, Star of the Sea, expects that within five years, only two priests and one central administrative office may be left to serve all three churches.

But the parishes have strong senses of history, of being built in the mid-19th century to serve Irish, German and Polish ethnic populations respectively. The three parish identities could be preserved while sharing their priests, Father Byrne said, if Masses continue to be said in each of the three sanctuaries.

* ST. BRIGID'S. This Canton parish might rotate various devotions, such as novena recitations of the rosary, with four other nearby parishes. Priests serving those churches may rotate among the churches.

* ST. MARTIN'S. This West Baltimore parish, once one of the archdiocese's largest and wealthiest, is thinking about pooling its money with that of neighboring parishes to hire a director of religious education for children.

* ST. VINCENT DE PAUL'S. If the 300 members of this downtown parish succeed in one of their planning goals, they will double their volunteer time to the church to one hour a week per parishioner.

And possibly, the church's services to the homeless will be combined with similar programs run by St. Ignatius, a Jesuit order church in the district.

St. Ignatius needs to free space in its own buildings on Calvert Street for a middle school for poor children it plans to open next year. But maintaining individual parish identity is important and may preclude such a move.

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