GREENWICH — Two Roman Catholic churches in Greenwich will officially merge on July 1, becoming one parish and taking on a new, conjoined name: St. Catherine of Siena and St. Agnes.
The two houses of worship will remain open and share the Rev. Bill Platt, current pastor of St. Catherine of Siena and the diocesan director of hospital chaplains.
“We felt it was important that each church has equal representation in the title of our joint parish,” said Kim Kiner, communications director for St. Catherine.
The administrative merger of these two parishes is part of an effort across the Diocese of Bridgeport to address several trends: Fewer people are attending Mass, celebrating baptisms, first communions, marriages and funeral rites in the church; churches are not bringing in enough donations to sustain themselves; and there are fewer clergy members to minister to congregations.
“This determination has been made to strengthen pastoral care of the people of God in this area of my diocese, and to address several trends that are of serious concern,” Bishop Frank Caggiano said in a decree dated June 14 that formally announced the pending merger, which will be effective as of July 1.
The churches will unveil new banners for the two patron saints in the procession for the opening of the St. Catherine of Siena Carnival on July 9 to July 13. Both church buildings will still be referred to as St. Catherine of Siena Church and St. Agnes Church.
The Rev. Chris Johnson, a priest in residence at St. Agnes as well as a hospital chaplain, will move into the St. Catherine’s rectory at the end of the month and will minister to members of both churches along with Platt and the Rev. Mark D’Silva.
The music ministry at St. Catherine of Siena, under the direction of Liya Petrides, will remain as is. St. Agnes’ long-tenured music ministers, Michele Schule and Michael Orzechowski, will continue to lead the music efforts there.
The joint parish has created two new pastoral associate positions to support the faith formation needs of youth and adult parishioners, as well as the ongoing administration of the parish. Interviews are ongoing for the positions, and Platt plans to announce the new hires the first weekend of July.
Masses will still be celebrated at both churches, and the collaborative committee overseeing the joint parish is “working through the best way to support both church sites,” Kiner said. Changes to the schedule, as well as who will celebrate the masses, may come in July as well.
The committee has about 20 members representing both parishes, and has met several times under the guidance of Patrick Turner, director of strategic and pastoral planning for the Diocese of Bridgeport.
The much-smaller St. Agnes serves 200 families, and St. Catherine of Siena has about 2,200 families as members.
Currently, St. Agnes celebrates only five Masses a week, including two on Sundays. The much-larger St. Catherine celebrates 16 Masses a week, including four on Sundays, in addition to hosting many parish activities such as gymnastics, lectures, Bible study and plays and performances from the St. Catherine’s Players.
Joining together reverses the split that established St. Agnes in the first place. The church was founded in September 1963 from the parishes of St. Catherine’s and St. Mary’s, and the first Mass there was celebrated one year later.
The last reconfigurations in the Diocese of Bridgeport occurred in 2011, when some churches in Bridgeport merged. The diocese has over 400,000 members in 82 parishes across Fairfield County.