Bishop McCormack's House to Be Closed

By Katharine McQuaid
The Union Leader [Manchester NH]
Downloaded March 19, 2003

A bleak financial picture facing the Catholic Diocese of Manchester will force Bishop John B. McCormack to move out of his North End home within the next few months.

The diocese announced yesterday it will close the New Hampshire bishop's River Road residence by June 30 as part of a plan to cut $500,000 from the next fiscal year's operating costs. The budget reconfiguration also involves eliminating nine employees and closing Emmaus House, the diocesan youth retreat center.

No decisions have been made about selling the property.

"The reconfiguration plan does not assume any sale of any property or assets to be effective," said the Rev. Edward J. Arsenault, chancellor and secretary for administration.

McCormack said there are many reasons the diocese is reconfiguring its staff.

"Our life and ministry face many challenges these days, including limitations on our financial resources. Yet, I am confident that our plan for reconfiguration over the next few months offers solid hope that the mission of the church will continue in a new and reinvigorated way," he said.

After the diocese depleted its savings by paying settlements to more than 80 victims of child sexual abuse by priests, in addition to the continuously sluggish stock market, the Diocesan Finance Council recommended the diocese trim at least $500,000 from its $2.5 million operating budget.

The positions of those nine employees are among 20 the diocese has eliminated since July 2002. The 25 percent workforce reduction was achieved mostly through attrition, according to diocesan spokesman Patrick McGee.

"They're jobs in administration, secretarial positions. Eventually we'll be eliminating people that help with the (bishop's) residence, in terms of housekeeping and so forth," McGee said.

McGee said he did not know how much it costs to run the bishop's residence and Emmaus House each month or how much the buildings - not now on city tax rolls - could be sold for.

McCormack is the only person who lives in the large brick home, which was a gift to the diocese in the 1940s. It has served as a home to New Hampshire's bishops beginning with Bishop Matthew F. Brady, said McGee.

McCormack has been bishop to the Catholic Diocese of Manchester since 1989. McGee said the bishop has not decided where he will live after the move.

According to the diocese's Web site, Emmaus House has served thousands of young people on confirmation retreats and other programs since 1978. It is also the official sponsor of many large diocesan youth events - such as Youth Day - which will continue as planned through June.

The 64-room building sits in Manchester's east side, on Concord Street, and is available for parishes, schools and youth groups that want to hold their own retreats or have one facilitated by Emmaus House's youth ministry staff.

Attorneys for the diocese are handling the liquidation of any of its properties, McGee said.

As for the future of youth ministry in the diocese, McGee said the bishop will appoint two task forces in early April to look at how best to continue those and other services.

McGee said the bishop wants to focus on parishes, which are also seeing a decline in weekly collections, to make sure they have the resources they need to fulfill the mission of the church, rather than try to provide all services from the diocese.

"What we're trying to do is support the parishes and the development of their own missions. We realize in times such as now that things are changing in the church, as well as financial constraints," he said.

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