For several years I was a member of the Monday night Spanish language Bible study group at San Gorgonio Church in Beaumont, California. The day after the letter to the editor copied below was published, we came home from shopping and found this message on our telephone voice mail:

"Señor Terencio, lo felicito. Me gustó mucho la carta que escribió al periódico el Record Gazette. Felicidades. Adios. Es una compañera del Estudio Bíblico."

June 2, 2006

Catholic Church

The Catholic diocese of San Bernardino is preparing to abandon central Banning and central Beaumont. Precious Blood church on Nicolet St. in Banning holds only 300 people. San Gorgonio church on Palm Ave. in Beaumont holds only 550 people. Bishop Gerald Barnes of San Bernardino has announced that Mass will no longer be celebrated at either location once a new and much larger church is completed south of the freeway, far from the heart of either city.

Our bishop is responding to the growing crowds at each of the nine weekend Masses here in the Pass Area. He's also responding to the increasing shortage of priests. But by decreeing that we must build and furnish a mega-church, he merely postpones the inevitable. If present trends continue, in ten years not even one priest will be available for full time ministry in our area. Meanwhile, we need not and should not burden the less fortunate among us. Not everyone can contribute heavily toward the cost of a big new place of worship. Not everyone can afford to drive five extra miles to Mass each Saturday or Sunday.

Bishop Barnes needs to be more imaginative. We can use and maintain our smaller and more numerous churches for many years to come. We can double the number of services scheduled each weekend. These don't all have to be Masses where a priest presides. We Catholics can hear and share the word of God. We can pray and sing together. We have tabernacles in our churches. We have deacons and lay ministers of the Eucharist. With or without a priest present, we can receive communion when we gather for worship.

This won't be an ideal solution, of course. But the church has rules about who may be ordained to the priesthood, and our duty to welcome the poor is clear. Under the circumstances, this is the best option available. The expensive alternative, to abandon central Banning and central Beaumont, isn't a good idea.

Terrence Halloran, Beaumont


San Gorgonio
Church, Beaumont
      <<<<<<




Precious Blood
Church, Banning
      >>>>>>


An edited version of the same letter was published in The Press-Enterprise on June 25, 2006:


TRY IMAGINATION

Instead of pushing Catholics into a mega-church, let's explore creative ways to sustain small parishes.

         Parishioners celebrate Mass at Our Lady of the Rosary Cathedral in San Bernardino. Because of regional population growth and an aging, dwindling corps of priests, the Diocese of San Bernardino has called for the consolidation of some Inland churches.

By TERRENCE HALLORAN

The Catholic Diocese of San Bernardino is preparing to abandon central Banning and central Beaumont. Precious Blood Parish in Banning holds about 300 people. San Gorgonio Parish in Beaumont holds about 550 people. Bishop Gerald Barnes, leader of the Diocese of San Bernardino, has announced that Mass will no longer be celebrated at either location once a new, larger church is completed south of the freeway, far from the heart of either city.

The bishop is responding to the growing crowds at each of the nine weekend Masses here in the Pass area. He's also responding to the increasing shortage of priests. But by decreeing that we must build and furnish a mega-church, he merely postpones the inevitable.

If present trends continue, in 10 years, there may not be any priests available for full-time ministry in our area. Meanwhile, we need not and should not financially burden the less fortunate among us. Not everyone can contribute heavily toward the cost of a new place of worship. Also, not everyone can afford to drive five extra miles to Mass each Saturday or Sunday.

Bishop Barnes needs to be more imaginative. We can still use and maintain our smaller and more numerous churches for many years to come. We can double the number of services scheduled each weekend. The services don't all have to be Masses where a priest presides.

Catholics can hear and share the word of God. We can pray and sing together. We have tabernacles in our churches. We also have deacons and lay ministers of the Eucharist. And, with or without a priest present, we can receive communion when we gather for worship.

This wouldn't be an ideal solution, of course. But, under the circumstances, this is the best option available. The expensive alternative -- to abandon central Banning and central Beaumont -- isn't a good idea.

Terrence Halloran is a resident of Beaumont.

Speak out against church closings

The Press-Enterprise, Sunday, July 23, 2006

By JERI ROMERO GONZALES

Thank you for printing the letter by Terrence Halloran, "Try imagination" (Inland Views, June 25). Many fellow Catholics are having the same thoughts regarding the proposed Catholic Church closings in the Inland region.

Parishioners are like a herd of cattle that is being rounded up and guided in a direction some of us do not want to go, and can't go. I belonged to one of the most beautiful Catholic parishes in the Redlands area, with more than 2,500 families registered. It is one of the parishes that is being closed within three years.

This is a parish that has many senior citizens. Some, like me, could walk to church, attend daily Mass and fully support the church. How are seniors going to get to church now? They don't want to travel to the other side of town. They love their current church. Will they have transportation?

How many churches are being closed? Some of these churches are nearly 100 years old and in excellent condition. The people are the church. We support it. We pay for it. And the Catholic diocese is supported by the people. The bishop needs to be imaginative and discuss the changes with us -- give us alternatives.

Parishes are being asked to donate money to help build new churches. We have also been told that the money we donate to the church is not being used to support the millions being paid out for the church scandals. But I believe we are paying for them in the long run because a portion of our Sunday donations goes back to the diocese, and the money is used for expenses. The scandal payouts cause church insurance costs to increase tremendously, and we are paying for that.

I believe in obedience to the Holy Father, and I also believe that every time church leaders change our church, we should not be silent. Parishioners listen to the leaders and, in return, they should also listen to us.

Jeri Romero Gonzales is a resident of Menifee.

Farewell From Fr. Frank Lowe -- May 28, 2006

Dear Parishioners,

On February 15, 2006, I was summoned to the Diocesan Pastoral Center for a meeting with our auxiliary bishop, Most Rev. Rutilio Del Riego; our Episcopal Vicar, Fr. Robert Miller; and the Vicar General of the San Bernardino Diocese, Msgr. Jerry Lopez.

It was at this meeting that I first learned that Bishop Barnes had made the decision to merge the parishes of Banning and Beaumont under the supervision of Ms. Lynn Zupan, Pastoral Coordinator of the Beaumont parish. I was told that Bishop Barnes had not chosen me to oversee this venture because, last year, I had turned down the bishop's offer to serve as founding pastor of a new parish to be constructed in French Valley, near Murrieta.

I was then asked if I would support Ms. Zupan in the effort to merge the two parishes, and I responded that I would. I was asked again on March 1, Ash Wednesday, and presented with a memorandum outlining the leadership model which would be in affect. I was asked to sign the document signifying that I would support the merging of the two parishes. At this time, I was still under the impression that the merger process would extend over a 2-3 year period, and that Precious Blood parish would continue to exist as a separate parish until the end of my six-year term as pastor, which was to conclude in June of 2008.

Obviously, the process has moved along much faster than I had originally thought that it would. On May 18, parish leaders were invited to a meeting where they first learned of Bishop Barnes' initiative to officially merge the parishes as soon as July 1 of this year. After considerable prayer and reflection, I have realized that I would only be an impediment to this process. It does not make sense to me for this process to have two leaders. I felt it would be awkward for both parishioners and the new leadership if I were to remain at Precious Blood as pastor for the next two years.

It is with a very heavy heart that I have made the decision to request a new assignment. You have supported me in so many ways. It has been an honor and blessing to serve as your pastor. Please keep me in your prayers as I will keep you in mine during this time of transition for all of us.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Fr. Francis E. Lowe