Browsing Parish Council Notes

June 2023

Beacons of Light PDF Update August 2022

Parish Council Notes

Fr. Jason Williams, the Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, came to the Parish Council meeting on June 12 to answer questions that were submitted by parishioners regarding Beacons of Light. These were the only agenda items discussed at this meeting. Through the Beacons of Light process he’s been meeting with several parishes and parish councils to help answer questions as this is uncharted territory for all. Below are his answers to the questions submitted.

A Chancellor’s role is to keep the official archives of the diocese, as a notary certifies documents, and generally manages the administrative offices (and sometimes finances and personnel) of a diocese. Fr. Jason has studied Canon Law extensively and is the Master of Ceremonies for the Archdiocese.

What does the overall merger entail and when?

The goal of Beacons of Light is to capitalize on the parishes strengths and to share the abundance of those with each other and streamline where possible. The current projections for the entire, universal church are bleak. Over the past 100 years, we have seen a steep decline in the number of practicing Catholics, those receiving sacraments, attending Mass, etc.—even in the northern part of the diocese where the faith seems to be more deeply rooted than others, numbers have not been maintained. They’ve slowly been slipping downhill, so there is a clear issue. Beacons is calling us to pool our talents and resources to re-focus on the main reason any of us are here: to practice, share and grow in faith, closer to our Lord.  

Unification of parishes does not mean closing churches. There is nothing in Beacons that says there should be only one church. A parish is a community of people. A church is a building, a sacred space for worship. Even if the parishes are united, that doesn’t mean any churches close. Rome does not like the idea of closing churches as they are a testament to the faith in the community and continue to keep that place sacred.

The Archbishop has given broad parameters to work within to allow for flexibility in families of parishes.  To merge means we are working toward canonical unity within our family of parishes. Not all families have the same challenges to overcome; therefore, set parameters and time frames were not specified. However, every pastor received a letter from the Archbishop that Beacons of Light is not optional and the deadline is July 1, 2027.  At this point, St. Henry Cluster is one of the furthest along in the diocese, but not the only ones moving forward; the parishes have been combined and working together much longer than others. Soon more reports will be coming out regarding other parishes merging within the diocese.

On a parish level, we want to be faithful to the archbishop’s wishes now; not moving forward is disobedience. We are waiting on the final approval from the Archbishop to begin the legal process of unification, which we anticipate will begin some time this fall.  We intend to keep all churches open and utilized (St. Aloysius-Latin Mass chapel—this cannot begin until the legal process of merging has begun, St. Wendelin– adoration chapel, etc.) In a lot of ways, we have already been operating like one parish (same liturgies, same religious ed, same staff, etc.).

Why can't the priests say more than 2 Masses on Sunday?

Canon Law actually states priests should ideally only say 1 Mass per day but allows for 2 per day when there is a pastoral need for it. Priest should only say 3 Masses in extreme circumstances with the Archbishop's approval, and circumstances don’t fit the specification for “extreme” although it may feel differently. Therefore, the Archbishop has been enforcing the 2 per day to avoid burnout, as was expressed by the majority of the priest in the Archdiocese.

Is there any document that says antiphons must be sung at Mass?

The General Instruction of the Roman Missal and the Documents of Vatican II give Gregorian Chant and antiphons the highest preference in terms of sacred music.  There are no documents that state antiphons have to be sung or that they cannot be sung. Implementation and use of antiphons is not explicitly required by the diocese, but is left to the discretion of the pastor.

Why aren't the other parishes making the positive changes to the Mass we have made?

Every pastor is tasked with faithfully observing the liturgical norms and rubrics as received in the Church’s official magisterial and legal documents. While the General Instruction of the Roman Missal allows for some variation at different parts of the Mass, the pastor is also duty-bound to ensure that the Sacred Liturgy is celebrated in his parish(es) with the utmost reverence, in light of the Church’s theology and tradition, and without admitting anything that might diminish or detract from the sacred action taking place. Pastors must discern how to guide their flock when adjustments and corrections need to be made, and ultimately they have the responsibility to make those changes at the time they discern is best. 

Why does it seem the role of the laity in decision-making has changed?

Pastors and bishops are given extra graces from God through Holy Orders and Apostolic succession to make prudent decisions. Through Canon law, they are the ones who hold the ultimate right to decide. A pastor who makes decisions does not automatically mean clericalism. All pastors have to stand before God for the decisions they’ve made - for weighted moral questions or imprudence. The role of the laity in the decision-making process is up to the pastor to discern. He may look for insight & good counsel, perhaps even a vote, but the pastor ultimately needs to make the decision.

Does the diocese get notified of our Mass attendance and revenue reports?

The diocese gets annual attendance reports in October and annual financial reports in July. The diocese evaluates and considers these numbers. The Archbishop may talk to the respective pastors and ask about the reports. On a parish level, we have noticed a decrease in attendance and revenue.

Parish Questions

Additional questions were submitted that were deferred to Fr. Hess to answer because the questions below are all decided on a parish–level, not diocesan or do not pertain to Beacons of Light.

Where are my donations going to go?

Existing donations already given for a specific purpose will remain earmarked for such. New donations may still be earmarked for specific purposes (i.e. St. Bernard’s capital campaign project). The transitional plan is up to the family parish to decide. Our finance councils are currently working on a transitional plan for finances and will be shared as it’s completed. 

After the merger, who’s responsible for determining the maintenance schedule?

It is up to the parish family to choose how to care for their buildings. We have a building and grounds council who will be responsible for keeping watch over our various buildings in the family and reporting to our facilities manager. There will remain smaller buildings and grounds sub-committees who will perform annual assessments and assist at each building. They will work with the pastor, facilities manager, business manager and finance council to decide the plan of action.

Why does it seem that participation is discouraged here?

It is not the intent for participation to be discouraged, though we understand this adjustment to antiphons is difficult. We thank you for putting your hearts into it and trying. It is wonderful to hear that more of the congregation is trying—the volume is getting louder! We are keeping the antiphons because they provide a fundamental element of prayer and means of participating in the Mass. The antiphons are the particular scripture for each Mass; they’re selected to guide us into the proper disposition for each specific Mass. However, we understand it can be difficult to pick up new ways of singing.

We invite and encourage you to partake in other forms of Christian music! Listen & sing along in the car, during chores and household duties, join in with our seasonal choirs. There are so many ways music can enrich our lives, let alone spiritual music. Sometimes it’s easy to try to squish being Catholic into 1 hour a week– Mass need not be the only place we engage in the form of sung prayer.

Click here for another viewpoint on antiphons.

Do we have a family liturgical (worship) commission? What role does this commission have in our family parish?

We do not currently have a worship commission. We are working towards establishing one.

A worship commission helps the rest of the parish dig deeper and learn more about the Mass and what it means to live out our Catholic faith. The commission doesn’t decide how to pray the Mass. It helps with extras and liturgical celebrations (i.e. Holy Week, Easter, Advent, Christmas, etc.). An example would be with our current prayers for before and after Mass: a worship commission would focus on educating why these prayers are important. 

Could the prayers before and after mass be done privately? Are they the best way to prepare for mass?

The celebration of the Mass is the ultimate way to worship. Jesus gives Himself to us in this incredibly real and intimate way, so praying to prepare ourselves and offer thanksgiving for this sacrament is an important step to show the Lord respect and honor. Saying these prayers aloud and together is not required but ultimately serves as a good practice for all of us to form good habits, to help us in our weakness recognize what an intense and holy celebration we are at, and what an honor it is be able to participate. 

What is the structure of the family council?

We asked the parish for nominations for family parish councils in May 2022. Not many nominations were received, yet all were great nominees. Father chose one man and one woman from each parish of those who were nominated. This initial family council will have to create a rotation, so half will serve for 4 years, the rest will serve for 3 years. Any new council members will serve 3 year terms. To replace outgoing council members the same process will be used: parishioners can nominate individuals for family council. 

What kind of transparency should we expect from the family council? 

All concerns can be brought to the council members or to Father to be placed on the agenda. Parishioners will also have the option to submit agenda items on the cluster website ( After council meetings, minutes will be shared on the website and in the bulletin. Parish council members are allowed to discuss council meetings.

Why was the name ‘St. Henry’ submitted for our family name?

The initial survey asking for Mass time suggestions and name suggestions went out last year.  Results were discussed with the parish council and from there 4 names were decided on and put out for parishioner vote last fall.  Although St. Henry was the top suggestion received, initial concern was that it would show partiality to one parish over another and therefore was not added to the voting options.  After receiving feedback from this choice, conversations with parish council and advice from the Archdiocese it was suggested that St. Henry should be put forth as an option for our family name.  Parish Council discussed that this would be the best path to take as so many requested less changes within the family. This choice also keeps us grounded in some of our local history, and honors the work that has already been done over the last nearly 20 years that we have come to know ourselves as the “Saint Henry Cluster”. In the end, the council believed that it made the most sense.


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