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Reader writes concerning issues facing St. Catherine Parish

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By Staff

To the editor:

There has been much in your editorials concerning the turmoil going on at St. Catherine Parish in New Haven. I have read every one of them and every time I read one I think "it's not the whole story." I am a lifelong member of St. Catherine Parish (73 years) and what is going on in my parish breaks my heart. We have always been a parish that welcomes new members and have always loved and respected our parish priest. When Father Leger first came to New Haven we were delighted to have such a young priest. We thought he would engage our young people and bring new life to the community. We welcomed him with open arms. Right away we realized his ideas were different than what we were used to but as a priest we respected him and tried to understand and abide by the rules he began to make.

What I would like to do is give you facts. As in the letters before mine, there is much emotion involved in this turmoil but what I would like to do is give facts and not opinion.

Fact: It had always been announced for whom the Mass was offered during the petitions. This meant a lot to the families but Father stopped that. It was brought to his attention; he still didn't want it announced so the suggestion was made to put it on a board in the back of church. Father Leger refused.

Fact: Women are no longer allowed on the altar (except to clean it). Girls are no longer allowed to serve Mass. A separate pulpit was put in below the altar so that women can read without being on the altar. The communion rail was put back in the church; it now separates the congregation from what is going on at the altar. Vatican 11 had the railing removed so that the congregation would feel more a part of the Mass.

Fact: Our deacon, who we loved dearly, was replaced by another deacon. Why do you think the Parish members feel like they do? Our organist, who played at most Masses, funerals and a lot of weddings, no longer plays.

A gentleman, who has done work in and around the church school for more than 40 years at no cost to either, disagreed with some of the things Father was doing. A police officer showed up at his front door and told him that he was not allowed on St. Catherine's grounds or Mass.

Fact: Older parishioners who were serving on committees were told their services were no longer needed — "time to be replaced." These parishioners had the time, life experiences and wisdom to devote to the parish, but also disagreed with some of the things that were going on. Two gentlemen from the parish had always taken care of our parish cemetery at no cost. After 30 years, someone decided to have a man from Campbellsville take care of the cemetery. With much opposition and pandemonium for months, that decision was reversed and is now back in the hands of the parishioners.

I could go on and on. About the Bereavement Committee, which is very dear to me: St. Catherine's Bereavement Room was in existence for many years. It was started by women of St. Catherine to help the families who had suffered the loss of a loved one by furnishing a meal after the funeral service. Fundraisers were held to furnish the room with tables, chairs, coffee makers and other things needed. Two families donated the air conditioners for the room in memory of their loved ones. When Father Leger arrived, he changed the name to Hospitality Room. The Bereavement Committee met with Father and he advised that the Archdiocese had written all the parishes that they could no longer have a meal in the school while school was in session because of predators. (Father did start having community lunches while school was in session. Does this make sense?) The Bereavement Committee went to the school to get their supplies and equipment and everything was gone. They called the Parish Secretary to find out where their stuff was and she said she didn't know. The maintenance worker advised that there was an order in the Parish Secretary's Office to get rid of all the food and equipment in the Bereavement Room. Some of their supplies were found in the dumpster and the rest was found at Culvertown Gym. Is this right for a Priest who wanted to get along with his parishioners? He then gave the Hospitality Room to the Knights of Columbus which he had promoted and started, even announced in the bulletin that the room was now "Knights of Columbus Hall." The room was also used to give piano lessons to students of St. Catherine School. The teacher was told she would no longer be allowed to give the lessons there and to move her piano, which she has.

We, the Bereavement Committee, have found a new home: Barry Hall at the New Haven Ball Park. We raised money to help renovate the building and have the dinners there.

St. Catherine Parish was a giving, faithful, caring community. Father has told us to go elsewhere if we don't like his rules. We have no opinion as to what goes on in our parish unless we agree with Father Leger. Otherwise "our services are no long needed."

It saddens me to see the Parish I love so dearly suffer through this. My prayer is that the Archdiocese will hear our plea and look at the whole picture — speak with his followers as well as those he has ostracized. Look at the decline of our school and our parish membership.

How hard will we fight for our faith and our church ...

Betty Wimsett

788 Lyons Station Road

New Haven