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Churches to share pastors

Several Catholic churches in Clark County will soon operate under collaborative pastoral regions, according to the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.

St. Teresa Catholic Church, 1827 N. Limestone St., and St. Bernard’s Roman Catholic Church, 910 Lagonda Ave., both in Springfield, will use the same pastor beginning in July of next year. A similar collaboration is taking place at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in New Carlisle and Mary Help of Christians Church in Fairborn, according to the Archdiocese website.

The plans for the Springfield Deanery — which includes 16 churches in Clark, Champaign, Greene and Logan Counties — were updated last September.

Rev. Paul F. Hurst, pastor at St. Bernard’s, will be retiring this month and will be replaced by Rev. John D. MacQuarrie, a 1970 Catholic Central graduate who is currently the pastor at the Church of the Transfiguration in West Milton.

After Rev. Ed Gearhart, the pastor at St. Teresa’s, retires in 2015, MacQuarrie will serve as the pastor at both churches next July.

As the number priests declines nationwide, Gearhart said, more and more churches are using these types of collaborative partnerships.

In 2005, as a result of the Archdiocese’s Futures Project, they estimated there would be about 100 priests available to be pastors by this time, Gearhart said. He previously served as pastor at both St. Leo and St. Bonaventure in Cincinnati before coming to Springfield.

Membership numbers at both parishes have remained steady, said John Herzog, the business manager at St. Bernard’s.

“It’s more a matter of less priests, rather than people,” Herzog said. “It’s going on everywhere. It’s just pure math.”

An eight-person committee with four members from each parish has been created to help with the transition, said Herzog. He added the churches will work hard to maintain their current identities.

“They’re very good people who feel they are looking out for both parishes,” Herzog said.

While not ideal, parishioners understand it’s not practical to stay as is given the priest shortage, Herzog said. “It’s just one of those things we have to do.”

His time in Springfield has been memorable, said Gearhart, 68, who came to Springfield in July of 2007.

“This has been a very good assignment and I’m glad to be here,” he said. “A lot of good things have happened, but we’re not finished with all of our work.”

There are approximately 100 parishes in the Archdiocese who share a pastor, Gearhart said.

Of the six pastoral regions in the Springfield Deanery, three have already completed collaborations, including St. Joseph and St. Raphael in Springfield, which began in 2000.

“I’m lucky to just move in and it’s already done,” said Father Bill Kramer, who took over as pastor of both parishes on March 31. “It’s been easy as things are very well-organized.”

In Champaign County, four churches share the same pastor: Immaculate Conception (North Lewisburg), Sacred Heart (St. Paris), Saint Mary (Urbana) and Saint Michael (Mechanicsburg). In Logan County, Saint Mary of the Woods in Russells Point and Saint Patrick in Bellefontaine have also begun sharing pastoral services.

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