SHEFFIELD — On Feb. 5, St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Sheffield became un-linked from Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Annawan and is now a stand-alone parish.
The Rev. Mark Miller will now serve St. Patrick’s full time and has moved into the rectory in Sheffield.
For the most part, this comes as a relief for parishioners, as it will avoid the possible decision of merging with Sacred Heart.
But with a small parish made up of only about 145 families, it comes as an unusual decision from the bishop.
“It’s unusual for one small parish to pay for all the expenses, and because there are now fewer priests,” explained Miller. “But the level of participation and Sunday giving enables this parish to operate and pay for all it bills on its own.”
In the last couple years there’s been fear the bishop would decide to merge Sacred Heart and St. Patrick’s. Miller explained with that option, the parishes would become one and have two separate sites.
“Instead of two separate parishes linked together, there was going to be one parish with a new name with St. Patrick’s still on this building,” he said. “It would have been disheartening for the people a little bit, but it would have required the people here to be supporting another church 10 miles away.”
Not only is the Sunday giving less in Annawan, but there are also more bills with the larger church, according to Miller. The merge could have potentially left Sheffield parishioners paying for a church not even in town. The decision may have spurred less membership and possibly a closure of St. Patrick’s, Miller said.
“Who wants to pay for bills over there when no one is taking advantage of that church and doesn’t want to take advantage of it?” he said. “It’s nice to know where your money is going and how it’s being used.
“The important thing now is St. Patrick’s is better off being on their own, paying for their own bills and having their own life separate from another parish,” Miller said.
Another plus is the change will allow for a full-time priest providing full-time services.
“With two parishes running back and forth, staying afloat was my main goal,” Miller said. “I didn’t have much of a presence at either place because of the busyness. Now I’m here and don’t have to drive everyday.”
Talking about what makes St. Patrick’s such a strong parish, Miller brought up the history of the church.
Miller has permanently moved into the rectory in Sheffield and has announced a new Mass schedule. The church will also now be opened during the day for private prayer and adoration.
A celebration is also in the planning stages for Saturday, March 15 to celebrate the Feast Day of St. Patrick’s and the new status of the parish.
Miller expressed his excitement for being in Sheffield and will now have a better opportunity to attend more social events to get a better grasp on the community.
“I’m happy to be wherever the bishop wants, but I know this is the best thing for the people of Sheffield,” he said.
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