Due to a shortage of priests, two separate parishes of the Albany Roman Catholic Diocese in the cities of Johnstown and Gloversville will share a priest and an associate priest until further notice.
The Rev. Donald Czelusniak, currently pastor of the Church of the Holy Spirit in Gloversville, will begin splitting his time between that church and Holy Trinity Parish in Johnstown, according to the Holy Trinity bulletin.
Czelusniak will serve indefinitely in the post. Assisting him will be an associate pastor.
Together, they will conduct six Masses — three each in Johnstown and in Gloversville — on Saturday and Sunday. At some point, the diocese will rotate out the current associate pastor and bring in another on a temporary basis, said Peter O’Lucci, a member of the Holy Trinity Pastoral Council.
When the temporary associate pastor leaves, which may be a period of six months to two years, the two parishes will have to determine how to handle the six Masses, O’Lucci said.
Also, Czelusniak, now 70, is nearing the mandatory retirement age for priests: 75.
Czelusniak replaces the Rev. Thomas Morrette at Holy Trinity. Morrette was transferred in December to oversee two parishes in Saratoga County. Visiting priests celebrated Mass at Holy Trinity until Czelusniak’s appointment became official, O’Lucci said. Czelusniak will meet with the Holy Trinity Pastoral Council on Tuesday, according to the church bulletin.
O’Lucci said some parishioners are unhappy with the changes but will continue to attend Mass “because it is your faith and you were brought up in that.”
With Morrette’s departure, only two full priests are serving Catholics in Fulton County. The other priest conducts Masses at Northville and Broadalbin churches.
“What is happening here is the same thing that is going on elsewhere in the diocese,” O’Lucci said. “There is a shortage of priests and the diocese has been working on what would happen if there is one priest or two priests in Fulton County.”
When Bishop Howard Hubbard reassigned Morrette, the diocese moved up the plan, said Garth Hillier, a member of the Holy Trinity Parish. “When the bishop calls and asks you to take an assignment, you go,” he said.
Both parishes have witnessed major changes in recent years. Holy Trinity was formed about four years ago from the consolidation of Immaculate Conception, St. Anthony’s Church and St. Patrick’s Church in Johnstown. The diocese ordered the consolidation under its Called to BE Church process, an effort to address changing demographics, a decline in the number of priests and declining church revenues.
St. Patrick’s, now renamed Holy Trinity Church, is the primary Catholic church in Johnstown.
The diocese is seeking to sell the properties of the other two churches. The consolidated parish has approximately 800 registered families.
Prior to its closure, Immaculate Conception Church was the spiritual home of Johnstown’s Italian Catholics, while St. Anthony’s served the city’s Slovak Catholics and St. Patrick’s the city’s Irish Catholics.
The Church of the Holy Spirit was created from the consolidation of four parishes in Gloversville: St. Francis de Sales, which closed in 1976; St. Mary’s, which closed in 1990; and Sacred Heart and St. Mary of Mount Carmel, which merged in 2009.