Letter from Fr. Baker, Pastor, Church of St. Monica on the Closing of St. Stephen of Hungary Church

Dear Families and Friends of St. Stephen of Hungary,

Over the past several weeks the Catholic Church has been in the news a lot. Most of the news has been bad. We have been hearing about church closings, parish mergers and the shortage of priests. Itís a tough time for many.

St. Stephen has been part of that news, as it has been merged, along with St. Elizabeth, into the Church of St. Monica, effective August 1st. The Hungarian community will move by the end of the month, to St. Josephís. After handicapped accessibility is guaranteed at St. Monicaís, all masses at St. Stephen will cease; for many, more bad news.

As of August 1st, you get not only a new parish, but a new pastor, me. Some of you have undoubtedly read the article about my becoming the pastor of our newly merged parish which appeared in the Wall Street Journal. Many people were thankful to hear something about me before I arrived. Others undoubtedly thought, ugh, more change.

Change is hard, but not always bad. One thing the article did not report is how much I value Catholic schools and how excited I am to be the pastor of one. The first eight years of my priesthood were spent in parishes with schools. I saw how fundamental the relationship of parish and school is and how, when we do it right, Catholic education encourages students to pray and think, ask difficult questions and wrestle with answers, to marvel at scientific discovery and stand in awe of lifeís mysteries. It guides our children to become the people God created them to be. This is an awesome responsibility.

I invite you to begin thinking of St. Monicaís as your new home, and me as your new pastor. Introduce yourselves to me at mass. Tell me of your relationship with St. Stephen and how much it meant to you. Tell me what you liked about it, and what you miss. Together, we can make this work.

But remember: St. Stephen has not died. A central dimension of its existence, its community, is healthier than ever. It needs our prayer and our support. The coming together of our three parishes means we are more able than ever to celebrate with, pray for and serve the people of our community together as school and parish.

I donít know about you, but this sounds like good news to me.

Father Donald C. Baker, Pastor

Sunday Mass at St. Stephen of Hungary Church
St. Stephen of Hungary Parish will continue to celebrate an 11:30 a.m. Mass on Sunday until the Church of St. Monica—413 East 79th Street—is able to install facilities for the handicapped.

Hungarian Masses at St. Stephen's to Continue through August 23
We will continue to offer a Hungarian Mass at St. Stephen of Hungary Church through August 23 for the Feast of St. Stephen.

St. Stephen of Hungary School Will Remain Open
St. Stephen of Hungary School will remain open and is in the process of expanding. To learn more about the school go to http://www.saintstephenschool.org/.

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