By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer
Two parishes less than two miles apart in the Hikes Point and Bon Air neighborhoods will merge into one parish later this year.
St. Barnabas Church, 3042 Hikes Lane, and St. Pius X Church, 3521 Goldsmith Lane, will merge and officially become St. John Paul II Church effective Nov. 29, according to a decree from the Archdiocese of Louisville.
In the mean time, the two parishes will be clustered under the leadership of pastor Father William P. Burks.
“A lot of our folks are asking ‘Why?’ The reality, as it happens with every single part of every city, is that demographics of places shift over time,” said Father Burks, who has been pastor of St. Pius since 2007.
Father Burks, who will be pastor of the new St. John Paul II parish, noted that the area has a large aging population. And, while there are a fair amount of young people moving in, he said, they are less connected to institutional religious communities than their counterparts a generation ago.
“I think this is a perfect opportunity to pool our resources together and not duplicate youth ministry, adult formation and other ministries,” he said, noting that both parishes are fiscally sound.
He also pointed out that the two parishes, along with St. Bartholomew Church, already share a regional school — John Paul II Academy, which will begin its 10th year in August.
The school, which has an enrollment of 212 students in pre-kindergarten to eighth-grade, will remain at its present location on the St. Pius campus, while the official worship site of the new parish will be located on the St. Barnabas campus.
St. Barnabas was established in 1953 to serve Catholics migrating east from downtown. And St. Pius formed three years later in 1956 to serve the burgeoning Catholic population in the Hikes Point/Buechel area. Both parishes today have between 600 and 800 registered households each, Father Burks said.
Discussions for a merger began in 2005 when the Archdiocese of Louisville asked parishes in all regions to strategically examine if they were meeting the pastoral needs of the area, said Dr. Brian B. Reynolds, chancellor and chief administrative officer of the archdiocese.
Numerous mergers and new parishes came out of these discussions, including St. Peter the Apostle, Blessed Theresa of Calcutta, Good Shepherd, Mary Queen of Peace and St. Bernadette churches.
At the time, leaders of St. Barnabas and St. Pius decided not to move forward with a merger, said Father Burks.
“As time went on, there was even more collaboration between our two parishes. We decided to revisit the issue. Initial discussions began well over a year ago,” Father Burks said.
Reynolds noted that throughout the archdiocese’s 200 years, there has always been a history of parishes opening, closing and merging in response to challenges of the day.
“Sometimes it’s because a community grows or it shrinks. Sometimes it’s because of outside factors (such as) when parishes were lost because of the building of I-65 or the expansion of the airport,” Reynolds explained.
A core committee met regularly over the last year to first decide if a merger was warranted and second to develop a plan that would suit the needs of both parishes. The committee included five parishioners from St. Barnabas, five parishioners from St. Pius, Father Burks, Father Paul Scaglione (who was pastor of St. Barnabas until June 17) and Richard “Tink” Guthrie, an archdiocesan representative.
Anne Bainbridge, a parishioner of St. Barnabas and a member of the merger committee, said the merger is the best decision for the future of both parishes
“We will be able to continue to support both the regional school — John Paul II Academy — and our outreach component — the Francis Center.
“The Hikes Point campus has plenty of room to accommodate our current programs with the exception of the school-connected ministries, which comfortably exist on the Goldsmith Lane campus. We would not be able to accommodate all of our ministries on one campus,” Bainbridge said.
The Francis Center, which began last fall, is an outreach ministry located at St. Barnabas. It provides a variety of services to residents of the Hikes Point/Buechel area including marriage counseling, grief counseling, periodic health screenings and social activities. The center also has a community garden for parishioners and members of the community.
Ron Hohmann, a parishioner of St. Pius and a member of the merger committee, said he firmly believes a merger — rather than a cluster — was the best decision.
“With a cluster, you really don’t get a true sense of a priest on campus. I’ve never been part of a cluster but I can’t imagine it would last long-term,” Hohmann, a lifelong member of St. Pius, said.
Father Burks said that while a merger can cause grief and great sadness for what is being lost, it also presents an opportunity to do something “exciting and new” while at the same time “respecting the legacies of both places.”
“I think the two-campus option gives us tremendous flexibility and vision to do something both familiar and the ability to do things no one campus would be able to do,” he said.
The opportunity to use both campuses will allow the new St. John Paul II parish to “be even more present to a broader group of folks than we are able to do as individual parishes,” he said. “We can show this area that Catholicism is alive and well.”
Beginning this weekend, June 20 and 21, both parishes will have a slightly altered weekend Mass schedule until the merger takes effect the first weekend of Advent. Saturday Masses will be at 4 p.m. at St. Barnabas and 5 p.m. at St. Pius. Sunday Masses will be at 8:30 a.m. at St. Pius and 11 a.m. St. Barnabas.
Establishing St. John Paul II Parish in Louisville, Kentucky, from Merger of St. Barnabas Parish and St. Pius X Parish
Whereas St. Barnabas Parish was established in 1953 as a territorial parish in the City of Louisville and located at 3042 Hikes Lane, and St. Pius X was established in 1956 as a territorial parish in the City of Louisville and located at 3521 Goldsmith Lane;
Whereas these parishes are in close proximity to each other; Whereas these parishes have a long history of collaboration;
Whereas regional demographics indicate a reduction in parish membership and area population;
Whereas the services, ministries, strengths, and weaknesses of each parish are complementary of the other;
Whereas there is strong agreement among the parishioners regarding merger;
For just and canonical reasons, having heard all who have a right to be heard in the matter and having heard the Priest Council in accord with canon 515.2, I, Joseph E. Kurtz, Archbishop of Louisville, hereby decree that the Parishes of St. Barnabas and St. Pius X be merged into a new juridical person and from this extinctive union a new parish will be established and entrusted to the patronage of Saint John Paul II.
To this end, I hereby establish the community of Christ’s faithful, Saint John Paul II Parish, as a new territorial parish within the Archdiocese of Louisville,its territory encompassing all of the area situated within the boundaries of the former parishes. In accord with canon 122, the Parish of Saint John Paul II shall obtain the patrimonial goods and liabilities of the former parishes from which it was created.
The St. Barnabas Church will serve as the parish church with St. Pius X Church remaining open for the use of the faithful at the discretion of the pastor.
The provisions of this decree are to take effect on the 29th day of November,in the Year of Our Lord, 2015.
Given under my hand this 27th day of May in the Year of Our Lord, 2015, at the Chancery of the Archdiocese of Louisville.
The Most Reverend Joseph E. Kurtz, D.D.
Archbishop of Louisville
Dr. Brian B. Reynolds, Ed.D.
Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Louisville