Three Catholic parishes proceed with merger

Father John Demo, pastor of The Blessed Sacrament Parish, stands near the entrance at Holy Family Church in Watertown in May 2020. Watertown Daily Times

WATERTOWN — The Pastoral Council for three Catholic parishes has announced that it has chosen “The Blessed Sacrament Parish” as the name for the recently linked parishes.

Each existing parish — Holy Family, St. Patrick’s and St. Anthony’s churches — will retain their names and identities and will be worship sites in the Blessed Sacrament Parish, Rev. John M. Demo, pastor of the linked parishes, said in a statement.

Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, the fourth Watertown parish, is not a part of the merger. Although it is a Diocese of Ogdensburg parish, it is staffed by the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, not diocesan priests.

“The Blessed Sacrament is the body and blood of Jesus Christ and is His real presence in the form of bread and wine,” Father Demo said in his statement. “The name celebrates that important belief among Catholics and proclaims our faith and trust in our savior, Jesus Christ.”

Father Demo had been pastor at Holy Family in Watertown since June 1, 2019. On July 8, 2020, Bishop Terry R. LaValley announced that Father Demo would become pastor of St. Anthony’s and St. Patrick’s in addition to Holy Family. Father Demo was formally installed by Bishop LaValley as pastor on Aug. 30, 2020, during a Mass at St. Patrick’s.

The merger of the three parishes was first announced in 2016 when Bishop LaValley accepted a proposal from a local study group for a pastoral plan for the parishes. It was part of the diocesan Living Stones initiative. The Living Stones Planning Committee presented a plan of parish configuration to Bishop LaValley in August of 2016. That plan included suggestions for the linking or merging of certain parishes in the diocese. The proposal to merge the three parishes in Watertown was part of that plan.

Similar mergers and the adoption of a single name have already occurred in Plattsburgh, Malone and Massena.

“We will begin calling ourselves Blessed Sacrament Parish in the near future,” Father Demo said. “Actual merger is still a long way off, but we have already started acting like a single parish.”

The pastor said the Pastoral Council includes elected representatives from all three churches, and the churches have shared a business office for several years. He said the parishes previously combined their Catholic Youth Formation, Christian Initiation process, weekly bulletin and many liturgical services. Some of the parish’s ministries recently moved into the former St. Patrick’s school on Massey Street, the pastor said.

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