The shortage of Roman Catholic priests has prompted the Albany Diocese to assign one priest to lead the two parishes in Gloversville and Johnstown until further notice.
Since January, the Rev. Donald Czelusniak, longtime pastor of Gloversville's Church of the Holy Spirit, has also served as pastor of the Holy Trinity Parish in Johnstown, according to Deacon Frank Berning of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany.
Czelusniak will serve indefinitely in the dual post and will be assisted by an associate pastor.
Berning said the diocese has 127 parishes in 14 counties, and the number of priests it has available is decreasing.
"We are looking at locations where we have an exceptional leader who may be able to lead two parishes, and we will assist them with a retired priest and associate priest so that the Mass schedule can still be maintained," Berning said. "They are being called for their leadership skills and the diocese will assist them to help out with the sacramental needs of the parish."
He said the change may put the diocese and parishes in a position to strengthen the community, "because it will have a broader leadership base and will be able to reach out better and fulfill the needs and mission of Christ in a more complete way."
The Rev. Rendell Torres, who was ordained in 2010, served as the parochial vicar (associate pastor) under Czelusniak at the Church of the Holy Spirit in Gloversville, but Bishop Howard Hubbard appointed him as the new pastor of Our Lady of Hope Parish in Whitehall and St. Ann's Parish in Fort Ann this month, according to the Holy Spirit bulletin.
The bulletin also said he will lead the summer vigil Masses at the Chapel of Assumption on Hulett's Landing near Lake George and will minister to the inmates at nearby prisons.
"He very much looks forward to serving the faith communities of Our Lady of Hope and St. Ann," according to a bulletin from Our Lady of Hope.
Czelusniak and an associate pastor yet to be named will conduct six Masses weekly - three in Johnstown and three in Gloversville, on Saturday and Sunday, Berning said.
Czelusniak replaces the Rev. Thomas Morette at Holy Trinity because Morette was transferred in December to oversee two parishes in Saratoga County. Different visiting priests celebrated Mass at Holy Trinity until Czelusniak's appointment to the church became official, Berning said.
With Morette no longer in the county, only two priests presently are serving Catholics in Fulton County. Besides Czelusniak, the other priest is the Rev. Neil Draves-Arpaia, pastor of the Northville and Broadalbin churches.
Berning said he hasn't heard anything negative about the changes but actually has heard positive things because they now have the right amount of churches and the best way to handle the coverage.
Both of the churches in Johnstown and Gloversville have witnessed major changes over the last few years. In 2009, Holy Trinity Church in Johnstown was formed from the consolidation of Immaculate Conception, St. Anthony's Church and St. Patrick's Church. That move came in response to changing demographics, declining church revenues and a decline in the number of priests available, Berning said.
The former St. Patrick's Church has now been renamed Holy Trinity Church and serves as the primary Catholic Church in Johnstown.
The Church of the Holy Spirit was created from the consolidation of four parishes in Gloversville, including St. Francis de Sales, St. Mary's Church, Sacred Heart and St. Mary of Mount Carmel.
Levi Pascher covers Gloversville news. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.