The Detroit Archdiocese has officially released streamlining plans reduce the number of parishes, in order to accommodate what its leaders call “demographic changes.”
This second phase of the “Together in Faith” plan is years in the making. Over the next four years, Archdiocese will close, merge, or cluster dozens of its 267 current parishes over the next four years.
· 2 parishes will close.
· 8 parishes will merge into 4 by the end of 2012.
· 30 parishes will merge into 14 by 2016.
· All remaining parishes will need to “submit a plan to cluster, merge or more closely collaborate with another parish…in the event that a pastor is not available or the parish encounters financial deficits.”
Merging means two parishes come together to form a single parish with a single pastor; it doesn’t necessarily mean a church will close, though it could. Clustering parishes means two or more parishes share a single pastor, but maintain separate finances and parish councils.
About 1.3 million people in southeast Michigan self-identify as Catholics.
But of that number, Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron says only about 15% regularly attend Sunday services. He says in order to survive, the church must do what other Detroit institutions have had to do: shrink.
“I often take great heart from thinking that what I’m trying to do, we’re trying to do is not unlike what General Motors, or Ford, or Chrysler is having to do,” Vigernon said. “It’s what the cities are having to do. The schools are having to do.”
A priest shortage is also plaguing the Church. The Detroit Archdiocese expects to lose about 100 priests over the next decade.
Vigneron says these issues aren’t unique to the Catholic Church, and can be attributed to what he calls “a religion problem in the United States.”
Churches aren’t the only ones taking a hit. Some schools will close, including St. Bartholomew’s—the last Catholic school on Detroit’s east side.
Rhonda Walker has a seventh-grader at St. Bart’s. She says closing the school is like breaking up a family. “The teachers at St. Bart’s are loving and caring. They go out of their way to help our kids,” Walker said. “It’s a family-based school and it shouldn’t be closed.” Walker and other St. Bart’s parents are angry because they just learned about the closure through a letter this week.