Diocese of Grand Rapids

A Kent County commissioner is resigning. Michael Wawee Jr is facing a felony embezzlement charge for between $1,000 and $20,000, a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Wawee announced his resignation Thursday. The Republican from the Grand Rapids suburb of Walker was arrested earlier this month.

He's accused of overcharging families for the engraving of grave markers while working as a salesman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids. Police say the diocese was not aware of the overcharging.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids has released plans to merge and close some of its churches. The diocese includes 99 churches in 11 West Michigan counties.

“Every Parish is in one way or the other affected," said Bishop Walter Hurley. He approved the restructuring plan that's been three years in the making. It’s supposed to help the diocese face future challenges, like changing populations, a growing Hispanic community, and fewer clergy.

“Right now we’re not at a crisis point but what we do need to know as we look to the future, now what happens if we don’t have a pastor assigned to this Parrish or this Parrish," Hurley said. 

Hurley says a few churches in more rural areas up north have already closed. Another handful will close as priests retire. Others will merge together. Hurley says the plan is a living document and subject to change. The Diocese of Grand Rapids isn’t the only one grappling with fewer priests.

There's no set timeline for when many changes will take place, but they're expected over several years.

You can find the full approved "Our Faith, Our Future" plan here.