Archdiocese suspends parish mergers amid appeals to Vatican

The Archdiocese of St Louis, Missouri, has suspended the mergers of several parishes that have appealed their closures to the Vatican.

Mike Stevens of St Roch’s parish spoke to the media, saying the parish is a vital component of what goes on in the community, it’s also very integrated into the community.

Under the restructuring plan known as “All Things New” the archdiocese had aimed to consolidate 178 parishes into 134.

The restructure, set to take effect on August 1, had 35 parishes merging with neighbouring parishes, while 15 parishes were slated to form five new parishes.

Additionally, 158 priests were to be reassigned to various locations as part of the plan.

However, the archdiocese announced on July 31 that Archbishop Mitchell T Rozanski had “suspended the effects” for seven parishes as they had chosen to “pursue hierarchical recourse with the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Clergy.”

The appeals came after Archbishop Rozanski declined to reverse his decrees, affirming his commitment to implementing the restructuring plan.

The archdiocese said in its statement that “out of respect for each parishioner’s right to this recourse and in keeping with Archbishop Rozanski’s desire to maintain access to the sacraments, we will be suspending the effects of the following All Things New decrees” for those seven parishes “until this process has been exhausted.”

No immediate plans to close or sell any churches

Lisa Shea, archdiocesan director of community and media engagement, told OSV News that there are “no immediate plans to close or sell any churches” in the archdiocese.

“They will all remain open in some capacity for worship for the foreseeable future” she said. “We have a couple of parishes in the city that are really well known for their social justice works, such as food pantries, and while their parishes are closing, the churches are staying open to do all those good works.”

The archdiocese said in its statement that it will proceed with the reassignment of priests, and that incoming pastors for the seven parishes challenging the mergers” should not make changes in parish life which would be difficult to reverse, “including the sale of parish property.”

Mergers suspension welcomed

Sean McGroarty, president of the St Roch Parish school board, welcomed the announcement of the suspension of mergers of several parishes.

McGroarty had, along with other parish lay leaders, encouraged concerned parishioners to write to Rozanski to appeal the decision to merge St Roch with Christ the King Parish.

He told OSV News that amid its All Things New initiative “the archdiocese missed an opportunity to strategically address the issues they’re trying to address.”

The problem, he argued, was not solely a lack of priests, but rather the unequal impact of transferring them to areas with more Catholics, adversely affecting smaller parishes and minority communities.

Allowing qualified lay faithful to assume greater co-responsibility for parishes would help address clerical shortages and avert parish closings and mergers, said McGroarty.

“You want priests to care for the universal good of the flock, to administer the sacraments,” he said.

“You don’t necessarily need them to administer finances in parishes and schools. If they (the archdiocese) had been able to separate that, it might have been a more helpful process. There are laypeople who would love to do all those things.”


National Catholic Reporter


CathNews New Zealand



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