Baltimore diocese thinks outside square – reimagines parishes

Baltimore Parish

Over 150 Catholic parish leaders convened at St Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore, confronting the harsh reality of dwindling worshippers in the city and the urgent need to reimagine the diocese’s approach.

The Archdiocese of Baltimore presented a bold initiative named “Seek the City to Come.”

It aims to reimagine parish structures amidst declining attendance, diminished revenue and ageing infrastructure.

Bishop Bruce A Lewandowski, co-leader of the project, emphasised the necessity for innovative solutions, warning against clinging to outdated methods.

“We are looking to read the signs of the times” Lewandowski said.

“We’re opening ourselves to the gifts and powers of the Holy Spirit, and asking the spirit to guide and lead us forward to a church that will be renewed, refreshed and revived and growing.”

The proposed models include a mosaic approach, where parishes host multiple ministries. The concept is of a radiating parish with fewer core parishes acting as hubs for satellite sites, and a “Catholic commons” model akin to street-level operations seen in urban evangelical communities.

The initiative’s final recommendations are anticipated by mid-April, with completion expected in May.

Starting points for discussion

Geri Royale Byrd, director of community affairs for the archdiocese, stressed that these models are starting points for discussion. He is urging parishioners’ involvement in shaping the future of their churches.

“These specific parish types are there really just to spark our imagination, our creativity” said Byrd. “They help us to see what’s possible and what we can do, how we can reimagine.”

Parish leaders engaged in discussions and contemplated how these models could advance Gospel and humanitarian missions. They would need to address concerns about preserving tradition, serving diverse demographics and managing costly infrastructure.

Deacon Patrick Woods from St Pius X church in Towson envisioned the radiating model would revitalise outreach along corridors with empty storefronts. He sees that model as offering smaller, more inviting spaces for potential believers.

The meeting, though hopeful, revealed the complexities ahead.

Questions linger about the fate of historic buildings, financial implications and the balance between tradition and innovation.

Despite uncertainties, Archbishop William E Lori affirmed the collaborative nature of the process and acknowledged the difficult decisions ahead.


The Baltimore Sun

CathNews New Zealand


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