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Declining attendance, priest shortages lead to parish consolidation for Archdiocese of Cincinnati

Church cites declining attendance, clergy numbers
Archbishop Dennis Schnurr of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati discusses plans to combine parishes during a recent interview.
Posted at 12:01 AM, Oct 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-01 20:55:09-04

CINCINNATI — The Archdiocese of Cincinnati announced its plan on Friday to consolidate its 208 current parishes into 60 parish families.

The cuts are in reaction to declining attendance and fewer clergy as well as people leaving the church in the wake of scandals. The Archdiocese said some parishes are only a third full on Sundays and putting pressure on smaller staff numbers.

If the tentative plan is approved, the Archdiocese will begin combining parishes in July 2022. The proposed list will be open to comment by members for three weeks, beginning Friday. One parishioner said this isn't enough time.

"We are only being invited to offer our opinions beginning Oct. 1," said Patty Newberry, who attends Nativity in Pleasant Ridge with her children. "We have three weeks to offer our opinion about the designated pairings. I feel like that's a little too late. I don't feel like that's really adequate time to engage and it's coming very late in the process."

Interview: Archbishop Schnurr on parish cuts

Newberry said combining parishes isn't just about Sundays, but could negatively affect communities as a whole. Current plans have Newberry's parish combining with Our Lady of the Valley, St. Saviour, St. John The Evangelist and Holy Trinity.

"It's not just Mass on Sunday," Newberry said. "It's the fish fry on Fridays during Lent. It's the festival every summer."

Newberry said the sex scandals that have rocked the Catholic church over the years have played a large part in the membership decline, something Jennifer Schack, director of Media Relations for the Archdiocese, acknowledged.

"I would say challenges have been real in recent decades," Schack said. "And they have challenged people to decide to stay in the faith or not."

The Archdiocese said it's doing what it can to combat lower numbers. It told WCPO that weddings are down 23 percent over the last 10 years and it expects 20 percent of its priests to retire during the next five years.

The plan has some parishes remaining separate, while others may combine with multiple parishes. Some of these parishes have existed separately for a century.

"Do you have any history with them?" Newberry said. "You had the same sports team and you had the same fourth-grade math teacher. You went to a dinner club with that person. You know, all the things that happen after many years in the same community. Because that's really what a church is to me – it's community."

Parishioners have until Oct. 20 to comment on the Archdiocese parish family plan.

Beacons of Light Timeline

  • Fall 2020: Beacons of Light announced, begins data gathering on parishes and schools
  • Winter 2020-21: Design for parish planning process began
  • Spring 2021: First draft of Families of Parishes created, review process began.
  • Summer 2021: Draft of parish planning process completed
  • Fall 2021: Draft Families of Parishes published for comment and scheduled to be finalized. Announcement expected in late November
  • Spring 2022: Pastors and parish leaders to begin preparing for parish planning process
  • Summer 2022: Families of Parishes plan to begin plan implementation along with each Family of Parishes.

Tentative 'Family of Parishes' Archdiocese of Cincinnati

Family of parishes
Northwest Deanery
Northeast Deanery
Central Deanery
Southeast Deanery
Southwest Deanery
South Deanery