The Archdiocese of Cincinnati plans to combine some of its 200 parishes to reduce the number of parishes into what they plan to call "parish families."
According to the archdiocese, Sunday Mass attendance has dropped and services are only regularly one-third filled. Cincinnati is losing registered Catholics at a rate of 2.72 people daily, the archdiocese said.
"We cannot escape the conclusion that in many cases our church buildings are grossly underutilized, our priests and parish staff members are stretched to the limit, and our parishes are simply not the vibrant, evangelizing communities Catholics want and need them to be," wrote Archbishop Dennis Schnurr in a letter.
The new plan will begin rolling out in summer 2022.
Schnurr explained the new parish structure in a nearly 20-minute video interview on the archdiocese's website, but details about which parishes will be merged has not yet been made public. In the video, Schnurr said "parish families" could be comprised of up to six to seven different parishes.
The archdiocese is currently equipped with fewer priests and estimated the number of available priests will continue to decrease, with a drop of 20% expected in 15 years. Schnurr said, currently, the welfare of priests is at stake.
“These priests have been asked to do more and more,” he said in the video. “If this continues, it is already impacting the health and well-being of our priests, emotionally, psychologically, spiritually, physically.”
When asked if currently existing parishes will close, Schnurr said the archdiocese is not focused on closing any. He added that, over time, family parishes may decide they don't need as many campuses as they currently have and there could be a decision to reduce a parish church to the status of an oratory or chapel instead.
That decision will be up to the parishes themselves, not the archdiocese, he said.