CINCINNATI — Nearly two weeks after the Archdiocese of Cincinnati announced its "Beacons of Light" initiative to consolidate churches throughout the region, leaders say they are still receiving thousands of comments from parishioners.
While the plan calls for 208 parishes to be combined into 60 parish families, churchgoers will not see any immediate changes — and some parishes, like St. Monica St. George, might be a step ahead in the process. Jessica Mills, the church's director of music and worship, said they consolidated into a family of parishes with Annunciation and Holy Name in the last year.
"This has been challenging for some people," Mills said. "Parishes are really like someone's family, so when you're asking them to combine with another place, there's a lot of fear with what's going to happen with your parish."
The archdiocese's plan means the new parish families will share resources in the coming years before eventually merging into single parishes. At the time of the announcement, archdiocese spokeswoman Jennifer Schack said parish groupings were based on 30 different data points, including “ministry load” for priests, proximity of parishes, financial data, mass attendance and the capacity of church facilities.
Schack said maps of the plan have been downloaded more than 24,000 times since it was announced. So far, officials have received more than 3,500 public comments.
"[The] majority of them are tangible...I'm in this deanery, and I have this concern about the arrangement," Schack said. "There are a couple of parishes or couple of locations where a pairing have been split apart, where two parishes have been been working together in a certain way."
Schack said every comment is being read and considered, and the archdiocese hopes to have the parish families finalized by the end of November. Those families will then decide the future of their facilities, mass schedules and more — which comforted Mills.
"It's very positive that the archdiocese is not saying, 'Here are the places and they're going to close.' They're saying, 'We're going to put you all in the family and we're going to trust you to make the decisions that are the best decisions for your family of parish.'"
Parishioners have until Oct. 20 to submit public comment on the plan. Then, parishes will start combining in July 2022.