|BISHOP LENNON EMPHASIZES PEOPLE, FAITH IN ‘DIFFICULT BUT NECESSARY STEP FORWARD’|
Bishop releases list of parishes to be closed or merged.
CLEVELAND – March 15, 2009 – Emphasizing the fundamental tenets of the Catholic Church, Most Rev. Richard G. Lennon, Bishop of the Diocese of Cleveland, today provided details of a comprehensive reconfiguration plan that will allow for better use of the Church’s resources and achieve vibrancy for each parish in the eight-county Diocese.
“The Church is about people and their faith, not about buildings, and we will always be here to serve the people,” said Bishop Lennon. “The task for the Church is to be faithful to what God asks of us, which is to bring the message of Jesus Christ to all people, to reach out and serve the poor and marginalized among us, and to become holy and bring people closer to God.”
The Bishop added, “It is only with thorough analysis, prayerful contemplation and the utmost empathy that we take this very difficult but necessary step forward in carrying out the mission of our Church. I sincerely hope that everyone who is going to Mass now will still be going once this reconfiguration process has been completed – and that our evangelization and outreach will bring even more people to worship.”
Proactive strategy to address challenges
The reconfiguration plan reflects a proactive strategy to address three major challenges the Diocese and its parishes face as they work to create a more vibrant Church:
Ø Population shifts in the region. With movement away from urban areas, approximately two-thirds of Catholics are currently served by one-third of its parishes. For example, the Catholic population in the city of
Ø Financial hardship for many parishes. Forty-two percent of parishes are currently operating in the red, with operating expenses greater than revenues, compared with 30 percent a year earlier.
Ø Fewer priests available for ministry throughout the
Plan seeks ‘vibrancy that allows us to carry out what God has asked’
Following a nearly two-year clustering and collaboration process, Bishop Lennon disseminated personalized letters to each parish disclosing the results of the process and including specific reasons for his decisions. He asked priests to share the information with parishioners at this weekend’s Masses.
For the large majority of parishes, directives included sharing ministries and resources with neighboring parishes, and increasing evangelization to share the Catholic faith with others. However, the plan will result in 52 fewer parishes by June 30, 2010. Twenty-nine of the Diocese’s 224 parishes will close, while 41 parishes have been instructed to merge with one or more neighboring parishes, resulting in the creation of 18 new, combined parishes – for a total net reduction of 52 parishes.
“Closing a parish is very emotional, and I am sympathetic to the tremendous passion that many Catholics have for parishes that in many cases have been part of their families’ lives for several generations,” Bishop Lennon said. “I have personally experienced the closing of my own childhood parish in
The Bishop added, “The clustering and collaboration process reflects hard work and discernment by parish leaders and parishioners from every one of our parishes, but in the end it was my responsibility as Bishop to apply my best judgment. I pray that my decisions will serve the needs of this Diocese and its people and create the vibrancy that allows us to carry out what God has asked.”
Bishop Lennon acknowledged that the parish closings are concentrated in the urban centers of
“Even with this reconfiguration, the Church will continue to have a vital presence and ministry in our central cities,” said Bishop Lennon. “We will continue to serve the spiritual, sacramental, cultural, educational and social needs of our communities through our parishes and through Catholic Charities, the largest diocesan system of social services in the world.”
To ensure the proper care of sacred objects and other property, the Diocese will provide guidelines for parishes that are closing or merging. The Diocese will determine the appropriate reuse or eventual sale of church buildings that are closed. In the case of a merger, the newly combined parish will be responsible for those decisions.
Process included clergy, laypersons from every parish
In May 2007, Bishop Lennon directed 69 clusters of parishes to carefully consider the sharing of resources to create a stronger, more vibrant presence in the eight counties of the Diocese. Included in directives to approximately one-third of the clusters were requirements that they propose how to reduce the number of parishes within the cluster.
For more than a year, cluster teams that included clergy and laypersons from each parish within the cluster analyzed parish finances, attendance, education, sacramental and social ministries, trends and projected needs. The teams also sought input from parishioners and provided periodic updates.
Between September and December 2008, the clusters submitted their respective proposals to the Bishop, who presented the proposals to the Vibrant Parish Life – Phase II Committee for review and evaluation. The committee includes parish representatives from each of the 13 diocesan districts as well as representatives of the major consultative groups and different areas of the diocesan administration.
Following the Vibrant Parish Life – Phase II Committee review, Bishop Lennon and his cabinet staff studied all of the proposed cluster plans and the Committee reviews of those plans. The Bishop also consulted with the Presbyteral (Priests) Council in accordance with Canon Law regarding consolidation plans. Only after this extensive review process did he announce the final approved cluster plans, which in some cases reflected modifications to the proposals that were submitted.
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NOTE: Click HERE for list of parishes scheduled to close.
The Catholic Diocese of Cleveland is the 17th largest Diocese in the
Media contact: Robert Tayek, Director of Media and Public Relations,
Catholic Diocese of