Archdiocese of St. Louis is listening to parishioners on possible changes
Catholics in the St. Louis Archdiocese will have an opportunity to weigh in on the future of their parishes and schools over the next two months.
The archdiocese opened registration over the weekend for a series of listening sessions that will begin in October. It's also releasing data on all 178 parishes.
According to its data, churches were only at 25% of capacity during 2021, and the archdiocese is running low on priests. The church also indicated that the Catholic population in its 10-county area has fallen below a half-million for the first time in nearly 50 years.
“I’m looking at the number of priests that will be available in future years and saying, 'How are we best using our resources?'” said Archbishop Mitchell Rozanski.
Rozanski said he has already met with the 220 priests in the archdiocese.
“One takeaway from that meeting is a deeper appreciation for the complexity of this undertaking. There are so many variables to consider,” the Rev. Greg Klump, pastor of Our Lady Catholic Church in Festus, wrote to his congregation following the August meeting.
The next step is to hear from parishioners.
“The comment period will last until the end of the year, so even if someone can’t make it to one of our listening sessions, they can submit comments anytime in the coming months,” Rozanski said.
Rozanski would not give a minimum number of parishes that would be affected by the changes, but the expectation is the average size of a parish would more than double from the current 800 families.
“I will be able to get together with our team to take in all of the insights that are given, and say, ‘OK, what is truly needed to evangelize in our archdiocese of St. Louis?’” Rozanski said. “We will have a plan to announce by Pentecost (May 28 in 2023) and then have a plan that will take one to three years to implement.”
That timeline is designed, in part, to give families with children in Catholic schools time to prepare and make changes if their school is affected. Enrollment in archdiocese schools has dropped by half in the past 20 years, down to 20,000 students in recent years.
“We understand that families will need time to make adjustments, and we don’t want to rush their process,” Rozanski said.
Editor's note: an earlier version of this story misstated the start of the listening sessions, which begin in October. The story has been updated.
Follow Kate on Twitter: @KGrumke
Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @JonathanAhl