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With ‘All Things New’ plan looming, St. Louis Catholics keep the faith

Fr. Andrew Auer, an associate pastor at St. Clare of Assisi in Ellisville.
Danny Wicentowski
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The Rev. Andrew Auer, an associate pastor at St. Clare of Assisi in Ellisville, expects the parish to be merged under the All Things New plan.

The Catholic community in the St. Louis region is at a crossroads. A sweeping plan from the archdiocese known as the All Things New initiative is considering how to consolidate parishes and even close schools.

It is no small undertaking. The Archdiocese of St. Louis includes 178 parishes, and though its major institutions are centered in St. Louis, its borders stretch 150 miles north to south, from Ellsbury to Frohna, and to Hermann 80 miles west.

“We're trying to strike a balance,” said Brecht Mulvihill, executive director of communications at the Archdiocese of St. Louis, “between the pastoral care of the faithful and evangelization efforts and social outreach to the wider community.”

But hitting that balance will mean delivering hard news to worshippers who have spent years, even decades, attending their familiar churches and schools. While various models of reorganization are possible, dozens of parishes will be changed forever.

Among them is the parish of St. Clare of Assisi in Ellisville. On Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air, the Rev. Andrew Auer, an associate pastor in the parish, said that the models for reorganization under the All Things New Plan all show the same thing: a future merger of St. Clare with a neighboring parish.

However, he said: “For parishioners, they’re saying, ‘We built our house here 50 years ago, this church, St. Clare, has been a staple of our family, our community. We've worshiped here for such a long time. This is where our friends are. We don't want to move.’”

“There is no easy decision,” he added.

The plan has already seen adjustments in the wake of public reaction: Although some school closures, including for St. Mary’s and Rosati-Kain high schools, were planned for 2023, the archdiocese announced in November that it would instead delay the closings until the following year. In response, supporters of both schools launched efforts to raise funds to stay open. Last week, Rosati-Kain announced that it had agreed to a three-year lease with the Archdiocese of St. Louis through sponsorship from the St. Joseph Educational Ministries.

But parish closures are coming, and those decisions could include the end of long-beloved institutions and churches — and a new chapter for St. Louis’ many Catholics. The plan’s next major announcement, scheduled for Pentecost on May 28, will reveal the final model for parish consolidation. More information on the plan can be found on the archdiocese website for All Things New.

To learn more about the status of the All Things New plan, as well as Auer’s perspective on the impending changes in his parish, and the inspiration he drew from a recent conference of some 17,000 Catholic college students, listen to the full St. Louis on the Air conversation on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Podcast, Stitcher, or by clicking the play button below.

Ellisville pastor Fr. Andrew Auer discusses All Things New

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is produced by Miya Norfleet, Emily Woodbury, Danny Wicentowski, Elaine Cha and Alex Heuer. Avery Rogers is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr. Send questions and comments about this story to talk@stlpr.org

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Danny Wicentowski is a producer for "St. Louis on the Air."

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.