Detroit Archbishop: 53 parishes to reorganize or close Two parishes will close as early as this year and 51 others will merge, reorganize

By David N. Goodman

Associated Press

DETROIT (AP) -- Fifty-three Roman Catholic parishes in southeastern Michigan will undergo mergers, reorganizations or closure over the next five years in the face of population shifts, changes in the worship habits of Catholics and a shortage of priests, Archbishop Allen Vigneron said Monday.

Vigneron described the wide-ranging restructuring of the Archdiocese of Detroit at an afternoon news conference releasing results of the latest phase of an intense, monthslong study called "Together in Faith." It involved 1,500 lay people as well as clergy.

"The life of the church here in the Archdiocese of Detroit cannot simply continue without significant changes," Vigneron said in an open letter to Detroit-area Catholics. "Faith and prudence demand that we act now to ensure that we will be able to do God's work effectively in the years to come."

The archdiocese now has 267 parishes. Vigneron said two parishes will close as early as this year, while 51 others will merge, reorganize or go through financial reviews to determine their future. The other 214 parishes are to develop a plan for potential collaboration or merger with other parishes.

"This does not indicate that the parish will cluster or merge in the near term," the archdiocese said in a statement explaining the plan.

The plan released Monday follows the announcement Dec. 1 of a proposal to close nine parishes and merge 60 others into 21. Vigneron has been reviewing the plan. Some parishes affected by that plan were spared immediate action under Monday's revision.

"The church, here in southeast Michigan and throughout the Western world, is facing an unprecedented set of challenges," Vigneron said. They include "the abandonment of Sunday Mass and confession to a great many Catholics, a sharp decline in the number of our priests ... the secularization of our culture and dramatic economic and demographic changes," he said.

At the news conference, Vigneron decried what he described as a low level of religious observance among area Catholics.

"Half of the people in my diocese who claim to be Catholic register in their parishes," he said. "And of those half, only 30 percent come to Mass every Sunday. So that's 15 percent of the people who are members of the Catholic Church are attending church according to what we understand to be a baseline of participation. That's having an impact on our lives."

Slated for closure as parishes and elimination as Catholic worship sites are St. Donald Parish in Roseville and Our Lady Queen of Peace in Harper Woods, both in Detroit's northeastern suburbs.

Six parishes are under orders to submit and win approval of debt repayment plans by June 30, Vigneron said. Otherwise, he said they may have to close or merge with a neighboring parish. They are Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Detroit, Saints Simon and Jude in Westland, St. Alexander in Farmington Hills, St. Clare of Assisi in Farmington Hills, St. Florian in Hamtramck, and St. Mel in Dearborn Heights.

A number of parishes have more than one church building now, and in cases where parishes merge, their buildings may continue in use for worship, the archdiocese said.

By the end of 2013, 23 parishes will merge into 11 parishes, but some or all of the church buildings could remain open, the archdiocese said.

Published: Wed, Feb 22, 2012

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