Chicago Catholics prepared for parish closings

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Catholics reacted with a mix of resignation and optimism Sunday to news that the Archdiocese of Chicago might close some parishes in the coming years.

Archbishop Blase Cupich outlined a “multi-year planning process” for the church in a column in this week’s issue of the archdiocesan newsletter, Catholic New World.

“By the time this consultative process is complete, we will mourn together the loss of some parishes,” Cupich wrote.

He cited shifting demographics, crumbling buildings and fewer priests. As a result, he said resources are spread too thinly.

“Pray for more priests,” Margot Dastych of Lockport said as she stood outside Holy Name Cathedral between services Sunday.

Dastych said there are “great” young priests coming up through the seminaries. The archdiocese has 351 parishes, but it expects to have about 240 priests by 2030, according to Chief Operating Officer Betsy Bohlen.

“We’re getting good, young priests that are fantastic,” Dastych said. “We just need more of them.”

Bohlen couldn’t say how many churches might close, because some parishes could merge.

Blair Stevenson, a Catholic from Chicago’s South Side, said he suspects the church has had trouble recruiting priests because of scandals involving the sexual abuse of children. He said the church might still save some parishes if its leaders “get on their act.”

“I hate to see that they have to close them down,” Stevenson said.

Meanwhile, Doris Alvarado of Streeterville praised Cupich outside Holy Name on Sunday.

“He’s been a great influence in this archdiocese already, and I trust his decision that it’s in the best interest of all,” Alvarado said.

Cupich struck an optimistic tone in his column, calling for all members of the archdiocese to “dream big” as it begins a process that will take a “steady faith — a faith that is imaginative, that strengthens us in the knowledge that Christ is leading us.”

“We should not be afraid to face these realities, but rather see this moment as a graced opportunity to chart new ways to live out our mission more fully,” Cupich wrote.

Alvarado followed Cupich’s lead when asked about the news Sunday.

“Obviously, I’m always disappointed when there’s a shrinking of Catholics in the world,” Alvarado said. “But as the archbishop has identified, that it’s an opportunity to reinvent, to recreate. So, one closes and another one opens.”

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