Chicago Archdiocese downsizing gets underway

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The long-promised scaled-down Archdiocese of Chicago is starting to take shape.

In response to a historical shortage of priests, shrinking congregations and aging buildings, the archdiocese recently announced plans to combine three parishes in the West Humboldt Park neighborhood into one, effective July 1, 2018.

Church officials say it’s the first phase of a five-year review of the 344 parishes in the archdiocese, which also includes a communitywide evangelism effort.

Though all three West Humboldt Park churches are expected to remain open after the re-organization, some employees are likely to lose their jobs, said Rev. Jason Malave, who is Cardinal Blase Cupich’s liaison in charge of the reorganization, officially called “Renew My Church.”

“It’s pretty intuitive there would be job losses because we are going to reduce the need for some support staff,” Malave said, adding that final staffing decisions have yet to be made.

But Malave also said the reorganizing means that a number of part-time jobs will become full-time positions.

The parishes being combined are St. Philomena, Maternity B.V.M and St. Francis of Assisi. No schools are expected to close in the three parishes because, between them, they have only one school — located in Maternity B.V.M Parish.

Malave said parents whose children choose to attend the school from St. Philomena and St. Francis of Assisi could potentially qualify for a parishioner tuition discount of about 20 percent.

Malave said the archdiocese has gone to great lengths to solicit parishioner input before making the final decision to reorganize.

“When the people found out about the decision, they weren’t surprised at all because they were very much part of crafting that decision,” Malave said.

Carmen Kurban, who chairs the parish council for St. Philomena, said she’s happy that the three parishes will remain open, but less happy about the process for choosing the priest to oversee the reorganized parish. Kurban said her church’s pastor is a logical choice, but that the archdiocese has instead decided to let anyone apply.

“Thecardinal should have appointed him, knowing his background, knowing that he’s bilingual, the fact that he knows the community, the fact that he has the experience of running a school,” Kurban said.

Malave said St. Philomena’s pastor, the Rev. Jesus Puentes, “absolutely has the opportunity to apply.”

“When there is a new reality, like we’ve created, we follow the process of open listing the need for a new pastor and then discerning who would be the new pastor,” Malave said, noting the opening has yet to be posted.

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