Chicago archdiocese decides to consolidate Bridgeport-area parishes

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Parishioners enter St. Barbara Parish on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2019 in Bridgeport ahead of a meeting to announce the Archdiocese of Chicago’s plan to consolidate four parishes serving the surrounding community. | Matthew Hendrickson/Sun-Times

Young and old alike braved the cold and blowing snow on Saturday night to learn the fate of four Catholic parishes that serve the Bridgeport, Canaryville and Chinatown communities.

The decision was first shared with more than 100 parishioners who attended the meeting at St. Barbara Parish, 2859 S. Throop St., where it was announced that the four parishes will combine to create two new parishes and that one of their churches will close.

St. Barbara will merge with St. Therese Chinese Parish to form a single, new parish, though both churches will remain open as active worship sites, the Archdiocese of Chicago said in a statement.

St. Anthony Parish and St. Mary of Perpetual Help Parish will also be combined to form a new parish, though it will mean the closure of St. Anthony before June 30, 2020, the archdiocese said. St. Mary will serve as the worship site for the new parish.

Cardinal Blase Cupich

Cardinal Blase Cupich | AP file photo

AP file

The consolidation is to go into effect July 1.

“I don’t think the decision will be a surprise for anyone here tonight,” Rev. Jason Malave,the cardinal’s delegate for the Renew My Church initiative, said before the meeting.

For many, that much was true.

“It’s done anything but renew the church,” Anthony Skokal said of the initiative to consolidate the parishes. “People are calling it ‘ruin my church’ not renew.”

Several other parishioners were angry with the decision and with the process, calling it a “farce,” a “charade” and a “joke” but declined to comment further.

Other were more optimistic. Bob Nolter, who attends St. Mary’s, said he was just happy the decision was made and the process was over.

“It’s not going to be easy, but we’ll just have to do our best to welcome them in,” Nolter said of St. Anthony parishioners.

Last November, Cardinal Blase Cupich asked for more time from parishioners as he mulled the decision of how to consolidate the church grouping.

Luz Perez Kwiatkowski said she was looking forward to a more diverse congregation at St. Barbara and said it didn’t matter where she worshiped.

“We’re all Catholic, and Jesus is wherever you want him to be,” she said. “All you have to do is keep coming to Mass. If we do that, we’ll survive.”

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