Parishioners and families with students at eight Archdiocese of Chicago parishes in Bridgeport, Canaryville and Chinatown will learn this week which of their parishes and schools will be closed or consolidated.
After months of meetings with the South Side parishes — home to six elementaries — the Presbyteral Council that advises Cardinal Blase Cupich met Monday to decide on its recommendation.
Cupich is set to announce his decision Wednesday at a meeting at St. Barbara’s Church, 2859 S. Throop St.
“Over the past several months, the Archdiocese of Chicago has been working closely with the parishes and schools in the Bridgeport-area to discern the best church, parish and school structures to serve the community and revitalize its ministries,” Anne Maselli, an Archdiocese spokeswoman, said Monday.
“While difficult decisions will be made, we believe these changes are necessary to achieve the goal of having a vibrant, life-giving faith community accessible to all Catholics in the Bridgeport-area.”
The closings/consolidations are part of Cupich’s “Renew My Church” initiative, with one spotlight on the vitality of Chicago-area parishes and schools. The initiative has sought to cut costs for aging infrastructure and address a priest shortage by consolidating struggling churches and schools in its 97 parish groupings.
The parishes involved include: All-Saints St. Anthony; St. Barbara; St. Gabriel; St. Jerome Croatian; Santa Lucia-Santa Maria Incoronata; St. Mary of Perpetual Help; Nativity of Our Lord and St. Therese Chinese Catholic.
Nativity of Our Lord is the longtime church home of the Daley family that has birthed two mayors, with a second brother now seeking the office.
St. Barbara, St. Gabriel, St. Jerome, Santa Lucia-Santa Maria and St. Therese have elementary schools serving preschoolers thru eighth-graders. A sixth school in the mix, Bridgeport Catholic Academy, serves several parishes.
Proposed by the Archdiocese are several scenarios involving merging parishes and schools (which would occur in the 2019-2020 school year), with closures that would result. That has many families feeling hurt or angry.
“The Archdiocese is making all these downsizing changes, saying there’s no money. Yet a report last week said they just paid $1.65 million for a Lincoln Park house for priests at St. Clement,” said Al DiFranco, a St. Therese parishioner.
“At the community meetings, they told us we couldn’t record or take photos of their PowerPoint of all these different scenarios, and tried to convince us we had something to say about this. Most folks think the Archdiocese has already made up its mind.”
The scenarios include:
- All Saints-St. Anthony, St. Barbara and St. Therese churches merging into one parish. Under different scenarios, one or two of the three churches would close.
- St. Jerome and Santa Lucia-Santa Maria merging into one parish. Under different scenarios, both churches would either remain open as one parish or one would close.
- Nativity of Our Lord and St. Gabriel merging into one parish. Under different scenarios, both churches would either remain open as one parish or St. Gabriel would close.
- St. Barbara’s school would close, become a second campus of St. Therese; Santa Lucia-Santa Maria school would close; and St. Gabriel school would close.
While many parishes struggle with challenges from the changing demographics of Catholic mass and school attendance, closings and consolidations remain very emotional, said the Rev. Francis Li, pastor of St. Therese.
“I really feel bad about the potential closings, because people love their churches and schools very much, and change is always hard,” said Li.