Dozens of churches across the Archdiocese of Hartford may have to consolidate, or close their doors forever to ensure longevity of the Catholic faith for years to come.
Pope Francis called for a review and renewal of all parishes, and now the Archdiocese is evaluating facilities, programs and staffing to make necessary changes in the near future.
"We can assess where we are today, perhaps look at where we've been, and where we need to be to move forward,” said Father James Shanley, vicar of Pastoral Planning.
Shanley said the Archdiocese is reviewing a number of factors to better position the Catholic community for years to come.
"We're looking at our resources, at our churches, at our buildings, at the priests, the deacons, changing demographics,” Shanley said.
He added that there are fewer people attending masses throughout the week, there aren’t as many priests being ordained, and some of the older Roman Catholic churches that are part of the Archdiocese are becoming harder and harder to maintain.
He said it is because of this that changes have to be made.
"We do think we have the right number of priests for the number of people who are attending mass every week, but we don't have enough priests to have mass at every hour at every church -- or for 40 or 50, when the church sits 1,000,” Shanley said.
Ultimately, it’s up to parish pastors, their councils and laity groups to take this information and decide how to better serve their community.
But, the diocese is proposing to reorganize its 212 parishes into pastorates, which would be a single parish with one church, but one or more worship sites.
In the end, the number of churches would shrink down to about 160.
"We're all in this together, and it is a great amount of emotion when you talk about closing a church or merging two parishes together, and it's sad, but that's a reality,” Shanley said.
"We notice it's not as many people on Sunday, and it's a shame for us and we love our church and we want more people to come,” said Vladamir Sanchez, of Bristol.
The diocese maintains this is all in an effort to establish stronger parishes that are financially and spiritually secure.
The diocese referenced St. Patrick St. Anthony as just one of the successful merges in the Archdiocese of Hartford.
They're now encouraging parishioners to be part of this process, and bring their own ideas forward to make this transition much easier for everyone.
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