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'We just kept praying': Parishes, parishioners react to 'All Things New' plan

The Archdiocese of St. Louis announced its final model for changes coming to the church. It includes sweeping parish consolidations and priest reassignments.

ST. LOUIS — Sundays could soon look different for Catholics in St. Louis. 

The Archdiocese of St. Louis announced its final model for changes coming to the church through its "All Things New" restructuring plan.

It includes sweeping parish consolidations and priest reassignments. 

It was a day filled with a wide range of emotions across the Catholic community in and around St. Louis.

For some it was a sigh of relief, for others, it was a little tougher to wrap their heads around. 

5 On Your Side visited one parish in south St. Louis that's grateful their doors will remain open.

Inside St. Cecilia Catholic Church on Sunday morning a sense of relief could be felt throughout the congregation.

Parishioner William Dunn-Sarmiemto said there was some anxiety at the beginning.

"We really had no idea and rumors were spreading and we didn't know what was true and what was not, but in the end, we have to have faith in God and his plans, and we just kept praying and hoping for the best," he said.

Parishioners have been waiting for the last several years to hear the fate of their church. 

Father Timothy Noelker said the last two years have been full of plans and consultations. 

"The first draft models, we were slated to be moved to other parishes and the parish effectively closed here," he said.

Less than 24 hours ago though, when the Archdiocese of St. Louis announced the final version of their long-awaited "All Things New" plan, the church tucked away in south St. Louis remained untouched. 

"St. Cecilia really has no change planned at all. The parish remains a personal parish for Hispanics in the Archdiocese of St. Louis and masses will continue as normal," Father Noelker said.

Not every church was that lucky though.

The archdiocese is consolidating from 178 individual parishes into 134. 35 current parishes will be merging into neighboring parishes and 15 other parishes will be merged together to create 5 new parishes.

Only two churches will be closed entirely.

Dunn-Sarmiemto said it gave him a sense of relief that his church wasn't touched.

"We were married here just one month ago and to be able to show our children the church where we got married and hopefully grandchildren and great-grandchildren, if we can make it that long, will be a great thing to be able to share," he said.

Now, parishioners are hoping to share this temple of faith with their family for years to come, in an area where they lean on one another and God daily.

"I think the community has seen a lot of changes over the years. Certainly, problems of crime, drugs and other things are certainly beacons of despair or sadness. I think having a Catholic Church in this area brings a sense that Christ has not abandoned his people wherever they are, and also the need to be a center of evangelization for the neighborhood and for all Latinos, all Catholics, all Spanish speakers in this immediate area. Beyond that, they're welcome here, and that the church is committed to them, I think is a great message of hope as well as faith in our Lord and in the church itself," Father Noelker said.

Keeping the lights on and stained-glass windows up, the church is hoping to be a symbol for this community that they are not abandoned.

"It gives them a community, a place to be together and to be able to lean on one another and be able to find hope with one another," Galicia Guerrero Dunn.

The changes will be implemented as early as August and will continue until 2026.

Any appeals must come from a parishioner of the parish and must be postmarked by June 12.

The plan does not say how Catholic schools will be affected.

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