ST. LOUIS — The Archdiocese of St. Louis on Saturday announced its finalized model for changes coming to the church as part of its "All Things New" restructuring plan.
At the Cardinal Rigali Center in Shrewsbury, Archbishop Mitchell Rozanski announced his final decision on the plan, which includes sweeping parish consolidations and priest reassignments.
Under the restructuring, the archdiocese said its 178 parishes will consolidate into 134 parishes, overseen by close to 90 diocesan pastors and 17 religious order priests. This differs from a previous draft of the plan, which proposed the consolidation of the parishes into 88 pastorates.
Rozanski said 35 parishes will merge into neighboring parishes and 15 parishes will merge to create five new parishes. There will also be a new personal parish for the Spanish-speaking community in St. Charles County.
Only two churches will close entirely.
The changes will be implemented as early as August and will continue until 2026, Rozanski said. Any appeals must come from a parishioner of the parish, and must be postmarked by June 12.
"I wish these changes were not necessary, but it is what we are called to do in this moment, and all the data, input and feedback affirm this," Rozanski said.
New parish structures of Archdiocese of St. Louis
Archdiocese officials said Rozanski made his decision after compiling sacramental, financial and demographic statistics over the last decade from every parish and school in the Archdiocese, as well as feedback through surveys, listening sessions, focus groups and one-on-one meetings.
“We have too few priests in our large parishes and a disproportionate number of priests in small parishes,” Rozanski said, adding that diocesan priests are aging, many being 65 or older, and their overall numbers are declining. “Without these changes, we predict that we will have more parishes than diocesan priests by 2025.”
In this decision 18 priests were granted retirement.
Founder of Save Rome of the West Jason Bolte says they don’t agree with the plan and are concerned about its effects on people, maybe to the point of leaving the church.
"If you read Canon law and the very last piece of canon law states that above and beyond everything that's here, the salvation of souls has to be the primary focus. How can you do this knowing that you're going to potentially lose 20% or greater? It baffles me. It's very baffling," Bolte said.
Bolte says instead of this plan he feels the Archdiocese should be making better evangelization efforts.
"There has been shrinking numbers of people coming back to church and things of this nature. But we're not going after them. We're not pursuing them. We're not truly evangelizing like they said, the goal of this effort is," Bolte said.
The plan does not say how Catholic schools will be affected. Last year, the archdiocese said it would postpone restructuring its Catholic elementary schools until the 2024-25 school year.
More details regarding Saturday's announcement, including priest assignments and plans for parishes, is available at allthingsnew.archstl.org.