A. An Oratory is a sign of declining population in some parts of Minnesota.
The New Ulm Diocese, which covers 15 counties from New Ulm to the South Dakota border, including Marshall and many surrounding areas, will re-designate one church, as well as await the appointment of a new bishop this summer.
The Taunton parish will be re-designated this summer as an oratory, meaning it will no longer hold Sunday mass, but can continue to host weekday prayer services.
Due to declining demographics in western Minnesota, the Committee on Parishes for the diocese decided to re-designate the parish, Monsignor Douglas Grams of the New Ulm Diocese said.
The committee looks at programming, church attendance and finances before re-designating a church, Grams said.
“When the bulk of finances is going to pay just the heat and electricity bills then we reassess,” Grams said.
After a church is named an oratory, parishioners are encouraged to join another church in the area.
Parishioners are also given the chance to choose whether to keep the building open or close the church. The Taunton parishioners chose in a 38-9 vote to close their building.
“A great deal of consultation takes place,” Grams said.
The vote is then sent to the Bishop of the diocese as a recommendation for what should be done. Since the New Ulm Diocese is currently waiting for a new appointment of a bishop after Archbishop Neinstedt left [officially] in May of 2007, the church will remain open as an oratory until the new bishop is appointed and can approve or reject the recommendation.
If the recommendation is later approved by the bishop, the church will be closed, the property sold, and any remaining money will follow the former parishioners to their new church.
“If five people decide to join the church in Marshall, then that percent of the remaining money would go to that church,” Grams said. Marshall Independent
As farms have grown larger, farm populations and farm-related business have decreased considerably, particularly in southwest Minnesota, which were it not for the cities of Marshall and Worthington, would be in a catastrophic population freefall.
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