Monday, October 18, 2010

Archbishop Nienstedt talks about parish overhaul

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Archbishop John Nienstedt speaks for the first time since parish reorganization was announced this weekend.

In his first public statements since unveiling the largest reorganization in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis' history, Archbishop John Nienstedt said Monday he's sympathetic to parishioners whose churches are closing and understands employees may be nervous about future layoffs. But he said the changes are needed and will make the archdiocese more efficient and able to pursue its mission.

"What this [reorganization] does give us is a sense of direction in where we want to go," Nienstedt said. "I understand very well people becoming very attached to their churches because for years we've told them they should support their church ... to be an active member of their church. And now we're telling them something different.

The reorganization is a response to the pressures of tighter budgets, shifting demographics in the region and a projected shortage of priests in the next decade.

"I think it's important for us to stand back and say there's a big picture," he added. "And the big picture is our sustainability, our viability, our success as a church. We realized early on in this process that with the demographics shifting, with the age of our parish buildings, we weren't utilizing our resources to the extent that we could, to really be behind the mission of the church."

This past weekend the archdiocese unveiled a 32-page plan, under which 21 parishes will close their buildings and be merged in 14 receiving parishes. Following the implementation of the plan over the next several years, the archdiocese will have a total of 192 remaining parishes compared to the 213 parishes currently.

In addition, 33 parishes will join together in new cluster configurations, in which one pastor leads two or more parishes. Close to 25 percent of parishes within the archdiocese already share a pastor.

Archdiocese officials have worked on the plan for close to 20 months, and its dramatic unveiling to parishioners at services across the Twin Cities on Saturday and Sunday was met with sadness and sorrow by many parishioners, who cringed at the prospect of merging with other parishes.

Archdiocesan officials say they're also studying the viability of the 98 schools in the archdiocese and will figure out in the coming months what schools may also close as part of reorganization efforts. Close to 3,800 people are employed within the archdiocese, which has approximately 800,000 parishioners. StarTribune

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