Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Q: What is an Oratory?

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.

1980 1990 2000 2005

Lincoln (Ivanhoe) 8,207 6,890 6,429 6,065
Lyon (Marshall) 25,207 24,789 25,425 24,948
Redwood (Redwood Falls) 19,341 17,254 16,815 16,096
Pipestone (Pipestone) 11,690 10,491 9,895 9,497
Murray (Slayton) 11,507 9,660 9,165 8,857
Cottonwood (Windom) 14,854 12,694 12,167 11,842
Rock (Luverne) 10,703 9,806 9,721 9,541
Nobles (Worthington) 21,840 20,098 20,832 20,553
Jackson (Jackson) 13,690 11,677 11,268 11,175


Fr. Andrew said...

Murray, Pipestone, and Redwood are shockers. I went to school in Marshall for 3 years before the seminary so I feel a connection to that part of Minnesota. We are going through the same demographics here in SD and the interesting thing is that there was a flush of children in the 90's that is now going back down. Birth Dearth as some people say.

The Ironic Catholic said...

Do those population numbers include all the immigrants living in SW Minnesota?

I'm guessing not.

Unknown said...


Thanks for the feedback.

If all that oil in ND exists like they are saying, and SD has the state of the art oil refinery, that might help turn the demographic tide in those two states.

Unknown said...

I.C. -

I would imagine that Marshall and Worthington probably are where the vast number of immigrants live.

And I would imagine that a few housing codes are being violated pertaining to numbers of people per bedroom, etc.

There are a suspicious number of cars parked around my apartment building. No problems, but the do-gooders who live in McMansions feel it is dreadful if there are more than two adults per bedroom.

I once met a previous owner of a house that I used to own. I was shoveling snow as he drove slowly by. I gave him a tour.

He told me that in the 50s, 16 people from three families lived in that house in Minneapolis. Some slept in large closets. Probably not on the census day, though.

Mr. Dad said...

Hi Ray,
Dan here, from the ol' Lumen Fidei blog, before I moved away, and found that parenthood took up all my free time. :-)

A couple comments:
1) I'm very glad Taunton at least remained an oratory. It's a pretty church, and the article doesn't say this, but one of the options on the table was to actually close it completely and either sell it or knock it down. Oratory status saved it from either fate.

2) Re: the population in rural areas:

Problem #1 is jobs. Period. With the growth of agribusiness and decline of the family farm, a town has to be of a certain size to retain a critical mass where it can create enough jobs (preferably not all in agribusiness-related industries) to sustain and grow the population. Only a few towns in this area such as Marshall & Willmar fit that bill. Even in these communities, though, most kids leave after high school and never look back. I'm somewhat rare for having moved my family back to Marshall (and even that was only made possible through a generous arrangement from my employer which allows me to split my time between Marshall & St. Paul).

Problem #2 is family size. Farm families in this area used to average around a half dozen. Now that number is down to probably 3. Fewer families with fewer children each make for a pretty rapid population decline.

Ironic Catholic is onto something that there are some flying under the radar, though, and not counted in the official statistics here.
All issues of illegal immigration aside, I'm grateful for the influx of new faces here - they enrich this area with new cultural vibrancy, and their children give this area a happy and hopeful place. And of course, they all help keep the population from an otherwise disasterous free-fall.

Unknown said...

Hi, Dan!

Great to hear from you. I was sad to see Lumen Fidei disappear. But family comes before everything.

Even though the Taunton church has been saved, a new bishop might have second thoughts on that. There will be maintenance costs and the Diocese of New Ulm is one of the the most rural in the country, meaning, loss of population.

Regarding jobs, I was born in Duluth and I know what that's all about. When I graduated from high school, there was virtually nothing. And the "pill" has its devastating impact on the family size, too.

Duluth is still having great battles over school consolidations and closings. What was once a district with four high schools will soon have only one, if the school board gets its way. And a comparable decrease in junior highs and grade schools.

I would imagine the same thing is happening throughout the Dioceses of New Ulm and Winona, both of which border on Minnesota's southwest, most rural area.

It is probably worse in Crookston, but there was hardly anybody there to start with.