The process will begin by clustering the 208 parishes of the archdiocese into 60 “families” of parishes.
Newsroom (October 3, 2021, 8:18 PM Gaudium Press) – The Archdiocese of Cincinnati announced on October 1 a restructuring initiative that could eventually close 70% of archdiocesan parishes. The process will begin by clustering the 208 parishes of the archdiocese into 60 “families” of parishes, which will share pastors, staff, and infrastructure, but initially remain canonically independent.
The diocesan website says the new initiative, Beacon of Light, as offering: “People united on a journey of missionary discipleship. Full churches. Joyous liturgies. Priests who have the time to be present and attend to the needs of their people. Parishes that are alive in faith, filled with vitality, ready to form people to radiate Christ.”
Quoting Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI the website continues, “The parish is a beacon that radiates the light of the faith and thus responds to the deepest and truest desires of the human heart, giving meaning and hope to the lives of individuals and families.”
The website cites many problems the diocese and Church-at-large is facing. The website says that “religious practice is declining nationwide,” also citing “the average Sunday Mass in our archdiocese is only one-third full.”
In a Sept. 17 letter to the faithful of his diocese, Archbishop Dennis Schnurr wrote that “the mission of the Catholic Church, our mission, entrusted to the apostles by Jesus, is to proclaim the Good News of salvation and ‘make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you’ (Mt. 28:19-20).”
Archbishop Schnurr wrote that “We have a responsibility to make the best use of all the means which God has provided us to pursue this sacred mission.” After explaining the initiative’s content, the archbishop asked for each parishioner’s feedback for “public comment October 1-20,” on the website. “Please be sure to familiarize yourself with the information on the website,” Archbishop Schnurr wrote, “then prayerfully provide your input on this important step which will shape the future of our archdiocese.”
Archbishop Dennis Schnurr is known among U.S. bishops as one of the most organized and systematic Church administrators in the country. The archbishop, who organized 1993’s World Youth Day in Denver, is generally regarded as pragmatic, serious, and committed to tackling Church problems head-on.
Archbishop Schnurr’s decision seems motivated by two realities. The first is an increased awareness that many young priests are in-charge of multiple parishes and have to spent a lot of time on the road , which leads eventually to burnout, which is sometimes accompanied by “liability events,” as any number of unhealthy or unholy lifestyle choices might be termed. The second is an understanding that the kind of wholesale American institutional disaffiliation experienced in recent years isn’t going away, and the belief that it will not be countered by a commitment to maintaining an outsized institutional footprint at all costs.
Well beyond Cincinnati, the initiative is worth watching, as its approach may well become a model for institutional downsizing in dioceses across the country, especially in the Northeast and the Rust Belt.