Called “Beacons of Light,” the plan groups more than 200 parishes into about 60 geographic “families” — units whose members then must decide how best to use resources, including which churches to close or use less.
The archdiocese has not challenged an estimate — reported by a national Catholic website, The Pillar — that some 70% of area parishes could be directed toward eventual closure, merger or otherwise diminished use, depending on decisions made on how to deal with resources in the local units or “families”
But even if every family of parishes becomes a single “canonical” or main parish, that does not mean every other church or building within that unit would necessarily be closed completely, said Jennifer Schack, archdiocesan spokeswoman.
“One canonical parish could mean several church locations,” Schack said Wednesday.
What will happen with Catholic schools and jobs remain unanswered questions.
“For the magnitude of the exercise and layers of communication needed, the process has been as consultative and transparent as possible,” said the Rev. Satish Joseph, pastor for the parishes of Immaculate Conception and St. Mary in Dayton, and St. Helen in Riverside. “A restructuring process of this scale will never be perfect.”
He added that because he believes the plan is “data and demographic-driven,” the process will accomplish what it set out to accomplish — “moving from (church) maintenance to mission.”
The plan won’t be put into formal effect until next summer, after new priest assignments are announced next spring, the archdiocese said.
There is no precise deadline on when local groups should decide the disposition of buildings, Schack said.
But she noted that “Beacons of Light” is a five-year plan.
A draft of the plan was released in October for revision and comment.
“I am convinced that Beacons of Light, born in great hope, will enable us to form strong parishes, centered on the Eucharist, that radiate the love of Christ and joy of the Gospel,” Schnurr said in Wednesday’s statement from the archdiocese.
The recent open comment period drew nearly 8,000 comments and has resulted in many changes to the configuration, the archdiocese said.
“We read every comment. Every comment was read, reviewed and taken into consideration,” Schack said.
Other churches and archdioceses nationwide seem to be following the process and have reached out to the Cincinnati archdiocese with questions and observations, Schack said.
The final list will be available at BeaconsAOC.org at noon Sunday.