As Archdiocese Reorganizes, New York Catholics Await News About Their Parishes

An East Harlem church that was among the first in New York to welcome newcomers from Puerto Rico. An Upper East Side parish founded with $50 donations from working-class Italians in the 1920s. A 150-year-old Midtown church that is the only one in the city to offer a daily Latin Mass.

Each of these parishes is set to hear this weekend whether it will be eliminated as part of the largest reorganization in the 164-year history of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York.

Church officials say more than 50 parishes will be “consolidated” next year, the culmination of a planning process that began in 2010. And while the list of churches will not be released until Sunday, it is already clear that no corner of the archdiocese will be untouched.

Protests have already begun at some endangered parishes, and more are expected across the archdiocese, whose territory includes 368 parishes in the Bronx, Manhattan, Staten Island and seven counties north of the city. In 2007, Cardinal Edward M. Egan closed 21 parishes, then the largest set of New York closings. The battles that ensued were public and wrenching, and in some cases, are still going on.


We’re not suppose to say it, but the truth is that the Catholic Church in the USA is in serious decline. Even in my prosperous low crime, middle class area, the pastor of a large modern parish recently announced in the church bulletin that membership has been declining every year for several years now.

It depends on the Parish it seems. Our church added 52 members over the past year. We aren’t struggling financially, and have a very strong core of members who attend Mass and give in different ways. Our school attendance is also up. I am not sure why this is… though it could be the strong relations to the traditions of the Church, combined with a plethora of options to learn about their faith through church-hosted events, and different groups people can belong to depending on their interests. I personally give an hour a week at our Adoration Chapel… I quite enjoy the time of silence with God.

I don’t think that’s true across the board in everywhere. It does seem to be true of those parts of the country that previously had the largest Catholic presence.

When costs go up and donations go down, there’s only so much one can do. Of all the tasks of a bishop, I would think that this has to rank right at the top of their least favorite things to do. :frowning:

It is. Recent findings have shown that with merging parishes, per capita contributions tend to diminish as well, while costs continue to increase. As the accountant in the article states:

“I understand the challenges the cardinal faces, and as an accountant, I actually endorse the path they have taken,” Mr. Corti said. “I just hope the execution of the strategy is well thought out and that we don’t end up shooting ourselves in the foot.”

There seem to be some real deep psychological issues involved. It is not fun to see your favorite parish (or Mass, for that matter) on the threshold of extinction while you’re pouring out as much financial and laborial support as you can to save it. Pockets are only so deep.

It’s difficult to fight facts that “everyone knows are true”… but, guess what? The Catholic Church in the USA isn’t in serious decline. Take a look at these statistics from CARA:

Column 1: Year
Column 2: Catholic population (The Official Catholic Directory; 
          parish-connected Catholics)
Column 3: Catholic population (self-identified, survey-based estimate)

1965	46.3m	48.5m
1970	47.9m	51.0m
1975	48.7m	54.5m
1980	50.5m	56.8m
1985	52.3m	59.5m
1990	55.7m	62.4m
1995	57.4m	65.7m
2000	59.9m	71.7m
2005	64.8m	74.0m
2010	65.6m	74.6m
2014	66.6m	76.7m

As you can see, Catholic population in the US is not “in serious decline.” The percentage of “parish-connected Catholics” has been decreasing, taking a dip in 2000, but returning thereafter to levels seen in the 1970s. The number of priests is down, leading to changes in numbers of parishes and parish size, but “the Church is in serious decline”? That’s hardly the case. :wink:

And though the US does have a “priest shortage” compared to times now past, the ratio of priests to laity in the US is the envy of many countries around the world.

It could be due to a variety of things: since we’re a more mobile society, folks are leaving to where the skilled or unskilled jobs are. Heck, I can count TOO MANY Yankees in the DC area! :wink:

I would like to see a “heat map” of parish rolls decreasing (from the next to last census) overlaid with a heat map of, say, where populations have increased (to the latest census). I’m seeing Boston decreasing and DC increasing! We also have to take into account the, er, ‘realignment’ of parishes based on what the particular Archdiocese may have paid out due to any judgments/settlements.

A lot of parishes are in financial dire straits and have “merged” with other, larger parishes, which skews the numbers. Throw in the fact that someone moves to a metropolitan area for a 4-year position and doesn’t register but attends regularly, that fact skews a lot of numbers.

Additionally, we’re not required to attend our local territorial parish, and can still
'register" elsewhere, although we should register with out territorial parish. The way our tax system is set up, we financially contribute to where we actually attend, not our territorial parishes. (The reason we would choose to go elsewhere is another topic! :wink: )

It does show a somewhat significant decline, especially at the religious, parish, baptism, marriage level among other things. Perhaps the decline might be shown to be more severe at the 15-35 yr-old level. As one of my pastors has pointed out more than once, that once they receive their first communion, most of these kids never step into a church again.

This just in.

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York announced plans Sunday to close 31 churches as 112 parishes merge in its latest restructuring efforts.

The plan – dubbed Making All Things New – will affect churches across New York City as well as those in Westchester, Rockland, Orange, Dutchess, Sullivan and Ulster counties upstate, according to Joseph Zwilling, an archdiocese spokesman.


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