.- Responding to decades of depopulation in Detroit and other declines in Catholic numbers, an advisory council for the Archdiocese of Detroit has proposed closing nine parishes and merging 60 parishes into 21.
The recommendations were formed through the parishes themselves and reviewed and amended by the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council, a group of mostly lay advisors.
“The recommendations are not in themselves the final plans for the future of the Archdiocese of Detroit, although they are serious and well-researched proposals,” the archdiocese said Nov. 30.
Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit will spend the next several weeks reviewing the recommendations. He is expected to release an archdiocesan-wide pastoral plan in February of 2012.
The recommendations focus on seven priorities defined by the parishes and the archdiocesan leadership: evangelization and catechesis; Christian service outreach; youth and young adult ministry; lay leadership; stewardship and administration; Catholic education; and vocations awareness.
There are presently 270 parishes or missions in the archdioceses, a decrease of 43 from 10 years ago. Though the archdiocese has 438 diocesan and 206 religious priests, their average age is 62 years. Only 293 are assigned to parishes and of these, about 71 percent are 10 years or more away from retirement.
The Archdiocese of Detroit is the sixth largest in the U.S., with over 1.4 million Catholics, but there was a six percent decline in the number of Catholics in the archdiocese in the last decade and a 13.3 percent decline in the number of Catholic households.
Population losses have been greatest in Wayne County, where the decline was 26.6 percent. The archdiocese said this change is due to Catholics moving to the suburbs, where about 88 percent of the archdiocese’s faithful now live.
The pastoral council’s proposals also include some expansions. Twenty-eight proposals offer new or expanded ministries or regular events for youths and young adults, while 19 would form multi-parish initiatives to strengthen vocation awareness. There are 23 proposals for new, multi-parish teams or initiatives focused on inviting non-Catholics into the Church and inviting inactive Catholics to return.
The archdiocese’s “Together in Faith” planning process drew the participation of more than 1,500 laypeople from the archdiocese’s parishes. They met in small planning groups to discuss their parishes’ futures, giving consideration to various factors including local demographics, existing parish ministries, financial records, church maintenance costs, and parish sacramental numbers.
The parish groups submitted their plans to the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council in the fall.