Short on priests and faithful, Boston archdiocese considers parish mergers
By Benjamin Mann
Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley
Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley

.- On Feb. 2, the Archdiocese of Boston announced plans for a reorganization that could change how many parishes operate. The changes are aimed at allowing the Church to cope with declining Mass attendance and a shortage of priests, without forcing parishes to close.

“The Archdiocese has been operating under a model decades old that was built for a time when 70 percent of Catholics attended Mass regularly,” archdiocesan spokesman Terry Donilon told CNA. “Today less than 20 percent attend weekly Mass in the Archdiocese.”

These numbers call for what Donilon described as a “total rebuild of the archdiocese,” likely to include mergers between several parish communities.

The newly-formed Archdiocesan Pastoral Planning Commission hopes it can avoid some of the more drastic measures it has resorted to in the past. Vicar General Fr. Richard M. Erikson told the Boston Globe that the archdiocese did not plan to initiate another round of church closings, as it did in the wake of the 2002 sex-abuse scandals and resulting lawsuits.

Instead, the planning commission will consider how to combine a number of church communities – which currently function as independent parishes – into single parishes that would continue to worship in separate spaces.

The combined communities would keep their buildings, while merging into one single parish for administrative, financial, and pastoral purposes. This plan could eliminate inefficient aspects of the current system, in which one priest often already serves as the pastor of multiple parishes simultaneously, due to the priest shortage.

Although the archdiocese is already taking steps to recruit more priests and boost Mass attendance,
these longer-term strategies cannot address some of the immediate challenges posed by stark demographic realities.

Statistics from the archdiocese indicate that 40 percent of its parishes are barely meeting their financial needs or operating at a loss, while the number of active diocesan priests is expected to diminish by nearly half – from around 400, to only 180 – by 2021. Mass attendance in Boston dropped by 23 percent between 2000 and 2009.

“We approach our work cognizant of the challenges and opportunities facing the Archdiocese of Boston and inspired by the grace of God’s presence throughout,” said Msgr. William Fay, a Brighton-based pastor who will co-chair the Archdiocesan Pastoral Planning Commission.

The commission has begun discussing a draft plan for reorganization, although it has not yet set a timetable for making its recommendations to Boston's Cardinal Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley.

“The Cardinal has authorized us to shape a plan that will provide the local Church with a roadmap for the future,” Msgr. Fay said. He anticipated the development and implementation of “a plan that supports the good work of our priests and which invigorates parish life.”

Ads by AdsLiveMedia(What's this?)

* The number of messages that can be online is limited. CNA reserves the right to edit messages for content and tone. Comments and opinions expressed by users do not necessarily reflect the opinions or beliefs of CNA. CNA will not publish comments with abusive language, insults or links to other pages


Ads by Google (What's this?)
Ads by Google (What's this?)

Featured Videos

Pope Francis celebrates the closing Mass and announces site of next World Youth Day
Pope Francis celebrates the closing Mass and announces site of next World Youth Day
Pope Francis visits poor neighborhood and meets with young people from Argentina
Pope Francis celebrates Mass at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida
Denver rally draws hundreds in support of religious freedom
Pope Francis prays over a sick man in St Peter's Square
Denver women's clinic will offer natural, Catholic care
Interview Clips: Barbara Nicolosi speaks to CNA
US Cardinals press conference at North American College
Pope Benedict to retire to monastery inside Vatican City
Pope cites waning strength as reason for resignation
Hundreds convene in Denver to urge respect for life
New Orange bishop encourages Catholic unity in diversity
Chinese pro-life activist calls for reform, international attention
At Lincoln installation, Bishop Conley says holiness is success
Mother Cabrini shrine reopens in Chicago after a decade
Ordination of 33 deacons fills St. Peter's with joy
Cardinal says "Charity is the mother of all the virtues"
Augustine Institute expands evangelization effort with new campus
Bishops recall 'Way of St. James' as chance to trust in God
Los Angeles cathedral's newest chapel houses Guadalupe relic

Liturgical Calendar

April 23, 2014

Wednesday within the Octa ve of Easter

All readings:
Today »
This year »

Catholic Daily

Gospel of the Day

Mt 28:8-15


Daily Readings

First Reading:: Acts 3:1-10
Gospel:: Lk 24:13-35

Saint of the Day

St. Adalbert of Prague »


Homily of the Day

Mt 28:8-15


Ads by AdsLiveMedia.com

Ads by AdsLiveMedia.com
Text only

Follow us: