Under a sweeping merger proposal released this week by the Archdiocese of Louisville, seventeen parishes would merge into six, and several others would begin sharing facilities, priests and other staff, reported the Courier-Journal.
The proposal, which faces further review by parishes, regions, and a planning commission before a final plan is approved in December, also recommends the archdiocese consider a more centralized school system rather than a parish-based one.
After review and revision the plan will go for final approval to Archbishop Thomas Kelly or his successor. Archbishop Kelly submitted his resignation upon turning 75 in July and is awaiting word from the Vatican on his replacement.
"It's a dialogue," the chancellor, Brian Reynolds, told the Courier-Journal. "We now have to find out whether … the proposals will be affirmed by the local regions. They may come up with an alternative."
Many of the proposals came from the parishes themselves, which were asked to take part in the yearlong planning process, Fr. Bill Medley told the newspaper.
Currently, nearly half the parishes are already sharing priests. There are 87 priests in active parish ministry in the archdiocese’s 122 parishes. The total number of priests in the diocese is now fewer than half the total in 1970. The average age is Louisville priests is 54.
Fr. Medley said this year’s process is an improvement on the process of the 1990s, when he served on a commission that led to 12 parishes closing or merging. He said many people were hurt then because they weren't consulted earlier in the process.
Regarding a more-centralized school system, Fr. Joe Atcher, executive director of the archdiocese's Office of Lifelong Formation and Education, said the idea needed more study over the next year. But benefits would include a more standardized administration and removing administrative duties from the heavy workloads of parish priests.
The Archdiocese of Louisville is one of the latest U.S. dioceses to face major restructuring in the light of population shifts, from one area of the archdiocese to another, and of aging or lack of priests.