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Priest Shortage Could Force Chicago Archdiocese To Close Parishes

By Sam Stecklow in News on Feb 8, 2016 3:11PM

A "large number" of Roman Catholic churches in Cook and Lake counties could close in the next 14 years, according to priests interviewed by the Tribune. Issues ranging from a lack of capital flowing into the churches to a lack of priests -- a projected 240 to serve 351 parishes -- is prompting the closures.

In a column in Catholic New World, the Chicago Archdiocese's official newspaper, Archbishop Blasé Cupich spun the news with a positive light. "The archdiocese has changed in significant ways over the past several decades," he wrote. "Demographics have shifted dramatically. Some of our parish buildings are in disrepair. We have fewer priests to pastor our faith communities. The result is that we end up spreading our resources too thinly. We should not be afraid to face these realities, but rather see this moment as a graced opportunity to chart new ways to live out our mission more fully."

NBC 5's Mary Ann Ahern reported that, during a meeting between priests and the Archbishop, Cupich said that 17 unidentified parishes would be closing in the next two years, though the AP reported that some parishes would be merged instead of closed.

Last month, the Archdiocese announced that four of its Chicagoland schools would be closing at the end of the academic year: St. Edmund's in Oak Park, St. Agatha Catholic Academy in Lawndale, St. Peter's in Antioch, and Seton Academy in South Holland. The Archdiocese's schools have been bleeding students and resources for about a decade, but Jim Rigg, superintendent of the Archdiocese's school system, told the Sun-Times last month that the district is now looking to grow.