Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Catholic Diocese Reveals Timeline Parish Downsizing Will Be Phased in over Five-Year Period, Officials Say

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Catholic Diocese Reveals Timeline Parish Downsizing Will Be Phased in over Five-Year Period, Officials Say

Article excerpt

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh said Friday that it plans to phase in all parish downsizing over a period of five years.

According to a new statement from the On Mission project, the mergers will take place at various rates depending on circumstances.

The groupings of new parishes will be put in one of three categories: Category A will include parishes that need to come together immediately, either due to serious financial or demographic issues or because they have indicated they're ready to proceed; Category B, which will include most of the parishes, will involve mergers within one to three years; and Category C involves several larger parishes, which will have time frames of from three to five years to complete their mergers.

Bishop David Zubik is expected to announce which category each parish falls into, along with new priest and deacon assignments, by March. Those pastors then will be given instructions regarding such things as merger timelines, Mass schedules, staffing needs and procedures for merging parish and financial councils.

"Once those pastors get put into place . then they'll be able to work with those blueprints," said diocesan spokesman Bob DeWitt. "Every parish is different."

Since 2000, the Catholic population is down 16 percent in the diocese's counties of Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Greene, Lawrence and Washington. Mass attendance, first communions, confirmations, infant baptisms, church marriages and K-8 school enrollment are down from 40 percent to 50 percent.

And the number of active priests, 216, is expected to drop by half within 10 years. Half of parishes have operational deficits.

Robert Knecht, 44, a member of Saint Raphael Parish in Morningside, said he has heard rumors that his parish could merge with two others in the East End. …

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