HARTFORD—The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford (AOH) announced a major reorganization that is expected to involve the closing of a number of churches, but the plan will only affect one local church.
After three years of research, Archbishop Leonard Blair announced the changes on Sunday at a press conference at St. Thomas Seminary in Bloomfield.
The AOH office of pastoral planning was created in July of 2014 to assess the vitality of all of the entities that make up the AOH, including parishes, schools, ministries, properties, and Catholic cemeteries.
The archdiocese currently oversees 212 parishes in Hartford, Litchfield and New Haven counties. The new plan calls for a reduction to 127 parishes as of June 29. The church anticipates shrinking to 85 pastorates by 2027, but 68 parishes will remain as they are.
“The pastoral planning is intended to bolster discipleship and spiritual vitality,” vicar of pastoral planning Rev. James Shanley said in a press release. “In essence, it’s about people, not buildings. These buildings might be used as ministry centers, pastoral offices, and housing. Selling the buildings will be considered if these options are not viable”
According to the plan, the two Plantsville churches, Mary Our Queen Church and St. Aloysius, will each remain as one parish with one church. St. Dominic and St. Thomas churches in Southington will also remain one-parish churches.
Immaculate Conception Church at 130 Summer St. is the only parish that could see changes in the future. According to the plan, it will merge with St. Thomas upon retirement of its pastor, Rev. Adam Subocz.
According to the AOH, there were a number of factors that contributed to the need for reorganization, including shifts in demographics, economic conditions, and urban and suburban development.
The report noted that over the last 50 years, Sunday mass attendance in the archdiocese has declined from 395,000 to 123,500, a decline of nearly 70 percent. This is matched by a decline in baptisms and church weddings.
In addition, there have been fewer ordinations to the priesthood. Since 1965, the total number of active priests in the Archdiocese has dropped from 535 to 186, a decrease of 65 percent.
The study focused on how these changes have affected financial sustainability—a number of parishes are finding it increasingly difficult to maintain aging buildings with fewer active parishioners and fewer financial resources to meet their obligations.
According to the plan, 186 church buildings will remain open, and 26 church buildings will close. Closures mean that regularly scheduled masses will no longer be held in them, but some churches may be repurposed into such things as youth centers or homeless shelters.
“I hope people will realize that the purpose of pastoral planning is not only about ensuring a more sustainable future for them,” the Archbishop said in the release. “It’s also about a future in the church for their children and grandchildren. My hope and prayer is that we will be revitalized by a new generation of young Catholics who believe and practice their faith, and who hear and respond generously to God’s call, whether in marriage and family life, or as priests and religious sisters or brothers.”
The office of pastoral planning will continue to collaborate with all of the archdiocesan ministries, including the office of education, evangelization and catechesis, the office of property and assets, and the Catholic Cemeteries Association.
For more information, visit www.StewardsforTomorrow.org or call the Office of Pastoral Planning at: (860) 541-6491.