Demographic shifts, aging buildings and fewer priests have led Archbishop Cupich to launch the “Renew My Church” process to revitalize parishes in the Archdiocese of Chicago.
The archbishop first announced this effort in a letter to parishes in October. Meetings with clergy, parish personnel and other groups have now begun and will continue over the next few months.
“As I wrote in a letter to all parishes last October, the archdiocese has changed in significant ways over the past several decades,” Archbishop Cupich writes in his latest column. “The result is that we end up spreading our resources too thinly. We should not be afraid to face these realties, but rather see this moment as a graced opportunity to chart new ways to live out our mission more fully.”
The Archdiocese of Chicago is the third largest archdiocese in the United States, after Los Angeles and New York, with 351 parishes. Many of the parishes in the city of Chicago are more than 100 years old with buildings of similar age.
Other dioceses around the country, such as the Archdiocese of New York, face similar challenges and have already undertaken reorganization processes. Local archdiocesan officials have looked at what others have done to see what might help in the “Renew My Church” process.
At this point, no official plan has been outlined. The meetings in the coming months will determine that, said Tim Weiske, director of the Office for Strategic Planning and Implementation, which is spearheading the process along with a priests’ steering committee.
No monetary goal has been set for the process nor is there a goal for how many parishes may merge or close, he said.
“From the beginning, this process has been driven by one question: How do we better advance the mission of Christ?” said Father Ronald Hicks, vicar general.
“We know that a vibrant parish community advances that mission and we will use this process to help ensure the archdiocese strengthens its network of vibrant parishes,” he said. “Achieving this will mean listening to the needs and hopes of the whole archdiocese, and working together over the coming months and years. We do not know now how many parishes will remain at the end of this process but we are determined that whatever the number, they will be welcoming, nurturing, vibrant places that truly make real the mission of Christ.”
The last time the Archdiocese of Chicago went through an archdiocesan-wide process like this was in the 1990s, Weiske said.
On a smaller scale, parishes on the West Side of Chicago went through a reorganization in 2004 and parishes in Pilsen are undergoing a reorganization now.