The Catholic Diocese of Sioux City unveiled a proposal that would reduce the number of the diocese’s parishes from 108 to 67 during summer 2017, due to a shortage of priests and decreased Mass attendance.
In the last eight years, according to Associated Press, only 16 out of the 108 parishes have grown, where overall Mass attendance dropped nearly 25 percent since 2008.
Parishes that will be consolidated will become oratories, means to be no weekly worship service. An oratory still be able to host variety of social functions such as prayer services, funerals and weddings.
“The populations in rural Iowa are getting smaller. The issue is farms are getting bigger but the families operating them are getting smaller.”, said Bishop Richard Pates of the Des Moines Diocese.
The Sioux City Diocese also experiencing shortage of priests, which mostly due to retirements. The Ministry 2025 proposal would relocate 12 priests to different parishes, where the proposal hopes to lessen the workload of current priests, cutting down Masses to only three per week. The proposal’s basis will help keep priests healthy and to avoid overworking themselves.
The Rev. James Bruch of St. Malachy’s Catholic Church in Madrid were traveling nearly 23 miles to St. John Catholic Church in Ogden five to seven times a week, said that while he does not agree with the recommended limits of Mass, he understands the need to cut down so to preserve the quality of the services.
“The hope is to have a stronger presence of the church community by grouping together small parishes into a few larger ones,” Bruch said.
Bruch admits that the transition will be difficult for devoted parishioners who are ‘disappointed’ with the consolidations, telling a group of 100 parishioners at St. Malachy’s that the proposal will provide opportunity of growth to all in the diocese.