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Here's what the Archdiocese of Cincinnati's draft Beacon of Light plan could mean for your parish

Archdiocese of Cincinnati

The Cincinnati Archdiocese is releasing its draft Beacons of Light pastoral plan for dealing with declining church attendance and the number of available priests. Though the process has been underway for quite some time, this is the first look at what could be a changing future for many of the region's faithful.

The archdiocese says after months of study, it's recommending the 210 parishes within its 19-county coverage area be consolidated into 60 of what it's calling "families of parishes."

The move, the archdiocese says, is the result of fewer people attending mass, and lower numbers of men becoming priests, coupled with an upcoming wave of expected retirements. Director of Media Relations Jennifer Schack says there were large groups of men who entered the priesthood in the 1970s and '80s.

"Those men are now entering toward retirement years so you're looking at a large number of the priests of the archdiocese retiring over the next five to 10 years," she explains.

There are currently 109 pastors within the archdiocese. Projections put that number at just 60 to 65 within 10 years, according to Schack.

The number of people in pews and receiving the sacraments is also shrinking.

"In the last 10 years - between 2010 and 2019 - the decline was 23% for the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, first communion and weddings," Schack adds. "When you look at our structures, we're basically overbuilt in terms of the number of churches that we have and then the attendance of churches being underutilized with about a third full (being) the average for capacity for Catholics on a weekend Sunday mass."

To deal with those two factors, Schack says the family groupings will place several parishes together under one pastor to create a faith community that will determine how they want to proceed as a family. The families will begin to make those determinations about church buildings, facilities and schools next summer. That means church buildings could be closed, or utilized in other ways, Schack says. However, individual families of parishes will make those decision, not the archdiocese.

She adds that a lot of research and data were used to determine the family arrangements.

"That parish family has been determined based on the sacramental load of those parishes, the financials of those parishes, the schools of those parishes, the ministry load the priests of those parishes have been holding for the last several years, as well as the mass counts, the attendance, the actual structures and buildings of those parishes."

The draft plan is open for public comment Oct. 1 through Oct. 20. The families of parishes are expected to be finalized in late November. After that, pastors and parish leaders will begin preparing for the implementation of the families of parishes, which will begin July 1, 2022.

The Archdiocese of Cincinnati reports it is the 44th largest diocese in the country with more than 440,000 Catholics, and the fifth largest Catholic school system by enrollment at over 40,000 students.

See which family of parishes your church is slated to join

Senior Editor and reporter at WVXU with more than 20 years experience in public radio; formerly news and public affairs producer with WMUB. Would really like to meet your dog.