Downriver Catholic churches may close

Sunday Times Newspapers

WYANDOTTE – Three Wyandotte churches face closure after recommendations were submitted to Detroit’s Archbishop Dec. 1.

Proposed by the Archdiocese of Detroit’s Arcdiocesan Pastoral Council, comprising 1,500 volunteers from each of its 270 parishes, the recommendations include the closing of St. Elizabeth Catholic Church, which would merge with St. Joseph Parish in 2012. The newly created parish would then eventually consolidate with St. Patrick Catholic Church and Our Lady of Mount Carmel would consolidate with St. Stanislaus Kostka and one of the two buildings would close in the next three to five years, an archdiocese press release said.

The final closings are to be announced by Archbishop Allen Vigneron in February and closings are to gradually start over the next several years.

Archdiocese of Detroit Spokesman Joe Kohn said the closings are part of a two-phase planning process that began in 2004, with its second-phase, of which the closings are a part, beginning last year.

“This is part of long-term strategic planning,”Kohn said. “It’s not like we got to a certain point and said, ‘Oh, gosh, we’ve got to do something.’”

He said parish representatives considered factors including finances, attendance, availability of priests, and shifts in demographics in an area when considering which churches would close. St. Elizabeth, St. Joseph and St. Patrick have been part of the same “cluster,” sharing resources and a priest, since July 2010.

Kohn said he could not speak to reasons specific churches were closing, but said overall the representatives considered additional factors such as Mass attendance and the numbers of baptisms and funerals they have each year.

“If a parish has 500 families, they might be able to sustain themselves,” Kohn said. “But if over the course of a year, they have five baptisms and 25 funerals, that’s an eye-opener there.”

Kohn also said in most parishes, the plans to submit the church for consideration to Vigneron were well-known to parishioners. At this stage, he said, any of the listed churches could still come off the list.

“It is a planning process, not a contract,” Kohn said. “What is planned can change. Even after Archbishop Vigneron formulates a final plan, there are certain things that happen that aren’t expected. Nobody predicted such hard economic times 15 years ago. Hopefully unexpected things might be brighter than that for the future.”

The plans also call for St. Mary Magdeline in Melvindale and SS. Andrew and Benedict in Detroit to form a merger plan by 2013. St. Albert the Great Catholic Church and St. John the Baptist, both in Dearborn Heights, would merge and one of the buildings would close, and Dearborn’s St. Barbara and St. Alphonsus would develop a transition plan to merge one site with its cluster parish, Detroit’s St. Cunegunda.

Clusters, sharing church services with the potential for mergers, are suggested for St. Alfred and St. Constance, in Taylor; St. Henry in Lincoln Park; Our Lady of the Angels in Taylor and St. Frances Cabrini in Allen Park; and St. Joseph and St. Timony, both in Trenton.