Catholic churches to close, merge after consolidation plan announced

By ANDREA POTEET
Sunday Times Newspapers

Several Downriver-area churches face closure after the Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit announced its final plans for its Together in Faith consolidation program Monday.

Proposed by the Archdiocese of Detroit’s Arcdiocesan Pastoral Council, comprising 1,500 volunteers from each of its 270 parishes, the recommendations, initially announced in December but approved by Archbishop Allen Vigneron, include the closing of Wyandotte’s St. Elizabeth Catholic Church, which would merge with St. Joseph Parish, also in Wyandotte, by June.

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, all in Wyandotte, and one of the two buildings would close in the next three to five years, archdiocese planning documents said.

A merger plan is also due in 2013 for Melvindale’s St. Mary Magdalen and Detroit’s SS. Andrew and Benedict, which are to form a collaboration of resources by June 30.

A cluster plan, consisting of shared services and a priest but separate finances, is due June 30 for Riverview’s St. Cyprian and Grosse Isle Township’s Sacred Heart and is to be implemented when a pastor is no longer available or either parish has a net operating deficit.

Cluster plans are also due in June for St. Joseph and St. Timony, both in Trenton, St. Roch in Flat Rock and Our Lady of the Woods, in Woodhaven; St. Constance and St. Alfred, both in Taylor; St. Henry and Christ the Good Shepherd, both in Lincoln Park; and Our Lady of the Angels, in Taylor, and St. Frances Cabrini, in Allen Park.

Officials at Southgate’s St. Pius X must submit a cluster plan by June if they wish to form a cluster with Sacred Heart or another parish. According to the archdiocese planning documents, the church had expressed interest in a cluster partnership with Sacred Heart, but no plans have been submitted regarding the possible partnership.

In Dearborn, St. Alphonsus, already clustered with St. Clement, and St. Barbara, clustered with Detroit’s St. Cunegunda will cluster and plan to merge no later than June 2013. St. Sabina, in Dearborn Heights, is to cluster or merge with Our Lady of Grace in Dearborn Heights.

Dearborn’s Divine Child and Dearborn Heights’ St. Anselm are to cluster along with St. Mel and St. Linus, both in Dearborn Heights. The plan will include a debt reduction plan for St. Mel and the two churches are to eventually merge, combining finances and parish councils.

Dearborn’s St. Martha will merge with Detroit’s St. Joseph, with the merged parish forming a cluster with Sacred Heart in Dearborn. Mergers are also planned for St. Albert the Great, in Dearborn Heights, and St. John the Baptist in Detroit. The new parish will then cluster with Dearborn’s St. Sebastian.

Archdiocese Spokesman Joe Kohn said parish representatives considered factors including finances, attendance, availability of priests, and shifts in demographics, including age of parishioners and ethnic makeup of communities, for “personal parishes,” based on ethnic communities instead of geographic ones, when considering closings.

Mass attendance and the number of baptisms and funerals each year were also factors, he said.

In most cases, plans to submit the church for consideration to Vigneron were well known to parishioners, Kohn said. He also said factors, such as economic changes, could still cause any of the listed churches to come off the list.