Dwindling Attendance, Priest Shortage To Blame

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – Faced with a shortage of priests and a drop in attendance, the Archdiocese of New York said this week that it is looking to close and merge some parishes.

The archdiocese is in discussions with its 368 parishes and expects to deliver recommendations to Cardinal Timothy Dolan by next summer, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The closures would mark the biggest shakeup in the archdiocese since Dolan took over in 2009, according to the newspaper.

The archdiocese closed 21 parishes in 2007. This year, it also closed 26 Catholic schools.

The Rev. John O’Hara, who is leading the church’s effort, said the archdiocese has many churches with attendance well below the building’s capacity, making them financially unviable.

He said the Catholic Church would like to spend more money on education programs.

The archdiocese has hired a consultant to help execute its plan. Officials with the church said the closures were largely expected in Manhattan and the Bronx but did not offer specifics.

The Archdiocese of New York has between 2.5 million and three million self-identifying members, with up to a million parishioners attending Sunday Mass on a regular basis.

The archdiocese encompasses Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island, as well as Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster and Westchester counties. Brooklyn and Queens fall under the Diocese of Brooklyn, while suburban Long Island is under the Diocese of Rockville Centre.

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