NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Catholic parishes across the area around New York City were waiting Thursday to hear whether they will be staying open, after the New York Archdiocese said it will be shutting down or consolidating 14 percent of its parishes.
As CBS2’s Janelle Burrell reported, the closings are part of an effort to cut costs and reduce the number of parishes, which archdiocese officials have said is excessive.
Among the parishes with an uncertain future is St. Joseph’s in New Rochelle. The doors of the church have welcomed Roman Catholics for generations.
“It’s been a staple here for, I don’t know, over 50 years, at least,” one New Rochelle resident said.
But the anticipated announcement could shutter the church were good.
“There’s just too many parishes here, and to keep everybody; everything going is a necessary evil, unfortunately,” said Michael McCabe of Mongtomery.
Saint Joseph’s is one of 368 parishes in the archdiocese, which is composed of Catholic churches and schools across most of New York City, Westchester and the Hudson Valley. Fifty-two of those parishes will likely close soon or be consolidated.
“If you have 500 people supporting a parish, you can better support it than if you have 250 people supporting the parish,” Joe Zwilling with the New York Archdiocese told CBS2’s Burrell. “So all of those factors were weighed, always with the goal of how do we create strong, energetic, more vibrant parishes than we have now.”
Manhattan and the Bronx are expected to be among the areas hit hardest by the cuts.
Among those affected are parishioners such as Alpa Suarez at Holy Innocents on West 37th Street, where they got word months ago they’ll likely be closing. Like many churches, Holy Innocents has seen its finances devastated by fewer priests and deacons, along with dwindling congregations.
“Everything costs a lot of money,” Suarez said. “The priests, the men to clean the church — everything costs a lot of money.”
In his column in Catholic New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan said the impending closures feel like “something has died.”
“Perhaps the feast days this Saturday and Sunday can set a spiritual tone for what will be, undeniably, a tough time for us all, especially for the parishioners of the affected parishes,” he wrote.
And meanwhile, the faithful keep going.
“There’s so many reasons to keep them open,” said Alma Olivero of Middletown, New Jersey. “We’ll have to keep praying.”
Church leaders say while the cuts are hard, a more streamlined archdiocese will ultimately lead to a stronger church. They’re expected to announce the parishes affected within a week.
“It is going to be painful,” Zwilling said. “We have to work with the people to work through this process moving forward.”
In 2007, 21 parishes closed or merged. Last year, schools were reorganized.
Around 2.8 million Catholics worship in churches in the New York Archdiocese. A quarter of those parishes are in Manhattan.
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