CV NEWS FEED // Last Thursday, the Diocese of Joliet announced that it would be closing five parishes and merging other parishes as parishes struggle with declining participation.
On Thursday, January 25, Most Reverend Ronald Hicks, Bishop of the Diocese of Joliet, announced the closures in a press release. He said that the closures are a result of aging clergy and fewer people attending Mass.
“As we are all aware, many things have changed in the last 50 to 60 years. We have significantly less vocations to the priesthood, our active priests are aging, and our beautiful churches that were built with labors of love and much financial sacrifice are in need of significant repairs, largely due to prolonged deferred maintenance,” Bishop Hicks said in a press release.
The Diocese of Joliet serves the counties outside of Chicago and, as of 2023, served over half a million Catholics with 117 parishes and 52 schools.
As part of the announcement, Hicks said that seven parishes will merge and five will close for good.
“In addition, the Church today is not the same Church it was decades ago. The trend against organized religion is gaining momentum. Attendance at Sunday Masses is down significantly, and Sunday collections are down proportionately.”
“Reducing the number of parishes will enable us to redirect our limited financial resources to ministry instead of staffing expenses such as payroll and benefits and putting temporary and costly band-aids on aging buildings,” said Hicks.
The decision affects two local schools affiliated with parishes that are closing. These schools will cease operations at the end of the 2023–24 school year. However, a new school will open on the former campus of one of the schools closing.
“The new school will serve as a model for surrounding schools with added programming and outstanding academics steeped in Catholic teachings,” Hicks said. “In the coming days, you will learn of working sessions, informational meetings, and a timeline of transitional items for the school communities of St. Paul and St. Jude.”
The announcement comes as many dioceses and archdioceses across the United States are closing down or merging parishes to consolidate resources, including the Archdiocese of St. Louis and the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.
Bishop Hicks emphasized that the decision was made so that resources could be better utilized to evangelize and help form disciples.
“At the end of the day, I do not want us to be viewed as a diocese that buried its head in the sand or kicked the can down the road,” said Hicks. “Instead, with deep faith in God, we are pruning some of the structural branches so that our Church can continue to produce great fruit.”