Diocese of Peoria wants to reduce the number of parishes in the diocese by half – Catholic World Report

Bishop Louis Tylka. / Credit: Screenshot from BshpLou Tylka YouTube channel

CNA Staff, May 20, 2024 / 4:34 PM (CNA).

The Diocese of Peoria, Illinois, will have half as many parishes as it has today by 2026, as part of a pastoral planning effort aimed at helping the diocese “be more intentional about cultivating disciples.”

Bishop Louis Tylka announced on Saturday that the diocese will be reformed from 156 parishes to 75 parishes, with 129 worship services, between now and May 2026. The remaining parishes will be overseen by 71 diocesan and religious order pastors; 39 priests will be reassigned.

The Diocese of Peoria covers 26 counties in Illinois. Of a total population of 1.4 million, almost 11% are Catholic, the diocese says.

The decision to drastically reduce the size of the diocese comes amid declining Mass attendance there and the prediction of a shrinking number of priests. Seventy percent of the 145 priests serving in the diocese are over 50 years old. According to the diocese’s projections, there may be fewer than 100 active priests in the next decade.

Mass attendance has shrunk by 22% between 2019 and 2022, the diocese says, while infant baptisms have fallen by 27% since 2015-2016. In addition, funerals have fallen by 10% and Catholic weddings by 34% since 2015-2016.

When announcing the Growing Disciples pastoral planning initiative in August 2022, Tylka said he launched the plan “so that we can not only meet today’s challenges, but also grow into a vibrant, sustainable, mission-driven Church for the future.”

“We must recognize that in each successive generation we are called to read the signs of the times and, by committing our discipleship to the Holy Spirit, discern the way forward,” Tylka said at the time.

“When we look at the landscape around us, we see that year after year the soil is tilled, planted, cared for and produces good fruit… In the same way, in the Church we must carry out the necessary tasks that will bring an abundant harvest for the people deliver. kingdom of God.”

The diocese’s reorganization plan to sharply reduce the number of parishes is reminiscent of plans undertaken in countless other parishes across the U.S., including much larger parishes such as Chicago, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Cincinnati and Baltimore. Many of these reorganizations – including the current one in Peoria – have been conducted by the Pennsylvania-based Catholic Leadership Institute (CLI) and involve an extensive consultation process with parishioners and Catholic leaders.

The Diocese of Peoria has become known as the home diocese of the Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, a famed 20th-century Catholic bishop and televangelist whose holiness cause has made progress in recent years. Sheen was ordained and first served as a priest in the Diocese of Peoria.

After three years of legal battles, the Archdiocese of New York, where Sheen was buried after his death in 1979, released Sheen’s body in 2019 to the Diocese of Peoria, where he is now buried.

Tylka said the pastoral planning process aims to integrate the “five foundations” outlined in his Easter 2022 message: evangelism, the Eucharist, discipleship, vocations and the legacy of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen.

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