Rally planned in St. Paul to protest mergers of Catholic parishes

  • Article by: ROSE FRENCH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 5, 2011 - 7:40 PM

Parishioner group plans to gather outside the Cathedral of St. Paul.

A group of Catholics upset over plans by the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis to merge a number of church parishes has scheduled a protest rally outside the Cathedral of St. Paul on Saturday.

In the first public outcry since the archdiocese announced plans last fall to reorganize its churches and schools, the morning rally is expected to include parishioners affected by the mergers from St. John's church in St. Paul, and St. Austin and Holy Cross churches in Minneapolis, organizers say.

John Armstrong, one of the organizers, said the event grew out of parishioners' frustrations at "not being heard in a meaningful way" by the archdiocese: "If you merge with another parish, you lose that identity, you lose that existence, you lose the soul. We want to stay permanent. The church is not a business and should not be treated like one."

As part of the reorganization plan, 21 parishes are slated to fold into 14 "receiving" parishes. Of the 21, four parishes have appealed to the Vatican and await word on their fates. Those expected at Saturday's rally are from parishes involved in the appeals.

The reorganization is necessary to deal with tight budgets, shifting demographics and a projected shortage of priests, archdiocesan officials say. While the archdiocese has grown to nearly 800,000 members in the past decade, officials say some parishes and school buildings are grouped in areas where the population can no longer sustain more than one parish or school.

Officials said the plan was the result of 20 months of study and consultation with clergy, parish leaders and staff, and parishioners.

"Every single parish was given ample opportunity to participate," said Dennis McGrath, archdiocese spokesman. "We've made everything very clear with our meetings. We've put information on our website. We've made ourselves available. No stone was left unturned."

At least three church buildings have closed since the reorganization began this year. Four parish mergers were officially sanctioned by the archdiocese Jan. 1, and two more in July. Barring successful appeals to the Vatican, all the mergers are projected to be complete by 2013.

Rose French • 612-673-4352

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