Saturday, January 19, 2019 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews
Featured image: Parishioners at St. Eulalia Parish in Maywood. | Courtesy St. Eulalia
In a statement released Jan. 18, the Archdiocese of Chicago announced that as part of its Renew My Church initiative, four parishes in Proviso Township will be consolidated, with one facing closure within a year.
In the statement, Archdiocese officials said that they’ve been meeting with parish leaders in what’s called the 290 Corridor “to discuss the future church, parish and school structures for their respective areas.”
The churches in the 290 Corridor include Sacred Heart Parish and school in Melrose Park (819 N. 16th Ave. and 815 N. 16th Ave., respectively); St. Eulalia Parish, 1845 S. 9th Ave. in Maywood; St. Domitilla Parish, 4940 Washington St. in Hillside; and St. Simeon Parish, 429 Bellwood Ave. in Bellwood.
After meeting with church leaders and looking at their recommendations, Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, the archbishop of Chicago, decided that Sacred Heart Parish and St. Eulalia Parish “will unite to form one new parish with both churches remaining active worship sites of the new parish.”
Sacred Heart School, the archdiocese stated, “will continue in its current structure as a ministry of the new parish.”
Meanwhile, St. Domitilla Parish and St. Simeon Parish, the archdiocese explained, will unite to form a single new parish, with St. Domitilla serving as the church for the newly constituted parish. St. Simeon Church will close no later than June 30, 2020.
“Over the next few months, the archdiocese will work with the faith communities of each parish to ensure an orderly and smooth transition to the new structures and the archdiocese’s Priest Placement Board will work with the communities to identify pastors to lead the new parishes,” the archdiocese explained in the statement.
The Renew My Church initiative is the archdiocese’s attempt to address the declining number of parishioners attending Catholic churches, changing parishioner demographics and a financial burden that doesn’t lessen even as the number of parishioners declines.
“The goal of Renew My Church is to make our parishes more vital and more
sustainable,” Cardinal Cupich said in a 2017 letter explaining the parish grouping process.
According to documents released by the archdiocese in 2017, total mass attendance at the four parishes in the 290 Corridor grouping declined by 27 percent from 1998 to 2018, going from nearly 4,000 to roughly 2,900.
A chart showing a decline in mass attendance over the years. | Archdiocese of Chicago
In addition, the Hispanic population within the 290 Corridor’s service area has increased by 30 percent since 2000 while the white and black populations have decreased by 17 percent and 11 percent, respectively.
A chart showing demographic changes in the 209 Corridor service area since 2000. | Archdiocese of Chicago
In 2017, archdiocese officials explained, approximately 37 percent of mass attendees across the the four parishes attended masses facilitated in Spanish.
Meanwhile, all of the parishes except for St. Domitilla had operating deficits in the 2017 fiscal year, archdiocese officials said. Combined, the annual operating revenue of the four parishes in 2017 was around $1.5 million — “twice the minimum operating revenue of $750,000 to financially support a full pastoral staff team and operations as one parish.”
In addition, archdiocese officials explained in the documents, both St. Eulalia and St. Simeon “have incurred new operating debt with the diocese based on not fully paying their bills during the fiscal year.”
This story, which was published on late Saturday evening, will be updated once officials with the archdiocese and those four parishes are contacted for comment. VFP
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