Archbishop of Cincinnati Dennis Schnurr announced on Sunday that he was ready to move forward with an ambitious restructuring program that will impact all Catholic parishes and schools in Ohio’s 19 counties.
The reorganization, known as headlights of light, will consolidate the 208 parishes of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati into 57 âparish families,â who will begin sharing priests, staff, facilities and other resources early next year.
Over time, church officials expect these parish families to become unique parishes, wiping out over 70% of parishes in the archdiocese and paving the way for possible closings of churches and schools.
The impending changes are in response to a declining number of priests and demographic changes that have left some churches and schools with fewer Catholics to support them.
Scroll to the end of this story to see the final parish family cards.
Schnurr, who acknowledged the changes will be difficult, told Catholics in a recorded message on Sunday that the restructuring was needed and that it would eventually “allow us to form stronger parishes.”
âThe work of the church is never done,â said Schnurr. âThe work of Beacons of Light will have a powerful and positive impact on the future of this Archdiocese. “
Schnurr also discussed the restructuring program Sunday during mass at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Peter in the Chains in downtown Cincinnati.
âThe Lord has blessed us in the work that we have done,â he said.
Following Schnurr’s announcement on Sunday, the Archdiocese unveiled the final version of the lighthouse plan, which was first presented in October and then underwent revisions based on feedback from parishioners and priests. .
The final revisions did not fundamentally alter the reorganization plan – it remains one of the most dramatic in the archdiocese’s 200-year history – but they did redistribute some parishes and schools from one family to another.
Church officials said they made the revisions for a wide range of reasons, including geography, ties to parish schools, cultural similarities, ties to religious orders and long-standing relationships between parishes.
Over 7,800 Catholics weighed on the plane during the three-week public comment period, Archdiocese spokeswoman Jennifer Schack said.
She said the contribution “brought a fresh perspective and shed light on local considerations that were important in collectively reaching a more solid arrangement.” Church officials made 27 changes to the plan based on this contribution.
âWe hope the open comment period has made this a plan that anyone can embrace,â Schack said.
The final version of the plan eliminates what had been the largest family of parishes, located northeast of Dayton, which included 11 parishes in Champaign, Clark and Logan counties. This parish family is now divided in two.
Other parish families have grown, particularly in the southern region near Cincinnati, and the total number of parish families in the archdiocesan 19 counties has increased from 60 to 57.
The Archdiocese posted the final version of his plan on his website Sunday noon, as well as information on how and why he undertook Beacons of Light.
It took over a year of planning for church leaders and outside consultants to develop the parish family maps, but there is still a lot of work to be done.
The first step is to dissolve the existing parish councils and create new ones that will represent all the parishes within each family. Next is the appointment of pastors in February and March to lead each family.
The most visible change, at least early in the process, will probably be in the times of Mass. Pastors and parish councils will have to decide which churches will receive which masses to welcome everyone into the new parish families.
More difficult decisions will come later when these same councils and pastors consider closing or consolidating schools and churches.
Schnurr said these decisions would not be made by him or anyone else at the archdiocesan central office. âSome parish families may come to the conclusion that we really don’t need all of these campuses,â Schnurr said in October. “It will be a decision of the parish family.”
Reverend Jan Schmidt, who oversaw Beacons of Light, urged Catholics on Sunday to get involved in the process of bringing parish families together.
âThe hard work begins now,â Schmidt said. “It won’t be easy for any of us.”
Some Catholics and lay organizations, including members of Voice of the Faithful, have complained that the Archdiocese should have involved more parishioners earlier in the process. Schack said church officials also heard some of these complaints during the public comment period, but most Catholics, enthusiastically or not, understood why the changes were being made.
A 177-page report prepared earlier this year for the Archdiocese found that Mass attendance fell 22.5 percent between 2010 and 2019, Catholic school enrollments fell 14 percent over the same. period, and the number of priests, which has been declining for decades, is expected to drop a further 18% by 2031.
âIf we didn’t, we would basically be dealing with the decline,â Schack said. “It does not fulfill the mission of the church.”
See the maps
The Archdiocese released these maps on Sunday.