By Joan Hadac
Editor and Publisher
Editor and Publisher
Southwest Chicago Post
The Chicago Archdiocese has announced that St. Bede the Venerable, St. Denis and St. Thomas More Parishes will merge no later than July 1--part of a larger Catholic Church downsizing across the city and suburbs.
The announcement was made public via a press release sent out Tuesday morning.
St. Bede and St. Denis will unite to form a new parish, with a new name that will be determined later, at two worship sites. Both churches will continue to have a regular schedule of Masses, which may differ from their current schedule.
St. Thomas More will become a canonical mission, connected to the newly formed parish of St. Bede and St. Denis.
The Archdiocesan announcement made no mention of St. Bede School, but an Archdiocesan spokesman told the Southwest Chicago Post today that the school will remain open as is. Both St. Denis and St. Thomas More lost their schools years ago.
The move was not entirely a surprise to parishioners. They had in recent months been part of a Renew My Church planning process that made it clear there would be a downsizing.
The goal of Renew My Church, Archdiocesan officials say, is to “make disciples, build communities and inspire witness,” according to a statement.
Renew My Church is the Archdiocese of Chicago’s “response to Jesus Christ’s call and our invitation for renewal. Called by Jesus Christ, we are making disciples, building communities and inspiring witness. The Renew My Church process will transform the Archdiocese over the next several years by working with groupings of parishes to determine how they will achieve the goal of having vibrant, life-giving faith communities accessible to all Catholics.”
“Today, we face a trending crisis of faith,” the unnamed narrator of a Renew My Church video says. “Fewer people than ever are connected with organized religion. Many who identify as Catholic do not attend weekly Mass. Overall, we see an increase in signs of a broken world. As a result of this crisis, we find ourselves with less people and financial resources for ministry.”
Despite the crisis, the video offers a confident and optimistic view of the future.
“We are a strong and committed church that will work together to overcome the challenges we face today and in the centuries to come,” the narrator adds. Through the Renew My Church initiative, the Archdiocese “will recommit our local church to the Gospel commission to make disciples, build vital communities of faith and inspire witness to bring the light and hope of Christ to a world in need.”
After the first video, Archdiocesan officials released another Renew My Church video—seemingly in response to pushback they have received from some Catholics skeptical of the process.
Entitled “Trust the Process,” the video includes an exhortation by Karen Moretti, a suburban Catholic and member of the new St. Mother Theodore Guerin Parish—a result of the Renew My Church consolidation of parishes in River Grove and Elmwood Park.
“Keep the vision alive, because it will be difficult when you’re going through your [Renew My Church] groupings,” Moretti said. “If you keep the vision, you’ll realize that what you give up now will be for a much greater future. It’s kind of like taking a bad-tasting medicine and then feeling a lot better later.”
Like most Catholic parishes in the U.S., those in Wrightwood, Ashburn, Parkview and Scottsdale have suffered in recent decades from declining Mass attendance, financial contributions and numbers of priests available to administer sacraments.
The planned consolidation of St. Bede, St. Denis and St. Thomas More comes on the heels of mergers elsewhere across the Southwest Side and the entire Chicago area. For example, St. Adrian in Chicago Lawn and Queen of the Universe in West Lawn merged as the newly named Mary, Mother of Mercy Parish.
Such mergers are not new. Decades ago on the Southwest Side, Archdiocesan officials consolidated parishes in West Englewood. St. Justin Martyr, St. Mary of Mount Carmel, St. Theodore and others were either merged or closed.
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