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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh is set to reveal a massive top-to-bottom reorganization of parishes and clergy this weekend.
Three years ago, Bishop David Zubik realized he could no longer preside over decline and decided to address the tough issues head-on.
While more than 600,000 people in the Diocese identified as Catholic, the vast majority no longer practice their faith. Since the year 2000, mass attendance was down by more than 40 percent, as were baptisms, first communions, confirmation and holy matrimony.
“The tough issues of declining population, the declining number of people coming to worship, the declining number of priests,” Zubik said, “and we said, ‘How can we look at this through a lens that is realistic, but positive?'”
The answer is something called “On Mission For The Church Alive,” a call to the parishes in all six counties to come up with a plan to turn things around. This weekend, the results will be announced at mass — a top-to-bottom reorganization aimed at rejuvenation.
“The whole purpose of it is in the title,” Zubik said. “We really want to do everything we can to make the church alive.”
The plan is this: the 188 churches with 225 church buildings will now be grouped into 57 multi-site parishes.
These “super parishes” will be tasked to work together over the next few years to come up with a plan to best use limited resources, which will eventually mean the closure of some churches and the consolidation of some schools. The key word being “eventually.”
“I think if there’s been one huge misconception that I’m hearing from a lot of people is they think church buildings are going to close right away or parishes will be suppressed right away,” Zubik said. “Not so.”
At mass, the Diocese will also announce a complete re-shuffling of all of its priest and deacon assignments to shepherd through these changes, which will begin in October.
“Clergy teams working with their people will have either two, three or five years to be able to, first of all, come together and then they can start to make those decisions of how many buildings do we need and all those kinds of things,” Zubik said.
Zubik says each of these parishes will design its own path.
“We’re not approaching this as a cookie-cutter baking experiment,” he said. “Every single parish will have the potential to be creating its own personality, if you will.”
The hope is that by coming together, these super parishes will become revitalized communities of faith and, with new resources for youth ministries and social outreach, come alive in ways never seen before.
“How do we develop deeper relationships of faith so we can focus on the ultimate goal that’s important for all of us, which is to get to heaven?” Zubik said.