Traverse City Record-Eagle


June 19, 2012

Diocese faces 50-plus church closings

SAGINAW TOWNSHIP (AP) — More than 50 Catholic churches and other worship sites in 11 Michigan counties could be closed as part of a reorganization by the Diocese of Saginaw.

The diocese has proposed reducing its 105 churches by more than half and closing 18 additional sites by July 2013, according to

Diocese officials are faced with declining membership. The number of parishioners has dropped by more than 51,000 since 1988. Current membership is close to 109,000.

"It is my hope that we ... may gradually come to understand that a parish is not only a building where we gather together to worship and share our experience of faith with one another, but a community of communities in which everyone has a role to play ... for the sake of God's kingdom," the Rev. Christian Tabares said in a statement.

The diocese has churches in Arenac, Bay, Clare, Gladwin, Gratiot, Huron, Isabella, Midland, Saginaw, Sanilac and Tuscola counties.

Some parishes may merge as part of the reorganization.

A planning commission will review closing proposals. The diocese is expected to announce final plans in January.

The diocese's top official, the Most Rev. Bishop Joseph R. Cistone, said the Saginaw diocese is going through an "emotional time."

"Yet, we must keep in mind that, ultimately, the church exists to evangelize," Cistone said in a statement. "I remain extremely optimistic that the Diocese of Saginaw has a wonderful future of life, ministry, worship and service."

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