Consolidations, collaborations in Catholic parishes, schools future?

It began last fall and this past Thursday, members of two Catholic parishes were given a look at recommendations that, if implemented, will impact their way of worship.
Pastoral plans for two rural deaneries, the Rural Southwest and the Rural Central deaneries, include proposals for parish consolidations and suggested regional clusters of parishes which would involve sharing personnel, resources and programs.
The plans suggests that nine rural parishes consolidate with other parishes and their churches become chapels for special occasions, one parish is targeted to become a mission church for Sunday Masses and other sacraments. Chapels could be used for weddings, funerals, festivals and other events.
Within the report, it is also suggested that – down the road a bit further –  St. Boniface parish in Elgin work in a cluster with St. Francis of Assisi in Neligh. As a cluster, the two parishes would remain independent and each would keep their priests. Clustering would reduce office personnel and consolidate committees and programs.
Pastoral planning with a hard look at the near future was deemed necessary as the Omaha archdiocese, and many across the country, are facing a declining number of active priests to serve all the parishes, especially in rural settings where the number of parishioners is declining.
In the immediate area, hardest hit by the recommendations is the parish of St. Bonaventure in Raeville. St. Bonaventure is one being recommended to change to a chapel. While the parish is smaller, continued strong support, financially and more, plus the recent completion of a new parish hall which was approved by the archdiocese had parishioners feeling that they would be considered a strong parish to keep open.
Local pastoral plan committee member Brian Stuhr, a member of St. Bonaventure, has had several weeks to ponder the recommendations but still feels like the parish was blindsided by the findings.
“My thought was, if they (the archdiocese office) were going to give us an indication that something was going to be coming up….I would have thought that they would not have allowed us to build that hall,” he told The Elgin Review. Having just dedicated the new hall this spring, Stuhr summed it up as “We’re talking, in seven months from the dedication of the hall, potentially we could be no longer in business as a parish.”
Committee member and St. Boniface parishioner Ben Meis says his impression is that it is a numbers game and the deciding number isn’t necessarily the number of priests.
“It’s due to shrinking populations,” he told The Elgin Review. “It’s indicative of the smaller rural communities and now it’s carrying on into our parishes. There’s not necessarily a shortage of priests…there’s fewer priests (and) they are basically allocated to the larger parishes. Your parish can offer all of the programs, have as much involvement as possible and be in the black financially but it seems like the priests are going to gravitate towards those parishes who have the most parishioners.”
Both men noted that the consulting group, Wisconsin-based Meitler, did not take into account the role of parishes that are part of the Pope John XXIII Central Catholic High School corporation.  The school’s structure will likely impact the final recommendation.
Any subsequent changes that result from parish meetings and recommendations will be considered with a final decision by Archbishop George J. Lucas sometime in November and implementation as soon as early 2018.
The reports can found on the archdiocese’s website at
As reported by the Catholic Voice, here are the parish consolidations proposed in the reports, by deanery:
Rural Southwest Deanery: St. Joseph Parish in Platte Center with St. Isidore Parish in Columbus; St. Joseph Church becomes a chapel; St. Stanislaus Parish, Duncan, with St. Anthony Parish, Columbus; St. Stanislaus Church becomes a chapel; Ss, Peter and Paul Parish, Krakow, with St. Rose of Lima Parish, Genoa; Ss. Peter and Paul Church becomes a chapel; St. Peter Parish, Clarks, with St. Michael Parish, Central City; St. Peter Church becomes a chapel; St. Michael Parish, Tarnov, with St. Francis Parish, Humphrey; St. Michael Church becomes a chapel.
Rural Central Deanery: Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish, Tilden, with St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Neligh; Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church becomes a chapel; St. Bonaventure Church, Raeville, with St. Boniface Parish, Elgin; St. Bonaventure Church becomes a chapel. St. Boniface would cluster with St. Francis of Assisi in Neligh; St. Francis de Sales Parish, Schoolcraft, with St. Patrick Parish, Battle Creek; St. Francis de Sales Church becomes a chapel; St. John the Baptist Parish, Petersburg, with St. Michael Parish, Albion; St. John the Baptist Church becomes a mission church, with Sunday Masses and other sacraments.