Massive overhaul slated for Chicago Archdiocese; "as many as 100 churches could close over the next 14 years"

A radical overhaul in the nation's third-largest Roman Catholic archdiocese could shutter many of the Chicago church's houses of worship by 2030 as it reckons with decaying buildings and an expected shortage of priests, the church's chief operating officer confirmed Friday.

Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich told priests and advisers in meetings in recent weeks that the shortage — an estimated 240 priests available in 2030 for the archdiocese's 351 parishes — could necessitate closings and consolidations. The archdiocese governs parishes in Cook and Lake counties.

Based primarily on those projections and on future capital needs, the priests who attended the meetings say a large number of churches could close over the next 14 years. Several of those priests who attended the sessions with the archbishop shared details about the reorganization process with the Tribune, some requesting anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the discussion and because they didn't have permission to speak on behalf of the archdiocese.

The reorganization process will kick into high gear next week when auxiliary bishops begin meeting with parish leaders and staff in their regions to discuss solutions.
Priests who spoke to the Tribune said, based on the expected priest shortfall and future infrastructure needs, as many as 100 churches could close over the next 14 years.
continue at Chicago Tribune

also WSJ: Archdiocese of Chicago Facing Parish Closures
also Crux

In an interesting related development, I received this email over the weekend.
Knowing that you had earlier covered the Shrine of Christ the King, I thought you would be interested to learn that there is still hope of saving this Renaissance Revival masterpiece by architect Henry Schlacks.

Preservation Chicago has received pledges to cover the cost of stabilizing the Shrine of Christ the King in Woodlawn, a Chicago Landmark threatened with demolition by the Archdiocese since early January. The Archdiocese has said that rebuilding the church, which lost its roof in an October fire, would be “cost-prohibitive.”

To announce this wonderful news for a Chicago Landmark, the Coalition to Save the Shrine, the group which has been advocating for its preservation, will hold a Press Conference in front of the Shrine at noon tomorrow, Monday, February 8th. The announcement will be made by Ward Miller, the Executive Director of Preservation Chicago. Also confirmed in attendance in support of #SaveTheShrine are Bonnie McDonald and Lisa DiChiera, the President and Director of Advocacy for Landmarks Illinois and Jack Spicer, the Preservation Director of the Hyde Park Historical Society.


  1. Someone's got to ask the obvious: Is this what was supposed to happen after Vatican II, after we "opened up" to the world? Not saying it's the Council's fault, but clearly something went seriously off track after. And this (closures, shortages, etc) is the consequence of the Spirit of Vatican II narrative so many are still operating under. It's time to recognize the massive failures and make a bold course correction. Sadly, +Cupich seems to be the embodiment of the "Spirit of Vatican II" movement.

  2. There are a myriad of theological issues, for the most part I'll stay away from that other than we've failed on vocations.

    As a parishioner on the far south-west side of the City of Chicago, I have a few opinions/observations that might account for some of this.

    1. White Flight of the 60s-70s many parishes (and some of the most beautiful and expensive to repair) are now in areas of the City where there are 50% or fewer Catholics than there were 50 years ago; add in the fact that Catholics just go to Mass much less frequently than 50 years ago.

    2. In the City of Chicago itself, it is far less dense by population than it was in 1965. Add in the fact that there were ethnic parishes so close to each other, and those ethnicity are no longer there (white flight of Germans, Irish, Polish) it is not surprising that closings/mergers/clusters are in the works, though I'll admit 100 is scary number, that's just under a third of all churches in the Arch.

    Take for instance the parish cluster of "Blessed Sacrament" in McKinley Park. I lived in a former convent there for a year under the Archdiocese Amate House program. The convent was attached to St. Maurice (German), four blocks to the five blocks east on 36th you have Our Lady of Good Counsel (Irish), and four blocks south of that on Hermitage Sts Peter and Paul (Polish). The area is mostly Hispanic now, with some African American and Middle Eastern nationalities.

    Plus to give some credence to the Trib's article, Chicago has been delaying some closures; NY and Boston went through this 2-6 years ago.

    It comes down to engagement. Many Catholics appear to have lapsed from active to being "dones" who will in turn begat a larger generation of "nones".

    I live on the Far South West Side (19th Ward) in that area alone, there's St. Walters, St. Cajetan, St. Christina's, Queen of Martyrs, St. Barnabas, St. John Fisher, Sacred Heart, and Saint Margaret of Scotland (just outside the 19th ward but half of its boundary is in the ward).

    Soon every church in the south side anthem will have been shuttered it seems (by far the most popular song around St. Patrick's Day on the South Side - heard in every parade):


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