By JOANNE FOX
CARROLL – As Ministry 2025, pastoral planning for the Diocese of Sioux City, continues to implement changes, the priests and deacons of the Carroll County team have been meeting with the two lay directors from each of the 13 parishes for the past several months to craft a plan for the future.
According to Father Kevin Richter, pastor of the churches, the team has also been in dialogue with diocesan officials, “doing the difficult work of trying to devise a plan that addresses the priest shortage within our diocese, as well as the changing demographics within Carroll County.”
“This process has not been easy,” Father Richter acknowledged. “Difficult decisions must be made as we face these issues.”
Since July of 2017, the team of priests in Carroll County have been rotating to each of the parishes for the weekend Masses. In addition to Father Richter, the team includes: Fathers Brian Feller, John Gerald, Shinoj Jose and Mark Stoll, who are all parochial vicars and Father Timothy Schott, the senior priest.
That team’s assignments which take effect this summer, can be found on pages 4-5 of this edition.
The team has proposed the following plan, outlined in a letter that was sent to all registered households in Carroll County, that features two clusters of parishes.
Cluster Group A
In this cluster, there will be the current parishes of Holy Spirit and St. Lawrence in Carroll, Father Richter explained.
“These two parishes will be unified to form one parish with two so-called worship sites,” he said. “This means that on the surface, in the day-to-day life of the parish, the average parishioner will see little change. Both churches will continue to be used.”
The primary changes will come in the administration of the parishes, Father Richter pointed out, “as there will be one office site and a unified staff serving the needs of the unified parish.”
Aligned with this parish, will be three rural parishes: St. Mary Parish, Willey; St. Joseph Parish, Dedham and Annunciation Parish in Coon Rapids.
This cluster will be served by three priests: a pastor and two parochial vicars. The second parochial vicar will also serve as a chaplain to Kuemper Catholic School.
Cluster Group B
In this cluster, there will be six of the rural parishes: St. John Parish, Arcadia; St. Bernard Parish, Breda; Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish, Mount Carmel; St. Augustine Parish, Halbur; Sacred Heart Parish in Templeton and St. Elizabeth Seton Parish in Glidden.
This cluster will be served by two priests: a pastor, Father Stoll, and Father Schott, who is a retired priest.
Father Richter expressed his gratitude to Father Schott for agreeing to assist with the ministering of the churches.
“It is our hope and intention, as it is Father Schott’s, that this relationship can continue far into the future,” he said. “However, we do understand that this could be a matter of months or a number of years.”
Taking the new clusters and availability of priests into consideration, Father Richter reported it is being proposed that two parishes will move to so-called oratory status in July: Holy Family Parish in Lidderdale and Holy Angels Parish in Roselle.
“Being an oratory means that these sites will no longer be a parish; rather, the site will become part of a neighboring parish,” he said. “Mass will not be celebrated on the weekdays or weekends, but may be celebrated for a special occasion, such as a patronal feast, anniversary, wedding, funerals or a special devotion.”
Father Richter clarified that the plan proposes, in the event Father Schott would no longer be able to serve as senior priest, the parishes of St. Elizabeth Seton and Our Lady of Mount Carmel would become oratories.
“In future conversations with the Finance Councils and the people of each of these sites, it may be determined to simply close a site rather than maintain it as an oratory,” he added. “At that point, decisions would be made about what to do with the property.”
In the coming months, Father Richter noted there will be more meetings with the priests, deacons and parish lay directors to complete the steps needed to implement the plan and “to engage in a pastoral planning process that will strengthen our parishes for future ministry and service for the entire Catholic community of this county.”
Besides the closing, merging and realignment of parishes, part of the Ministry 2025 process is to strive to improve the strengths and minimize the weaknesses in each separate parish,” he said. “Additionally, we want to continue to evangelize those who have fallen away from the church and we want to strive to create an overall culture that promotes deeper faith and an increase in vocations to the priesthood and religious life.”
Father Richter asked that the faithful continue to keep the Ministry 2025 process in their prayers.
“It is a difficult time for many people with significant transitions being asked of all of us,” he said. “My hope is that we continue to find ways as Catholics in Carroll County to work together and be unified in faith and in who we are as a people of God.”