Q. I hear they might close my parish. What are the criteria used in determining which parishes close and which stay open?
A. According to Royce Ranniger, director of operations for the Diocese of Sioux City, a number of factors are taken into account when evaluating whether or not a parish should remain open or close.
“We look at number of households in the parish and at how many people are attending Mass, which is why we have the parishes take a Mass count in November,” he explained.
“Parish ministries – which is more than just having weekly Mass – are looked at,” Ranniger continued. “Often, the geographic location to the nearest Catholic church is taken into consideration. Certainly, the physical condition of the church is evaluated. Obviously, the availability of priests to handle the duties required of a viable parish is ultimate. Finally, the financial stability of the parish is examined.”
Q. I know we have assets. If we close, what’s going to happen to the money that we have in the bank?
A. “The unrestricted assets of a closing parish follow the parishioners to the new parish where they are registered. Restricted funds to care for the cemetery will transfer to the assuming parish as assigned by Bishop Walker Nickless.”
Q. What will happen to the statues, the pews, the altar?
A. “The director of worship for the diocese (Father Brent Lingle) will assist the pastor in relocating most of the sacred items of the church building being closed. In most cases these will be relocated to other parishes in the diocese or other dioceses.”
Q. What about the building itself? The land it sits on?
A. “The pastor of the closing parish – with Bishop’s approval – will either sell or raze the church building. In most cases the building and other properties are sold.”
Q.What types of approaches might the diocese be taking in reviewing the viability of parishes?
A. According to Father Ed Girres, pastor of St. Cecelia Parish, Algona, the diocese’s Presbyteral Council formed a committee for strategic planning earlier this year. At this time, the committee is gathering and collecting data, including sacramental statistics and Mass counts from previous years, in addition to survey data from the pastors.
“We may be doing a very comprehensive plan that includes lay people next year,” he said. “We have to do more than simply suggest closure of parishes because of priests’ numbers. We need to ask ourselves how we can best live our faith with diminishing numbers of people, priests and resources.”
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