Seattle Archdiocese Says Parishes Must Merge Due to Decline in Number of Catholics| National Catholic Register

Archbishop Jerome Lloyd OSJVPosted by

Despite a growing overall population in western Washington, the number of practicing Catholics continues to decline, the archdiocese said in a statement.

Twin towers of St James Cathedral on First Hill in Seattle rise into the sky.
Twin towers of St James Cathedral on First Hill in Seattle rise into the sky. (photo: Dewar Photography / Shutterstock)

Kevin J. Jones/CNANationJanuary 24, 2023

A decline in Catholic religious practice and other changes in western Washington state means parishes will have to merge so that parish life can sustain itself, the Archdiocese of Seattle said Sunday.

“The mission of the Catholic Church is at the heart of strategic pastoral planning,” Archbishop Paul Etienne of Seattle said Jan. 22. “To achieve our mission, we must reinvigorate the faith of our people and re-envision how we live our faith in our parish communities, which includes adapting to our current reality so that we can strengthen our relationship with Jesus, accompany one another in faith, and credibly proclaim the Gospel.”

Despite a growing overall population in western Washington, the number of practicing Catholics continues to decline, the archdiocese said in a statement. There are fewer households registered with a parish and fewer people attend Mass, receive the sacraments, and take part in parish life. From 2010 to 2019, the archdiocese said, Mass attendance fell by 11%, baptismal numbers declined by 30%, and weddings declined by 18%.

“With all of the changes that we’re facing today — globally, culturally, and within the Church — it’s very clear the status quo is no longer an option,” Archbishop Etienne said.

The archdiocese’s strategic planning process, called Partners in the Gospel, is “a plan for how we embrace these realities with hope and confidence,” the archbishop said.

Under the planning process, most parishes will combine into a “new family structure.” Two or more parishes will become a single canonical parish under the leadership of one pastor and one or more parochial vicars. The pastor, parish leaders, and parishioners will then determine questions such as how to share resources, staff, ministries, outreach efforts, and facilities.

The Seattle Archdiocese has fewer resources, including priests, lay leaders, and financial assets. There are 80 diocesan pastors for 174 locations, but it predicts it will have only 66 pastors in 2036.

“We need to adapt to times,” said Jesús Gómez Sánchez, a member of the archdiocesan pastoral council. “The worst we could do is remain not doing anything about it and just seeing the numbers in our Church decrease.”

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Seattle Archdiocese Says Parishes Must Merge Due to Decline in Number of Catholics| National Catholic Register

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