NEW YORK, New York–The Archdiocese of New York is planning a significant realignment that could result in the closing of “dozens” of parishes, according to new reports. The realignment is part of a broader plan that would expand the consolidation of reforms in 2007, which closed down a number of churches.
Capital New York reports that the managers of the Archdiocese are looking to close down the less-inhabited parishes and move clergy closer together. The process, they write, is “likely to result in the most significant sweep of parish closings seen here in recent memory.” The parishes in danger include a number of historic entities in Manhattan, including the Church of St. John the Baptist and the Church of the Holy Innocents in Manhattan.
The plan requires the participation of many in all the churches targeted for closure. There is no precise record of just which churches administrators are considering closing. The original plan, however, has been sent back to local advisory groups for review. According to Archdiocese spokesman Joseph Zwilling, speaking to Capital New York, the decisions will be made in a semi-democratic way. “In this process, every parish is taking part. Every parish has been asked to do a self-evaluation and then to put forward proposals,” he said.
The final report on how to reorganize the entire Archdiocese is due to Cardinal Timothy Dolan in June, and few details are likely to emerge before then on the situation in Manhattan, the Bronx, and other areas covered by the Archdiocese.
These reports of a contraction in the Catholic Church’s presence in New York follow reports that Catholic schools are also struggling in the city, particularly in the wake of charter schools. According to the New York Post, the number of children attending Catholic schools has dropped by 35% in the past ten years. The paper notes that 58 Catholic schools have been eliminated since 2011 to accommodate this change in demand, which many suspect is directly related to charter schools. As parents are increasingly unable to pay Catholic school tuition, the appeal of tuition-free charter schools increases.
This is not a situation felt in every Catholic school, however. As the Archdiocese retools and attempts to attract more students to its education system, one report notes a 6% increase in student enrollment at six schools in Harlem and the Bronx that have worked in cooperation with a non-profit to boost school enrollment.