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SIOUX CITY – After announcing plans early last year to reduce the number of parishes in northwest Iowa, the Diocese of Sioux City has finalized plans to reduce its number of parishes by almost 45 percent. Diocesan officials announced the reduction plan last Friday, Jan. 13, which call for changes to several parishes in Palo Alto County. The reduction plan announced last Friday calls for the reduction of parishes in Mallard, Ayrshire and Ruthven to Oratory status, while the parishes in Emmetsburg and Graettinger will be clustered together. “Our Catholic population is not only shifting across the diocese, but it is increasing in diversity and aging,” The Rev. Kevin McCoy, vicar general who serves on the diocese’s Priests Personnel Board, said in a news release. With the reduction plan the number of parishes in the Sioux City Diocese will drop from 108 to 61. The reasoning for the reduction is due to lagging church attendance and a growing shortage of priests within the diocese, which encompasses 24 counties in Northwest Iowa.  Also attributed as a reason for the reduction is the loss of households in the diocese, which decreased some 7.5 percent between 2008 and 2015, when talks began about reducing the number of parishes. The Sioux City Diocese is comprised of six deaneries, 108 parishes, 46 clusters and 23 schools. Through the announced reduction plan, the Diocese will have 61 parishes grouped into 31 clusters and four deaneries. A deanerie is a regional alignment of parishes and clusters. Clusters are neighboring parishes that are served by one priest. The reduction plan will not impact any of the schools in the diocese Under the plan, a move to “Oratory” status for a parish means that the building will no longer hold regular Masses, but would be able to continue to host special events, such as weddings and funerals. The Mallard, Ayrshire and Ruthven churches join 35 other churches in the diocese being moved to “oratory status,,” which will remain open for prayer along with special events, but will no longer host weekly Mass. The parish at Graettinger will be combined with the Emmetsburg parish in a cluster along with the three oratory parishes in Mallard, Ruthven and Aurshire. According to Diocesan officials, the number of clusters was kept at 31, with the anticipation that a like-number of priests will be available to serve as pastors for those clusters. Some clusters might be able to have an associate pastor to assist under the plan. “That is one thing we couldn’t change,” said the Rev. Brent Lingle, diocesan director of pastoral planning. “It takes a long time to form priests and pastors, so we will be locked into that number for the foreseeable future.” Most of the proposed changes for the Diocese will go into effect this Summer, according to the release. But, some changes will take place over several years and will be based on retirements and personnel moves. According to Lingel, some parts of the reduction plan may not take place until 2021. The timing of parishes entering oratory status will also depend on personnel, as personnel changes are being evaluated in ongoing fashion by the Diocese’s Priests Personnel Board. The Priest Personnel Board will consider skills of priests for assignments to clusters, such as second-language skills.

 
 

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