In a much-anticipated announcement, the Archdiocese of Chicago stated March 12 that although St. Bernardine Parish in Forest Park and St. Luke Parish in River Forest are officially being combined on July 1 as part of the Renew My Church initiative, both church locations will remain open for worship and events.

The new parish will be called St. Luke St. Bernardine Parish, and the pastor overseeing the combined parish will be St. Bernardine’s current pastor Fr. Stan Kuca. St. Luke’s pastor, John Szmyd, said he won’t know until next week what his next assignment will be.

Kuca said, in the March 12 meeting, that although he’s been an ordained priest for 30 years, he’s never been in this exact situation before. He said, however, that with the support of parishioners and the archdiocese, he has confidence that the merger will be successful.

“I believe that by myself, I can do nothing,” Kuca said. But with the support of parishioners and the Archdiocese, he said he thinks “everything is going to go in a good direction.”

Kuca will oversee St. Luke School, in addition to overseeing all ministries of the parish. There will be no changes to St. Luke School.

Both sites will remain in operation, hosting a regular schedule of masses, the specifics of which will be determined by Kuca. There will be plenty of opportunities, however, for both the Forest Park and River Forest worship groups to come together through special events.

St. Luke church has been designated the location for the united parishes’ sacramental records.

It was announced during the meeting that beginning in 2024, three years from now, the sustainability of maintaining two locations will be revisited and discussed, giving the united parish until then to work on focusing on unification.

Whether the religious education program for Catholic children attending non-Catholic schools will be combined is a decision that will be made by Kuca.

In terms of a parish council for the new combined parish, it was declared that Kuca will, over the next few months, work on a new parish council representing parishioners from both locations.

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