Mention the words “Renew My Church” to many parishioners at Catholic parishes in Chicago and its suburbs and you’re likely to see someone wince.
Underway now for the past several years, Renew My Church is an effort by the Archdiocese of Chicago to address dwindling Mass attendance and financial contributions from parishioners; an ever-smaller number of priests to administer the many, increasingly smaller congregations; and the enormous cost of maintaining parish campuses that house shuttered or low-enrollment schools, and support buildings like convents, rectories and parish halls that can be a century old.
Parishes have been grouped geographically by the archdiocese and enter the Renew My Church “discernment” process at the same time. We’ve seen several of these processes play out in other communities where Growing Community Media has a presence, and they all have a common denominator:
Your parish is going to change.
In most instances, the initial change can appear modest. While parishes often merge — that’s what happened with St. Luke in River Forest and St. Bernardine in Forest Park — where both churches remain worship sites, that’s not always the case.
Most recently, further south, St. Mary of Riverside, Mater Christi of North Riverside and St. Hugh of Lyons merged following Renew My Church. St. Mary and Mater Christi remain worship sites. St. Hugh’s campus will be sold.
While the archdiocese welcomes input from parishioners, there will be some cold calculating when it’s time to make decisions, and those decisions will be made by prelates at the archdiocesan level and blessed by the cardinal.
All we can say is that the likely outcome is that perhaps one Oak Park parish — looks to be St. Giles — might emerge intact as a single-church parish. That won’t be the case for the remaining three, so prepare yourselves, folks. Change is on the way.