Imlay City’s Sacred Heart Parish will join St. Cornelius of Dryden and Immaculate Conception Church of Lapeer as members of the Detroit Archdiocese’s ‘Family 2’ in the Thumb Vicariate.

Restructuring efforts to form 51 families for S.E. Michigan

TRI-CITY AREA — Several local Catholic churches are among those to be part of a major restructuring process during the next two years starting in 2021 and continuing into 2022.

On Dec. 9, the Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit announced that 216 parishes in southeastern Michigan will be grouped into 51 families, each comprised of three to eight parishes which will share priests.

Impact locally

Listed among the local churches to be reorganized are St. Nicholas of Capac, St. John the Evangelist in Allenton, Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Emmett and Sacred Heart Parish of Yale who will form “Family 1” in the Archdiocese’s Thumb Vicariate.

Area churches scheduled to form “Family 2” in the Thumb Vicariate include Sacred Heart Parish of Imlay City, St. Cornelius of Dryden and Immaculate Conception Church of Lapeer.

The changes were approved by Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron, who said the changes will not result in immediate closings of individual parishes.

“Families of Parishes are groups of parishes, generally three to six, sharing resources to advance the mission, including having multiple priests and deacons serving the Family of Parishes. This new model will allow the priests, deacons, religious and lay staff associated with each parish to better share their gifts and talents with the whole Family of Parishes,” the Archdiocese stated on their website.

The restructuring is the result of a shortage of priests and other factors.

“Our shift to Families of Parishes is a response to Synod 16, which called for a complete renewal of structures of our parishes to make them radically mission-oriented. Our goal is to make our parishes places where individuals and families can encounter Jesus anew, grow as disciples, and be equipped to be witnesses of the Risen Christ,” the archdiocese said.

“The current health and economic crises have accelerated the process of renewing the way our parishes are organized and structured. In addition to the already problematic priest shortage, we now have fewer material resources to keep our mission active. Archbishop Vigneron, in consultation with clergy and lay advisors, has determined that now is the time to act.”

The Archdiocese of Detroit reported that the changes will occur in two waves—the first to take place in July 2021; followed by a second wave in July 2022.

“We must move forward with greater collaboration and better stewardship of our resources,” leaders stated.

Church leaders stress that a Family of Parishes isn’t the same as the cluster or merged parish model already in place, but a group of individual parishes “led by an intentionally-formed team to address and focus on mission.”

The Archdiocese said the cluster model currently being used places a significant burden on priests who are managing multiple councils, religious education programs and more for each for each parish in the cluster, plus regular sacramental duties.

“Feedback from priests is that this model is not life-giving nor is it sustainable,” they said.
Numbers decline

As of 2020, there are currently 216 active parishes in the Archdiocese if Detroit

Those numbers are down from 304 parishes in 2005, and 267 in 2012.

There are currently about 240 priests assigned to those parishes.

Priest shortage

In the absence of available ordained priests, masses can still be conducted by deacons.

Catholic doctrine allows deacons to witness marriages, perform baptisms, preside over funeral and burial services outside of Mass, distribute Holy Communion and preach the homily (a sermon given after the Gospel of Mass).

Tom Wearing started at the Tri-City Times in 1989, covering the Village of Capac as a beat reporter. He later served stints as assistant editor and editor. Today, he covers Imlay City and Almont as a staff writer. He enjoys music and plays drums and sings with various musical groups in the Detroit Metropolitan area.