At the end of June, 26 Catholic churches in the state are set to close. Some will be sold, while others could be converted to youth centers, homeless shelters, or other types of facilities. In addition, 59 churches will merge with others as part of a restructuring plan recently announced by the Hartford Archdiocese.
Leaders said they've seen a dramatic decline in Sunday mass attendance and a drop in the number of priests -- but not for reasons you might think, according to Father James Shanley, Vicar of Pastoral Planning for the Archdiocese of Hartford.
"The demographics in Connecticut are shifting," Shanley said. "Many of the Catholics, as well as the entire population -- certainly a great percentage of them -- are moving south. So as we’re closing certain church buildings up here, in the South, they’re opening them all the time -- building large cathedrals, large churches that hold 2,000 people."
Speaking on WNPR’s Where We Live, Shanley said they hope the new merged communities will be vibrant, diverse, and provide better outreach to the poor.
The Archdiocese oversees parishes in Hartford, Litchfield, and New Haven Counties.
Waterbury will be the hardest hit, with four churches scheduled to close.