Eighty-five Catholic parishes in Connecticut merged or closed on Thursday, June 29, the result of a pastoral plan that was in the works at the Hartford Archdiocese for two years.
The changes come as the number of registered Catholics in the state is down, and mass attendance has dropped even more.
Archbishop of Hartford Leonard Blair told WNPR that consolidation will hopefully boost Catholic practice in the state.
“We simply had to take a good look at ourselves, and the way we’re configured, in light of today’s realities. It’s clear that we really need to revitalize the sense of mission among our Catholic clergy and people,” he said.
Over the last 50 years, the number of registered Catholics in Connecticut fell by more than 25 percent -- and average weekly mass attendance fell by nearly 70 percent. Despite these declines, the number of parishes in the state rose.
At the same time, Connecticut’s population is aging -- and its Catholic parishes reflect this.
Rick Meehan, a member of St. Mary Church in Lakeville, said he has seen this first hand.
"I do see it's an aging population," he said. "I have two daughters … and the younger population, for the most part, isn’t staying around here."
Meehan recognizes that the Catholic Church needs to make changes that will attract young millennials. But with St. Mary set to merge with two other parishes, he and other members of St. Mary feel that they did not have enough of a say in how consolidation got carried out.
"This whole process has come as a bit of a shock to us," Meehan said. "The reality is that it was initially painted as if it was going to be a transparent, compassionate approach to us combining parishes. The unfortunate part is I don’t think that’s what I’ve seen, or any of the parishioners in the northwest corner have seen."
“I can assure that in the process when people did have some further information to provide, that is was listened to,” said Archbishop Blair. “My heart does go out to people who feel a sense of loss. You know, sometimes change is painful or difficult and brings sorrow, but it can also be turned to the good, and I’m confident that that’s what will happen.”
There are more changes to come for Catholic churchgoers in Connecticut. By 2027, the Archdiocese plans to have 85 parishes. That’s 42 fewer than today.