SEATTLE — To continue meeting the needs of its parishioners and the at-large community, the Archdiocese of Seattle has announced a plan that will combine parishes, inevitably closing some churches.
“We have been looking at data and the trends for Archdiocese,” Caitlin Moulding, the COO, said. "Part of what we want to do is to create the systems and programs and models that will bring young people back to church."
From 2010 to 2019, the Archdiocese of Seattle says there was an 11% decline in mass attendance, 30% fewer baptisms, and an 18% decline in Catholic weddings. On top of that, they currently have 80 pastors throughout Western Washington and expect that number to drop to 66 by the year 2036
However, Moulding says those numbers don’t paint a full picture of what’s happening on the ground.
“We definitely have some parishes that have grown and are really vibrant in terms of their faith outreach, justice outreach,” Moulding said. “Then, we have others that have really shrunk, based on the demographic in that community.”
Parishes used to encompass neighborhoods and were meant to be within walking distance of the community they served. Moulding says that model has changed, meaning people can now choose to go to a parish in another neighborhood or even city based on a variety of reasons.
Over the weekend, the Archdiocese of Seattle released The Partners in Gospel Plan which will address the financial strain it is facing. The plan will allow parishes to combine, at least two, and then, those parishes will make decisions on things like closing certain churches and facilities.
"By bringing two or more parishes together, we're able to pull those resources and invest in all the things that make somebodies faith really live on a day-to-day basis in a more vibrant way,” Moulding said.
While The Partners in Gospel Plan is a way to keep the Archdiocese of Seattle in the black, Moulding says there’s a benefit for the community at large since they provide a variety of social services
“We have six parishes today that offer immigrant support for families in Ukraine and Afghanistan. Services for the homeless, food banks, refugee and immigrant support,” she said.
The Partners in Gospel Plan is expected to take one and a half years to complete. In fall 2023, the Archdiocese plans to have a draft of what parishes will combine and what churches and other facilities will close. Parishioners will provide feedback. Summer 2024 is the planned finish date.