The Archdiocese of Indianapolis has announced plans to close three churches and consolidate others after a 16 month study of the city’s 47 parishes.
The decision is viewed as a way to better position churches for the future, but it also comes with heart break.
Holy Trinity Parish has been an integral part of Nancy Rasmussen’s life. She and her seven siblings were baptized and received their sacraments at the church. But, Rassmussen has seen a decline in parishioners recently and thought a time would come when the church would have to close.
That time is now.
"It's sad, but I'm not so entrenched that I can't see the reality of the decision and the reasons behind the decision," she said.
Trinity is one of three Indianapolis churches closing in November. It will merge with St. Anthony Parish. The other two churches are Holy Cross, St. Bernadette.
Rasmussen is among the more than 1,000 people losing their church.
A shortage of priests, financial struggles, and dwindling membership contributed to the decision that archbishop Joseph Tobin knows is painful.
"I anticipate that this is going to hurt a lot of people," he said. "In order to justify disturbing lives, I had to have a compelling reason. The compelling reason is the overall future for the Catholic Church in this community."
Besides the three that are closing, four others parishes will combine to share pastors.
Tobin thinks downsizing is an opportunity to re-evaluate the archdiocese’s mission.
"People will focus on the most dramatic changes which are those three (closing) parishes and the linked parishes," said Tobin. "But, all of those other parishes and there are 47 of them total, they've had to think and have come up with some very creative strategies about how they are going to face the future. So, I think inducing that sort of thinking, it was a good thing."
Father Nick Dent is the Pastor at St. Bernadette, which will merge with another parish where he is pastor – Our Lady of Lourdes.
Dent says even though the churches have collaborated in the past, they’ll face challenges in forming a` unified identity.
"Every parish has a different personality," said Dent. "The difficulty will be because they are different personalities and they also each love their faith community as it has been given to them from people who handed it on to them. So, that's going to be kind of difficult to give up something you have a lot of attachment to."
But, he also thinks the merge allows parishioners to address problems on a larger scale.
"What's gained is that the strengths of both little faith communities will be combined and they can work together maybe in a more effective way," said Dent. "I think that will be a real strength. Each community will bring what they have to the table and try to pool that together to try to make it work effectively."
As part of the planning process, all 47 Indianapolis parishes agreed to create joint programs to best utilize resources.
Holy Trinity Pastor John McCaslin thinks the situation is a chance to show Indianapolis parishes can execute the church’s teachings.
"I know it's going to be painful for us. I'm sad for my community and my parishioners," he said. "I know this is going to be painful for us, but also, we are people who believe in the resurrection so, there is always hope of resurrection. My hope is that together we will forge a commitment to continue that mission with the shared talents and resources of our community that in the long wrong we will be better positioned."
What to do with the closing churches is up to the parishes where they are merging. They will submit a facilities recommendation to Archbishop Tobin later this year.
Parishioners of the three closing churches also can submit an appeal within the next 10 days describing why they think the churches should remain open.