Alarm Grows Over Catholic Church Decline

( – On Sunday April 14, the Archdiocese of Baltimore released a plan for closing 40 of 61 parishes in Baltimore City and surrounding areas due to declining church attendance. Among those is St. Vincent de Paul which is Baltimore’s oldest Catholic parish church that has been in continuous operation. The plan would redraw parish lines to consolidate them into their newly reduced numbers. Many Catholics have expressed dismay at the plan, with some like local congregant Mary Sewell calling it a “sign of hopelessness”.

The Archdiocese does not seem to see it that way though. The plan, called Seek the City to Come, has been in the works for two years as a response to lower participation. While some have suggested that this is a result of religion being less popular in an increasingly secular society, others point to the fact that Baltimore lost over 20,000 of their population between the years of 2021 and 2023. Many have blamed the stern policing of churches during the pandemic lockdowns for the drop in church attendance across many faiths.

The Archdiocese proposal has several models for churches going forward. The first they refer to as Mosaic, which would be one church building taking in several congregations as well as all their programs. These would require at least 700 members as well as at least 50 baptisms every year. Another model they refer to as Radiating would be a central church with satellite buildings that house specific programs like immigrant outreach or senior centers. This model would need at least 500 members and 35 baptisms per year. The final and smallest model is called the Catholic commons, which would be housed in a nontraditional building and could have as few as 20 annual baptisms and 200 congregants.

While the Church says that these changes are not related to Chapter 11 bankruptcy that the Archdiocese filed in September or the closing of St. Benedict in the aftermath of a sex scandal, Auxiliary Bishop Bruce Lewandowski did comment on the huge amount of financial support that keeping these parishes open has required adding that while once there were thousands of Catholics supporting each one, now there are more like hundreds or even dozens. While he suggested that the current model is not sustainable, he also pointed out that the plan has not been finalized yet. There will be two public listening sessions in late April for locals to voice their opinions on the project.

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