Together in Faith

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. How many parishes will merge or close? How soon will the mergers and closures happen?
  2. Based on current parish planning, how many worship sites will close?
  3. The Archdiocese of Detroit estimates it will have 30 percent fewer priests in 10 years. Is the general availability of priests to be assigned as pastors constrained? How many seminarians do you have and where will new priests come from?
  4. When a priest retires, passes away, or is reassigned, does that now mean it is likely that their parish will merge or close?
  5. Some people involved in the process say it was flawed, and that the Archdiocese did not listen to their input. Are those characterizations accurate?
  6. How was Together in Faith a parish-driven planning process? How were the decisions made?
  7. Is this just a process to justify the closing of more parishes? Why now?
  8. Considering the parish emphasis in Together in Faith, what does this process mean for the Archdiocese of Detroit and the Church throughout southeast Michigan?
  9. Did parishes in the City of Detroit and the inner suburbs receive greater scrutiny?
  10. For many parishes, meeting community needs is a priority – maintaining food banks, clinics, and other neighborhood support services. How will this continue in the future, especially in Detroit?
  11. Is the Archdiocese engaging in Together in Faith because it is in debt?
  12. The Archdiocese has a $135 million capital campaign underway to strengthen parishes. Shouldn’t this make parish changes unnecessary?
  13. Has the Catholic population in southeast Michigan declined in recent years? Are Catholics leaving the Church?
  14. What does the Church intend to do about the declining number of parishioners?
  15. What are a clustered parishes?
  16. What is merging?
  17. How does merging differ from clustering?
  18. When parishes merge, what happens to their liabilities and assets including their endowments?
  19. Where can parishioners get more information?

1. How many parishes will merge or close? How soon will the mergers and closures happen?

A parish closing does not necessarily mean a church building will be closed. Parish refers to a community of the faithful with a priest pastor, a single parish council, and a parish finance council.

A parish may use more than one church building in which to worship and house its ministerial programs including Christian service and outreach. For example, Our Lady on the River Parish in Saint Clair County is one parish that uses three worship sites (i.e. two church buildings and chapel), in addition to having a grade school and high school on one of its campuses.

Use of parish buildings including churches will be determined by parishes engaged in merger planning in consultation with their Bishop (Regional Moderator).

The number and locations of parish mergers or closures depends on additional parish planning in the months ahead. Virtually every parish in the Archdiocese of Detroit will now engage in collaborative planning with a neighboring parish or parishes as specified in the action plans. Many of these plans are to be submitted for review by June 30, 2012. If a worship site is to be closed, implementation may occur this year or in the years ahead, depending on several variables including pastor availability and financial stability.

Specific next steps and timing vary from parish to parish throughout the Archdiocese.

Two parishes are planned to close this year. 

Eight parishes are planned to merge into four parishes by the end of 2012. Because one of these merged parishes will use more than one worship site, this may result in between one and four fewer worship sites.

Six parishes will submit acceptable debt repayment plans by June 2012 or may have to close or merge with a neighboring parish.

Twenty-three parishes are planned to merge into 11 parishes by the end of 2013 with the number of worship sites to be determined by parish-based planning. Because some of these parishes may retain more than one worship site, this may result in up to 12 fewer worship sites.

Seven parishes are planned to merge into three parishes between 2014 and 2016. Because some of these parishes may retain more than one worship site, this may result in up to four fewer worship sites.

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2. Based on current parish planning, how many parish worship sites will close?

Three church buildings are currently planned to close. St. Donald in Roseville is planned to close by June 30, 2012. St. Elizabeth in Wyandotte is planned to close by the end of this year.

The buildings and property of Our Lady Queen of Peace in Harper Woods will go on the market in July 2012; however, parish activities including Masses will continue at Our Lady Queen of Peace until its buildings are leased or sold, which could be later this year, in 2013, or beyond.

Additionally, plans are expected by June 30, 2012, for a four-parish cluster to merge and close two of its four current worship sites. Since this cluster includes the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament, which will not be closing, that means that two of the following three church buildings are expected to close: Church of the Madonna, St. Gregory the Great, both in Detroit, and St. Benedict in Highland Park. These parishes have not identified which sites will close or when, though any closures are unlikely to occur this year.

Beyond these specific locations, a number of parishes will now engage in planning that could lead to additional church building closures. These plans will originate with the parishes involved as summarized in the vicariate action plans that specify the actions to be taken by every parish in the Archdiocese.

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3. The Archdiocese of Detroit estimates it will have 30 percent fewer priests in 10 years. Is the general availability of priests to be assigned as pastors constrained? How many seminarians do you have and where will new priests come from?

The number of priests available for assignment as pastors is a major reality that the Together in Faith process and outcomes are addressing. Archdiocesan priests are not available for assignment in the numbers needed, nor are priests from religious orders, nor are international priests.

This is the reason why Vocations to the Priesthood is one of the Archdiocese of Detroit’s top two mission priorities and a specific subject matter in Archbishop Vigneron’s pastoral letter on Together in Faith – Forward in Hope to Share Christ.

Archdiocesan priest ordinations are not keeping pace with priest retirements. The Archdiocese of Detroit currently has 44 seminarians in formation for the priesthood, a process of learning and training that takes six to eight years. Thirty-nine of those men are studying at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit. In May of this year, the Archdiocese anticipates ordaining three seminarians as priests; four are on track for ordination in 2013; and, in 2014, if current numbers hold, seven archdiocesan priests will be ordained. This rate is much lower than the 77 fewer priests projected over the next nine years.

While the Archdiocese and thousands of parishioners are blessed to have several religious orders providing pastors and leadership in many ministries, there is no requirement that these orders will continue to assign pastors to parishes in southeast Michigan. The Archdiocese regards these religious order pastoral assignments as a great benefit, but not a complete solution to the diminishing number of available pastors.

Religious orders including, but not limited to the Augustinians, Franciscans, Jesuits, Pallottines, Companions of the Cross, the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity (SOLT), the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME) missionaries, the Missionaries of the Precious Blood (C.PP.S.), and the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, are not expected to mitigate the declining numbers of archdiocesan priests able to serve as pastors.

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4. When a priest retires, passes away, or is reassigned, does that now mean it is likely that their parish will merge or close?

Anticipating such situations and detailing specific steps in those eventualities, is a requirement in most of the parish plans to be submitted this year. Managing limited resources, including the number of priests available for assignment as pastors, is best done as part of a thoughtful, orderly plan, rather than as a stopgap measure. The diminishing number of priests is a present and future reality to be addressed in virtually every parish plan to be drafted in the months ahead.

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5. Some people involved in the process say it was flawed, and that the Archdiocese did not listen to their input. Are those characterizations accurate?

Together in Faith has been based on – and will continue to rely on – lay and clergy involvement in the most fundamental and important ways possible.

The launch of Together in Faith planning activities was communicated to every priest and parish in the Archdiocese in February 2011.

Every pastor in the Archdiocese was subsequently asked to participate in Together in Faith by appointing parish representatives to form the planning groups with their neighboring parishes. Ninety-five percent of the pastors in the Archdiocese did so. The roles and responsibilities of parish representatives were designed to include thorough communication with their parishes for the duration of the planning process. To respect the relationship between pastors and their parishioners appointed to the planning group, the process encouraged communication between those appointees, and their parish communities.

To fulfill the Archbishop’s commitment to transparency and openness while avoiding the perception of controlling or withholding communication, documents including the evolution of recommendations regarding parishes have been and will continue to be routinely posted on the archdiocesan website.

Maintaining the status quo previous to Together in Faith is not an option. Action plans have now been determined for every parish in the Archdiocese in collaboration with their neighboring parishes. Implementation is proceeding based on those plans.

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6. How was Together in Faith a parish-driven planning process? How were the decisions made?

Archbishop Vigneron’s decisions on parish alignments were informed by recommendations from lay leaders, the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council (APC), and consultations with others including pastors and the auxiliary bishops of the Archdiocese.

Pastors in virtually every parish in southeast Michigan appointed parish representatives to participate in Together in Faith planning groups with their neighboring parishes.

Recommendations from those planning groups were reviewed by another group of lay people, the APC, members of which share backgrounds in parish leadership and planning experience. After rounds of questions and refinements to plans developed by parish representatives, the APC made recommendations late last year to Archbishop Vigneron.

The Archdiocese facilitated the process by recognizing the need to take action, by having a proven pastoral planning process in place, and by sharing data with all involved.

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7. Is this just a process to justify the closing of more parishes? Why now?

Phase two of Together in Faith is a continuation of a pastoral planning process that the Archdiocese of Detroit initiated in 2003. Every parish in southeast Michigan has now identified its pastoral needs, priorities, and developed baseline data on its financial health. Phase one of Together in Faith was intended to have a five year life, and resulted in some parishes collaborating with neighboring parishes. Some parishes determined emergency measures should their pastor become ill, take a new assignment, or enter senior priest status. Other parishes decided at the time they would cluster, merge with another parish, or close.

Since the implementation of Together in Faith phase one, the economy has worsened, Michigan has experienced a population decline, many parishioners have suffered job and income losses, and some parishes are struggling to maintain their ministries. The first phase of Together in Faith proved that collaborative planning by neighboring parishes maximizes strengths and mitigates weaknesses among participating parishes. Archbishop Vigneron has emphasized the necessity for regional planning in the present economic climate as a means of ensuring resources are efficiently and effectively utilized by parishes in the planning groups.

There were no predetermined outcomes in this process. In 2011, representatives from nearly every parish in the Archdiocese gathered in planning groups arranged by geographic proximity to assess data and consider resources as teams. Their recommendations were reviewed by the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council (APC), which is comprised of 25 lay leaders from throughout the Archdiocese. The APC provided feedback to the planning groups, which refined their recommendations. The APC conducted a final review of the parish group recommendations late last year and forwarded the plans to Archbishop Vigneron for his review.

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8. Considering the parish emphasis in Together in Faith, what does this process mean for the Archdiocese of Detroit and the Church throughout southeast Michigan?

In his pastoral letter, Forward in Hope to Share Christ, Archbishop Vigneron addresses how the parts of Together in Faith affect the Church as a whole. In his words,

“I want very much to express to all of you – the clergy, religious, and faithful of the Archdiocese of Detroit – my own clear sense that we must understand Together in Faith in the context of the sacred mission the Lord Jesus has entrusted to our local Church. We are called to share Christ in and Through the Church. Only with a very keen sense of God’s purpose in bringing us ‘together in faith’ can we understand the intensive pastoral planning in which we are engaged.”

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9. Did parishes in the City of Detroit and the inner suburbs receive greater scrutiny?

Virtually every parish in the Archdiocese of Detroit participated in the second phase of Together in Faith.

The first phase of Together in Faith was intended to be in effect for five years after implementation in 2005 and has always been envisioned as an ongoing process, rather than a one-time effort. These facts prompted the Archdiocese to gather demographic and planning data from several organizations. This data was shared with all involved in the Together in Faith process, and included geographically-based population, employment, and housing trends.

The Together in Faith process encourages and facilitates ongoing exchanges of gifts already established between parishes in the suburbs, parishioners in the city of Detroit, and among all the faithful in the Archdiocese. As Archbishop Vigneron has stated,

“Now, more than ever, the people of southeast Michigan need to see from us that the city of Detroit for its own good and for the good of us all cannot and need not be isolated. I need, we need, the world needs a plan that embodies and strengthens the connections the Holy Spirit has established and nurtures among all the Catholic communities in the area.”

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10. For many parishes, meeting community needs is a priority – maintaining food banks, clinics, and other neighborhood support services. How will this continue in the future, especially in Detroit?

The Church continues to be a strong, dedicated presence in Detroit. Archbishop Vigneron, Bishop Reiss, and Bishop Hanchon all live in Detroit. They understand and experience the realities and challenges involved in maintaining a Catholic presence in Detroit. The Archbishop’s commitment to Detroit includes a goal of allocating at least $4 million through the Changing Lives Together initiative to continue ministries that are beyond the wherewithal of any one parish to support. In addition, the annual Catholic Services Appeal (CSA) supports the Parish Empowerment Fund, which provides grants and scholarships to Church ministries in Detroit.

Through the newly-formed Catholic Charities of Southeast Michigan, a strategy is being developed to ensure the future viability of all Catholic charitable efforts across the Archdiocese. This strategy includes an assessment of existing programs, assets, liabilities, property, and staff. Recommendations will be forthcoming for an archdiocesan-wide service delivery model that coordinates resources and avoids service duplication. Services may include adoption services, foster care, senior services, and individual and family counseling.

The archdiocese is working with ten communities of men and women religious to develop a citywide network through which direct services to Detroit neighborhoods will be provided. These services include food banks, soup kitchens, clothing and housing resources, health clinics, and literacy programs. These will not replace, but will enhance, parish-based services. In the coming weeks, the Archdiocese will launch a web-based graphic directory to enable service providers to determine where these services are presently offered in the city to better coordinate their outreach efforts.

Together in Faith is shaping how the Archdiocese of Detroit will fulfill the mission priorities of the Catholic Church throughout southeast Michigan. A primary outcome of the process is to determine where parishes are best located and resourced to address those priorities, and how parishes will marshal limited resources to share Christ in and through the Church.  Maintaining the status quo in parishes that are challenged in terms of sacramental life, ministerial life, or in the condition of their finances and facilities is no longer an option. The objective for every parish in the archdiocese, in collaboration with its neighboring parishes, is to allocate available resources to fulfill the seven mission priorities established by Archbishop Vigneron and the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council:  

  1. Evangelization and Catechesis
  2. Christian Service and Outreach
  3. Youth and Young Adults
  4. Lay Leadership
  5. Stewardship and Administration
  6. Catholic School Education
  7. Vocations

Together in Faith is providing the mechanism to ensure each parish progresses toward tangibly fulfilling all of these mission priorities, which are detailed in the Archbishop’s pastoral letter, Forward in Hope to Share Christ.

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11. Is the Archdiocese engaging in Together in Faith because it is in debt?

There is no plan and there is no intent to achieve archdiocesan deficit reduction by merging or closing parishes. The Archdiocese remains on track to achieve a balance budget in the current fiscal year, well before any parish mergers through Together in Faith are implemented.

The Archdiocese of Detroit is only as strong as the parishes in southeast Michigan – on a sacramental basis, a ministerial basis, and on a financial basis. Approximately 70 parishes in the Archdiocese are financially stressed to some degree – falling behind in paying their bills or carrying outstanding debt that has not been serviced on time, in full, or both.

Financial challenges in parishes can be a symptom of broader challenges such as declining parishioner registration and diminished sacramental participation such as baptisms, first Communions, and Mass attendance. Together in Faith is structured to address all of these challenges on a parish-based, collaborative basis to achieve in healthy, viable worship communities in every regard throughout southeast Michigan.

To learn more about archdiocesan finances, visit:

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12. The Archdiocese has a $135 million capital campaign underway to strengthen parishes. Shouldn’t this make parish changes unnecessary?

Changing Lives Together is providing parishes the financial resources to help implement the vision of Together in Faith. Parishes participating in Changing Lives Together are doing so in the context of their parish action plans specified through Together in Faith

Parish participation in Changing Lives Together begins with an assessment of the strengths, needs, and challenges of the parish, and progresses toward a pastoral plan and priorities that mesh with Together in Faith. With only a quarter of parishes having completed their pledge drives, to date more than 20,000 registered parishioner households have pledged $30 million to the campaign, at least seventy percent of which will help fulfill parish priorities. 

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13. Has the Catholic population in southeast Michigan declined in recent years? Are Catholics leaving the Church?

The Catholic population in this region has reflected the trend of southeast Michigan’s overall population decline as reported in the 2010 census, especially the continued loss of population in Detroit. Some segments of the Catholic population in the Archdiocese appear to be growing incrementally such as Hispanics and those of Middle Eastern heritage. The overall Catholic population in southeast Michigan is stable. The Archdiocese of Detroit has calculated:

  • Our six-county Archdiocese has approximately 4.4 million people
  • Approximately 32 percent, or 1,435,000 are believed to be Catholic
  • Over 90 percent of Catholics live in the suburbs or rural areas
  • Approximately 70 percent of our parishes are located in suburban or rural areas
  • Roughly 50 percent or 720,000 Catholics are registered with a parish
  • Approximately 30 percent, or 216,000 of registered Catholics attend Mass regularly
  • Approximately 30 percent of Catholics financially contribute to their parish

The declining percentages of Catholics attending Mass and their overall participation in sacramental life, such as going to confession, are of significant concern. Reversing this troubling trend through evangelization and catechesis is among the top mission priorities of the Archdiocese, and will also be addressed in the parish-based Together in Faith planning in the months ahead.

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14. What does the Church intend to do about the declining number of parishioners?

Archbishop Vigneron calls all Catholics in the Archdiocese to engage in evangelization as their primary mission, flowing from their baptismal call. This is the most important of the seven mission priorities of the Archdiocese, and is detailed in the Archbishop’s pastoral letter, Forward in Hope to Share Christ.

Evangelization is to preach and teach the Gospel message of Jesus Christ and thus transform society by personally understanding and implementing the concept that the "Gospel must be proclaimed." Catechesis is the education of children, young people, and adults in the faith of the Church through the teaching of Christian doctrine in an organic and systematic way to make them disciples of Jesus Christ. Evangelization and catechesis are inseparable.

In his pastoral letter, the Archbishop announces his intent to convoke a synod on evangelization, which will be a special assembly of clergy, religious, and lay faithful called together for the purpose of prayer, dialogue, and planning about this matter of great importance to the life of the Church.

Together in Faith encourages parishes to build strong catechetical programs that support the work of evangelization at all levels and stages, thus sharing Christ in and through the Church. Welcoming, vibrant, and visible parishes with faith formation programs have proven successful in engaging Catholics estranged from the Church and helping them return to the sacraments and rejoin the parish community.

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15. What are cluster parishes?

Two or more parishes that share a single pastor, but maintain independent finances and have separate parish councils. Sometimes cluster parishes share administrative resources and personnel (bookkeeper, grounds keeper, directors of religious education, etc.).If a staff position or a ministerial program is shared between the parishes, the costs are shared as well. 

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16. What is merging?

Merging involves joining two or more parishes into a single new parish. The newly merged parish may consist of one worship site; or, one site for worship and administration with another site for an alternate purpose (such as community outreach or social ministry). Some merged parishes may have multiple worship sites such as a church and one or two chapels. The new parish has one parish pastoral council and one finance council.

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17. How does merging differ from clustering?

Clustering involves two or more parishes remaining somewhat independent and sharing a pastor. Clustering can be an interim step in a merger process. Merging is the joining of two independent parishes into one parish with one pastor, which may have multiple worship sites.

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18. When parishes merge, what happens to their liabilities and assets including their endowments?

The parish that results from the merger assumes all the assets and liabilities of the parishes that were merged.

Regarding sacramental records (baptisms, first communions, confirmations, and so on), one site in which a merger or closure is involved is designated as the main church of worship and as the administrative site. The sacramental records of all the parishes are brought to this site. The membership records from the other parishes are consolidated to form a new parish list. Historic documents are sent to the archdiocesan archives, following guidelines for the preservation of archival material.

Regarding sacred objects at worship sites to be closed and not used by the newly merged parish community, a worship environment committee is formed by the newly merged parish to determine which significant sacred objects the new parish should retain, and how the items will be incorporated into the main worship site. Remaining items are managed in adherence to Archdiocesan guidelines regarding the disposition of sacred objects. The archdiocesan Office for Christian Worship assists parishes with this transition.

With respect to fiscal matters such as assets (including endowments) and debts, the archdiocesan Office of Parish Support Services will assist parishes during this transition. In a merger, the new parish acquires all assets and liabilities of the parishes from which it was formed. Pre-merger discussions determine building needs and use, staffing, and budgetary requirements. All finances are consolidated into a new archdiocesan Loan Deposit Program account. New envelopes are distributed to the consolidated list of registered members.

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19. Where can parishioners get more information?

To learn more about Together in Faith, parishioners can:

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