BLOOMFIELD, Conn. (WTNH) — The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford officially announced a big shake up on Sunday afternoon. Dozens of Catholic churches in Hartford, Litchfield and New Haven counties are expected to merge. Some church buildings will close.
St. Justin – St. Michael is a parish in Hartford that has already merged. Church leaders knew they had to do it, and they are glad they did. However, they say parishioners had mixed feelings about the merger.
Father Emmanuel Ihemedu is the pastor.
“Just think about losing your own home, so there was this raw emotion,” he said.
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Nearly 150 parishes will be merging over the next month and a half. There are more than 200 parishes in the Archdiocese of Hartford. But as of June 29, there will be almost half that.
“It’s not just about trying to close buildings that we can’t afford or buildings that are only half used, but to reinvigorate the community,” said Most Reverend Leonard Paul Blair, Fifth Archbishop of Hartford.
More than two dozen church buildings will close, meaning regular Masses will not be held in them. The buildings may be sold or repurposed. The number of parishioners has gone down by more than a quarter over the past 50 years. There are also fewer priests, something many parish leaders have known.
“Probably going ten years prior to that we could see what was right in front of us,” said Vernette Townsend, co-president of the St. Justin-St. Michael Parish pastoral council.
There will be three mergers in Hamden. One of the three mergers in Waterbury will bring six churches together. There will be four mergers in New Haven; St. Joseph’s Church is one that will be affected. Not all parishioners are happy about it.
Some parishioners are hopeful the merger will help bring the faithful together.
“Maybe out of this merger something great will happen and we will have more Catholics come back to church,” said Laura Jansen, Parish Council President of St. Joseph’s Church.
There will also be two mergers of parochial Catholic schools.
A list of the parishes, including which ones will be merging and closing can be found here.