Just a little more than one year ago, on Jan. 24, 2022, St. Louis Abp. Mitchell Rozanski turned the Catholic community upside down with a parish reorganization plan.
In tonight's In-Depth Report, Church Militant's Kristine Christlieb updates on the plan's progress and the ongoing resistance.
Archbishop Mitchell Rozanski's plan to make "all things new" for St. Louis Catholics is nearing completion.
The final announcement of the closure of many of the area's 178 parishes isn't scheduled until May. But on Thursday, the priests serving in those parishes may have been given a preview.
Their reaction was mixed.
Ken Battis, Church Militant Resistance member, Mo.:
"Well, the people we've talked to, it's definitely been a mixed reaction. Some of them were very excited. It seems that canon lawyers are taking a much more prominent role and that they actually believe they have to follow canon law, which is a great thing. Those that are more cautious obviously want to see it in writing and have noticed that they keep using the word "pastorate." It's a word we haven't seen before in the "All Things New" possibilities."
While St. Louis priests were being given a sneak preview of the final plan, supporters of a variety of Catholic organizations, including Church Militant's Resistance chapter, gathered at the cathedral basilica to pray the Rosary, offering a Hail Mary for each of the 178 parishes.
Rozanski has experienced widespread pushback on the planned parish closures. In October, faithful Catholics paid for a canon lawyer to advise them of their rights.
Battis: "We've done three public sessions; we had thousands of attendees, 2,700 procurator mandate signatures to allow Philip Gray to represent this group, which is the largest most representative group in the entire archdiocese of St. Louis. All those 2,700-plus signatures come from more than 100 of our 178 parishes."
Last spring, a march and Rosary gathering in protest of parish closures also attracted a large crowd.
Under Rozanski's plan, St. Louis will be left with somewhere around 70 parishes.
"We know some people have said we've slowed them down. We don't necessarily want to speed them up or slow them down. We want them to follow canon law. If that slows them down, then I guess we are happy they are going to follow Church law when it comes to mergers or closures, some of which is very, very clear in canon law. So we hope we have slowed them down in that they are only relying on Church authority and do only what the Church allows a bishop to do when merging or closing parishes."
The managed decline of St. Louis' parishes is a microcosm of what is happening across North America. But a remnant is fighting back and helping to hold the line.
It hasn't been a good week for St. Louis Catholics. Another elementary school — St. Mark Catholic school — announced it will be closing at the end of this school year.