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Diocese of Peoria finalizes reorganization that will see mass consolidation of parishes

The Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Immaculate Conception in Peoria is the seat and mother church of the Diocese of Peoria.
Jeffrey Smudde
The Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Immaculate Conception in Peoria is the seat and mother church of the Diocese of Peoria.

The parishes in the Catholic Diocese of Peoria will undergo a massive reorganization and consolidation through 2027, as the church grapples with falling attendance and a growing priest shortage.

Bishop Lou Tylka announced Saturday the diocese's 156 individual parishes will become 75 parishes. Twelve parishes will merge into neighboring parishes, and another 107 will merge to create 38 new ones.

The Diocese covers 17,000 square miles across 26 Illinois counties. There are currently 145 active priests, but Tylka said that's projected to fall below 100 within the next 10 years. Church attendance in the Diocese has fallen by nearly 50% over the past decade.

"The world we live in today presents many challenges for us to propose the Gospel in a compelling and impactful way. We cannot ignore the realities we face," Tylka said in a video message. "However, we are full of hope as we trust the prompting of the Holy Spirit to engage in a new apostolic age of missionary discipleship."

As part of the process branded "Growing Disciples," St. Bernard's Church on Peoria's East Bluff will close. The church will merge with St. Mary's Cathedral downtown. As a church no longer in use, St. Bernard's won't be available for services, funerals, or weddings.

That's the only change to parish structure within the city of Peoria, though Tylka is also announcing priest moves throughout the Diocese that will affect some Peoria churches.

Several other parishes throughout the Peoria area will be consolidated. There is a full list of churches and how they will be affected on the Diocese web site.

"I know for some, these decisions will bring a great deal of sadness and pain, asking you to let go of the comfort of what is known as your parish," Tylka said.

"For all of us, we have to use the gift of the Holy Spirit, to understand the necessity of change and have the fortitude to look beyond our own parish to the wider mission we are embracing to bring new life to the Church."

Tylka said the changes begin July 1 and will continue through 2027.

Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.