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Diocese eyes major parish closings

OBSERVER Photo by Braden Carmen St. Hyacinth’s in Dunkirk is one of five parishes targeted for closure in the city and village of Fredonia.

Major changes are in store for the north county Catholic parishes, according to recommendations for Southern Tier West Vicariate from the Buffalo Catholic diocese. As part of the Rightsizing and Restructuring plan, the Dunkirk-Fredonia region would go from six parishes to one.

In Family 3, which is currently recognized at the Lord’s Vineyard, both the Fredonia churches of St. Anthony’s and St. Joseph’s are scheduled to close and merge with Holy Trinity in Dunkirk.

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton would close and merge with Holy Trinity as well with Northern Chautauqua Catholic School remaining open and continue at its current location with ministry provided by Holy Trinity.

Blessed Mary Angela, Dunkirk would merge with Holy Trinity and the church would sell the St. Hedwig, Dunkirk, and St. Hyacinth, Dunkirk campuses.

Elsewhere, Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Silver Creek would remain open and join with St. Rose of Lima in Forestville, which would close.

Other county closings noted by the diocese included Our Lady of Loretto in Falconer, which will merge with St. James. Our Lady of Victory oratory at St. James in Jamestown also would close.

Sacred Heart parish in Lakewood would close its Panama site and Holy Apostles in Jamestown will close its St. John site.

In addition, St. Mary of Lourdes of Mayville will remain open while Christ Our Hope in Clymer will close the Sherman site and St. Dominic in Westfield will close its Brocton site.

Other area closures proposed are St. Mary in Cattaraugus, which would merge with St. Joseph in Gowanda and Holy Spirit in North Collins, which would join with Immaculate Conception in Eden.

These recommendations were released to the public by the diocese on Tuesday evening. A final decision will be made later this summer.

“The actual number of parishes merged will not be determined until clergy and parish leadership have an opportunity to review recommendations that will be proposed,” according to the diocesesan statement last month. “They may either agree with the recommendations, or present an option for an alternative parish (or parishes) within their family for merger. Those determinations will be made between Aug. 15 and Sept. 1.”

According to a fact sheet provided by the Buffalo Diocese, 59% of the 160 current parishes within the region report a negative net operating balance. Some 49% of the parishes report a decline in registered households, with 39% reporting an increase.

The average age of the diocese’s priests is 76 and by 2030, 63% of priests will be older than 65.

As for sacramentals, there was a 24% dip in marriages between 2020 and 2023, and 59% of parishes report a “steady decline” in baptisms.

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