The Chicago Archdiocese is beginning to implement a major reorganization plan called "Renew My Church," according to a two-page letter printed in most church bulletins Sunday.
The reorganization process is expected to take years, and Chicago priests have already been told the Archdiocese may close anywhere between 80 to 100 parishes over the next 14 years.
Priests who have briefed on the project told NBC 5 that 17 parishes are already slated for closure over the next two years.
The need for the "Renew My Church" project stems stems from many issues, namely financial problems and fewer priests available. The letter explains that Archbishop Blase Cupich is "inviting us to join him" in moving closer to the goal of "vibrant parishes" across the Chicago area.
"At the heart of this process is the demand to read the signs of the times," the letter reads, citing decreasing Mass attendance and buildings in need of repair as two challenges facing the Catholic church.
The letter notes that the process will require "hard work, creativity, tough choices, and sacrifices."
Representatives from parishes will gather to evaluate options, according to the Archdiocese, and the Planning Commission will review their recommendations. But ultimately, the letter states, "Archbishop Cupich will make the final decisions."