Archbishop Blasé Cupich is embarking on a major reorganization in the Archdiocese of Chicago.
In what's being called a sweeping change of landscape, priests have been told that in the next 14 years 80 to 100 Chicago-area parishes could be forced to merge or close, sources told NBC Chicago.
Though the Archdiocese would not confirm the number of reported closures, at least one priest who has been briefed on the plan says it is driven partially by finances, "but mostly it's the number of priests available 14 years from now."
The Archdiocese projects by 2030 there will only be 240 priests to serve the city's 351 parishes. Currently, those parishes are served by 772 priests.
Priests who have attended the recent meetings with Cupich, and prefer not to be named, say in the next two years 17 parishes are expected to close as the reorganization plan begins. It's not clear which parishes will be included in those closures, however.
The priest shortage means it is very likely that two parishes may share one pastor, a number of priests told NBC5.
In a letter sent first to priests and later posted on the Archdiocese website, Cupich does not qualify the exact number of parishes that will close but says, “the Archdiocese has changed in a significant way over the past several decades."
"Demographics have shifted dramatically," he wrote. "Some of our parish buildings are in disrepair. We have fewer priests to pastor or faith communities. The result is that we end up spreading our resources too thinly. We should not be afraid to face these realities, but rather see this moment as a graced opportunity to chart new way to live out our mission more fully.”
At least one priest told NBC Chicago “we can’t sustain it the way it is."
Meetings with lay leaders in parishes throughout the entire Archdiocese are expected to begin next week.