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PITTSBURGH (ChurchMilitant.com) - A new round of church closures in Pittsburgh will result in a net loss of 18 parishes.
The recently announced measure is scheduled to take effect on Jan. 6, 2020. Described as "mergers," plans call for 26 parishes to be reformed into eight, resulting in a net loss of 18 parishes.
It is likely the announcement generated little shock or surprise since the diocese has been discussing how to manage its decline since 2016. Involving all the diocese's parishes, discussions about the accelerating losses were formalized in a strategic plan called "On Mission for the Church Alive." Church Militant has reported extensively on the diocese and how it is implementing its plan.
The decline has been particularly steep on Pittsburgh's South Side, home to what was once the city's thriving steel industry. Some parishioners in this area have experienced their second round of mergers.
The Pittsburgh Post Gazette reports one woman's reaction. "'Heartbreaking,' said Leona Rogowski, who lives on the South Side, as she left the 11 a.m. Mass on Sunday at St. Peter. 'This is the second one we've belonged to ... that's closing. It's within walking distance of my home. It's hard on Catholics today.'"
Rogowski's language is telling. Despite the diocese's best effort to portray the "mergers" positively, people like Rogowski think of the parishes as "closing" not merging.
The Pittsburgh diocese, like so many others, is experiencing nearly every component contributing to the Church's world decline.
The favorite explanation for the decline is so-called demographics. Michael Hichborn, founder of The Lepanto Institute, believes the problem is not "demographics" but failure to transmit Church teaching. In comments to Church Militant, Hichborn said:
When St. Peter stepped out of the boat to meet Our Lord on the water, he soon began to sink because he placed too much importance on the world around him and not enough on Christ. The same is true in Pittsburgh and everywhere else the Church is experiencing a decline. Bishops and priests are pandering to sin, but not calling sinners to repent. They focus on political and social programs and forget about inculcating a life in Christ. In short, they want to feed bellies, but end up starving souls. If these bishops would only forget about the world for a moment, and actually lead men to the foot of the Cross with courage and penance, they would see the Church restored a thousand-fold.
While the solution to attracting more vocations is not clear, one thing is known. Of the young people — not the middle-aged career transitioners — who are sensing a call to the religious life, more are attracted to traditional orders. A headline in The American Catholic says it all: "Booming Traditional Religious Orders." The article goes on to report on the study "Recent Vocations to Religious Life: A Report for the National Religious Vocation Conference," conducted by the well-respected Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University. The study finds:
The most successful institutes in terms of attracting and retaining new members at this time are those that follow a more traditional style of religious life in which members live together in community and participate in daily Eucharist, pray the Divine Office, and engage in devotional practices together. They also wear a religious habit, work together in common apostolates and are explicit about their fidelity to the Church and the teachings of the Magisterium. All of these characteristics are especially attractive to the young people who are entering religious life today.
According to the evidence, it's the habit-wearing, community-living, Latin-speaking traditionalists that appear to be carrying the Faith forward. Young Catholics are voting with their feet and appearing to suggest that the solution to the diocese of Pittsburgh's demographic decline is to follow the lead of young people — not the orders espousing teachings and values indistinguishable from mainline Protestantism.
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