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Archdiocese of Baltimore proposes closure of 40 churches

Baltimore Harbor

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J-P Mauro - published on 04/17/24

The archdiocese listed a variety of reasons for the change, including the pandemic, changing demographics, and aging buildings.

The Archdiocese of Baltimore has proposed a massive restructuring of its holdings within the city and county of Baltimore, with the possibility of two-thirds of the county’s churches being closed in the near future. Among the churches pegged for closure is St. Vincent de Paul, the oldest Catholic church in continuous operation in Baltimore.

According to The Baltimore Banner, the Archdiocese announced the proposal on April 14, 2024. It explained that the decision to consider closure of 40 of the 61 Catholic churches in the Baltimore metro area came after two years of study. Between churches and other worship sites in the city, it is estimated that there would only remain 26 locations for Catholic services if the plan goes through. 

It should be noted that these are only churches within the county of Baltimore. The Archdiocese of Baltimore encompasses far more than 61 parishes, in the counties of Allegany, Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Frederick, Garrett, Harford, Howard, and Washington.

The initiative, titled “Seek the City to Come,” began in 2022 to address the dwindling rates of faithful in the city of Baltimore and surrounding area. The archdiocese’s website cites several factors for this decline, including: a 38% decline in Baltimore’s population since 1950, shifting Catholic demographics, and the Covid-19 pandemic. In addition to this, aging buildings are in need of repair, and 34 Baltimore parishes reported more funerals than converts and baptisms combined. 

The archdiocese shared its belief that the plan to merge so many parishes will allow it to flourish and draw larger numbers to the remaining parishes. Its vision will see parishes become stronger and more Christ-centric, churches that are more welcoming and offer a transformative “Sunday experience.” It went on to quote Pope Francis’ Apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel):

“I dream of a ‘missionary option,’ that is, a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation.”

While the archdiocese seems confident that this is the correct direction for Baltimore, the plans are not yet set in stone. Archbishop William E. Lori plans to hold two “public listening sessions,” in which parishioners are welcome to come and voice any concerns or praise for the initiative, by the end of April. The archbishop’s final decision is expected to come before the end of June, but the process of merging so many parishes may take a long time to complete. 

See a full list of proposed church mergers and closures at Catholic Review.

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