Chicago Archdiocese announces more South Side school and parish closings, consolidations

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The Archdiocese of Chicago announced Wednesday the closing or consolidation of some schools and parishes.

The decision involved several churches and schools in Bridgeport, Canaryville and Chinatown. For many families, these are the only parishes they've ever known.

Parishioners left the meeting in the 2800-block of South Throop with somber faces, some having received unwelcome news.

"This is a family. This is a family. Right now, it feels like a member of my family has died," said Eluisa Lynn, parishioner.

Lynn was told her church and school, Santa Lucia-Santa Maria Incoronata will be closing as early as 2019. The parish will unite with St. Jerome Croatian.

Candace Clatworthy, a Santa Lucia parent, said she comes all the way from southwest suburban Romeoville to bring her first-grade daughter to class.

"It just shows what the schools and the churches mean, that people who live in the suburbs still attend," Clatworthy said. "My daughter loves attending here. The teachers are amazing. She cried last night and asked, 'Why is my school the only one closing?'"

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The Archdiocese of Chicago announced Wednesday the closing or consolidation of some schools and parishes.

Another Santa Lucia parent, Minu Morris, said officials had talked about closing for a few years, which drove some families away.

"A lot of them have been leaving for the past three years, thinking the school is going to close. That is the reason the school has been like this," Morris said.

Two other schools, St. Barbara and St. Gabriel, are merging with other schools, though their campuses will remain open. Nativity of Our Lord Parish, where the Daley family worships, is merging with St. Gabriel. Both locations are staying open.

"There is a savings when a parish unites and there's one pastoral team to minister between both of those," said Father Jason Malave, Archdiocese of Chicago.

The move is part of the part of Cardinal Blase Cupich's "Renew My Church" initiative that aims to cut costs and address a shortage of priests.

"Any institution, any organization, if it doesn't reform and grow, is going to die. And that's what we're doing with 'Renew My Church,'" Cupich said Tuesday.

But for many parishioners the change is intensely personal. Their connection to their parish often spans generations.

"It's personal because people have gone there all their lives and probably have joined with the community, and they're part of the family. They feel like a family," said Oscar Sanchez, St. Gabriel parishioner.

"I have my daughter planning her wedding, so I don't know whether she will have a church to go to," said John Lin, parishioner.

"If it is all about money, I did not know that the archdiocese was about making money. They are supposed to be nonprofit," Clatworthy said.

The archdiocese deferred some decisions regarding some other parishes until mid-January, so consolidations in this part of the South Side may not be over.
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