Siouxlanders protest merging of parishes

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SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KCAU) –As part of the pastoral planning process, the Bishop of the Diocese of Sioux City said its merging parishes is in response to a shrinking congregation and a shortage of priests.

“The reality is in the next ten years that 50% of our priests that are currently in active ministry are eligible for retirement,” Deacon Mark Prosser said.

Mark Prosser said there isn’t one church in the diocese that won’t be affected. He adds a drastic reduction in the number of practicing Catholics, with fewer baptisms and marriages, also forced the diocese to make a change.

Some Siouxlanders said they feel abandoned.

“We are rural communities and we have a Bishop that doesn’t understand rural agricultural communities. If you cut off the roots the rest of the plant will not flourish. We feel that the closing of churches should be the last resort,” Jim Heithoff said.

“It certainly is a concern. Certainly for the older population. The older ones especially in inclement weather would be forced to travel to neighboring towns in some situations that may be a matter of seven or eight miles and other places it may be 20 or 30 miles,” said one protestor.

“It’s breaking up these farm communities that have been around for hundred years and basically pushing everybody into town the concern that we’ve got is we’ve got a central catholic system that depends upon contributions from all the different parishes,” John Guinan said.

Prosser said the downward trend has been happening in Sioux City for nearly three decades.

“The bishop and our vicar generals are exceptionally sensitive to the pain and the anguish and the unknown of change but the diocese as a whole has to change,” said Prosser.

He said no churches will technically close, but their status and how they’re used may be modified.

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