WORCESTER - Four parishes will be closed and merged with neighboring parishes under a plan announced this weekend by the head of the Roman Catholic Diocese in Worcester.
Bishop Robert McManus cited declining Mass attendance as one of the reasons for what he called a difficult but necessary decision. McManus detailed the decision in a letter read in churches across the city this weekend.
Worcester has 29 churches to serve the city's 22,000 Catholics, of whom only a third make regular offerings to the church.
McManus said it was impossible to delay the consolidations any longer, and said those in the churches to be closed would be better served in more vibrant parishes.
"These pastoral decisions are never easy, but I am convinced that avoiding them or postponing them any longer is pastorally unsound," McManus wrote.
The four parishes to be closed include Holy Name of Jesus Parish, St. Casimir Parish, Ascension Parish, and St. Margaret Mary Parish. The Notre Dame des Canadiens Church building will also be closed.
A new parish called Holy Name Parish will be created and located at St. Joseph Church. Parishioners from St. Casimir will begin attending Mass at a neighboring church, St. John. Masses in Lithuanian will continue at the St. Casimir church building for another year.
Ascension Parish will merge with St. John Parish. St. Margaret Mary Parish will merge with St. Anne Parish in Shrewsbury.
All the mergers will take place on July 1.
McManus said more announcements are expected later in the year regarding decisions about other parishes in the city.