The Boston Globe discusses parish closings in the archdiocese. They also have a table of parish sizes, attendance, and sacraments apparently taken from the annual Catholic directory. (“People in sacraments” refers to marriages, funerals, and baptisms.)
The article notes that many of the inner-city parishes have emptied as people have moved to the suburbs or just stopped going to Mass. It also discusses the number of ethnic parishes that no longer have ties to an immigrant population and other factors. I would agree that at least 50 parishes will be slated for closure and while many will be in the big cities, not all of them will be. The cities is where a lot of sparsely attended churches are clustered together.
Salem is an example of that. We have five parishes (although St. Thomas in Peabdy is on the town line and a lot of Salem people go there) and while there are plenty of churchgoing Catholics in the city, we are spread over too many churches and it feels like nobody goes to Mass. If you look at the tables the Globe provides, you’ll see that St. James and St. John the Baptist are obvious candidates for closures. The problem is that St. John the Baptist is a thriving Polish parish with a decent-sized Polish immigrant population and several Polish parishes have already been closed in the area. St. Joseph has an elementary school and large Spanish-speaking population. St. Ann is a former French parish with a sizeable population and a relatively new building, but I think that might be another one possibly slated for closure. Of course, there’s always the possibility of merging several parishes: Immaculate could merge with St. Joseph, using one parish’s church and the other’s school. Same for St. Ann and St. James. Either way, I expect two more parishes in Salem to close.
It’s going to be a long, hard process, especially as so many people are attached to the buildings they worshipped in. If they would only go to Mass in them every week and give money to the parish to keep them up, perhaps they wouldn’t have to close them. It annoys me that when you have a dying parish with about 50 people attending Mass every week, when you announce you’re closing it, you get protests in front of hundreds of people. Where were they before?
The Boston Herald also has some details that the Globe article didn’t.