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Several Catholic parishes in Bloomington face consolidation under Diocese restructuring plan

Brick church building with tall steeple and parking to its right
Eric Stock
A Catholic Diocese of Peoria plan includes merging three Bloomington parishes into one: St. Mary’s, St. Patrick and Holy Trinity, pictured here.

The Catholic Diocese of Peoria is presenting to the public a possible road map for consolidating and restructuring parishes that includes merging multiple churches in the Twin Cities.

The Diocese is consolidating as it aims to better deploy an aging priest population that's spread too thin to cover the current 150 parishes.

The plan includes merging three Bloomington parishes into one: St. Mary’s, St. Patrick and Holy Trinity. Under the plan, St. Mary’s, 527 W. Jackson St., would be the primary site. St. Patrick, at 1209 W. Locust St., would the secondary site, and Holy Trinity is recommended to be “not in use,” according to a presentation posted Monday on the Diocese's Growing Disciples website.

Holy Trinity, which was built in 1933, has an average weekly Mass count of 426. That represents a 61% drop in attendance since 2015, the largest decline of any Catholic church in McLean County. A staff member at Holy Trinity tells WGLT all media requests are being handled by the Diocese.

St. Mary’s, which also operates a preschool-through-8 grade school, has a weekly Mass count of 684. St. Patrick averages 316 worshipers.

Under the proposal, the three churches would share two priests. The Diocese also recommends a Spanish-speaking priest for its Hispanic ministry.

Peoria Diocese Bishop Lou Tylkasaid the diocese studied several factors, including demographic and financial information for each church, and discussed plans with pastors, priests and parish leaders.

“Today’s meeting is a critical next step in our Growing Disciples journey,” Tylka said in a video posted on the website.

The plan also would merge St. Patrick of Merna east of Bloomington with St. Mary of Downs. St. Patrick, which has the largest weekly attendance of any Catholic church in McLean County (1,281), would become the primary site for that parish.

Epiphany parish in Normal, which has a weekly attendance of 1,233, is unaffected by the restructuring.

The stated goal is to have no one drive further than 30 minutes out to attend Mass. Tylka added some churches also may need to adjust Mass schedules to “encourage well-attended joyful participation.”

Tylka said the Diocese also plans to convene a task force to determine the best way to fund its Catholic schools.

Among churches outside the Twin Cities, the Diocese proposes merging St. John the Baptist in Clinton with Sacred Heart of Farmer City and St. Patrick of Wapella, with one priest assigned to the three churches.

The plan also includes combining Holy Family of Lincoln with St. Mary of Atlanta, St. Patrick of Elkhart and St. Thomas Aquinas of Mount Pulaski. The four churches would share one priest.

No final decisions are made yet. Tylka is set to make a formal announcement next May.

Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.
Tim Shelley is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.