Northeast Minneapolis merger to go ahead; 2 additional mergers announced; 3 scheduled mergers this summer

(St. Paul, MN, June 17, 2012) The Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis is providing an update today on several developments related to its 2010 Strategic Plan which is aimed at fostering a revitalized and sustainable local Church, responsive to the pastoral needs of all our brothers and sisters in Christ.

First, the Archdiocese has been informed by the Holy See that the canonical appeals to the previously announced merger of Holy Cross, St. Anthony of Padua, St. Clement and St. Hedwig, all in northeast Minneapolis have been exhausted.  This means the merger will proceed as scheduled and become effective on July 1, 2013.

Second, two additional mergers involving St. John the Evangelist and St. Joseph in Hopkins as well as St. Mark, St. Mary and St. Mary of the Purification in Shakopee are ready to go ahead within the coming year.  Both the Hopkins parishes and the Shakopee parishes were noted as “cluster to potential merger” in the Strategic Plan.  ‘Cluster’ refers to an instance when two or more parishes share a single pastor.  Both the Hopkins and the Shakopee parishes are currently clustered.  The newly announced mergers were requested by the parish communities themselves, which informed the Archbishop that their efforts at sharing resources had progressed to the point that merging the parishes would be for the benefit of their communities.  In regard to Shakopee, this announcement is the culmination of more than 40 years of conversation about how to best meet the pastoral needs of Catholics in the growing Shakopee area.

Finally, three mergers announced in the 2010 Strategic Plan will become effective on July 1, 2012: Annunciation and Visitation, both in Minneapolis; Most Holy Redeemer in Montgomery and St. Canice in Kilkenny; and St. Genevieve in Centerville and St. John the Baptist in Hugo.

After implementation of all the announced mergers, including the mergers involving the Hopkins and Shakopee parishes and the one merger which took place in 2011 outside the Strategic Plan, the Archdiocese will have a total of 188 parishes in July 2013, compared to 213 parishes in October 2010.

On January 1, 2011, the following mergers were made official: St. Thomas of Saint Thomas with St. Anne of LeSueur; St. Andrew with Maternity of the Blessed Virgin, both in Saint Paul; St Francis de Sales with St James, both also in Saint Paul; and the merger of St. Benedict, St. John the Evangelist, St. Joseph and St. Scholastica with St. Wenceslaus, all in the New Prague area.  The mergers of St. Augustine with Holy Trinity in South Saint Paul and St. Thomas the Apostle with Blessed Sacrament in Saint Paul took effect on July 1, 2011.  On January 1, 2012, the following parishes merged: Most Holy Trinity in Saint Louis Park and Our Lady of Grace in Edina; St. Austin and St. Bridget in Minneapolis; and St. Vincent de Paul and the Cathedral of St. Paul in Saint Paul.

A merger decision does not necessarily mean that a merging parish’s church building will close.  Decisions regarding the church buildings of the newly combined parish community are made by local leaders in proper consultation with the Archbishop and the Presbyteral Council, a representative body of priests.

The Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis serves a rich and diverse community of 825,000 Catholics in 12 counties in east central Minnesota.  The Archdiocese’s Strategic Plan is aimed at building up a vibrant community of faith, hope and love through intentional collaboration, ongoing evaluation and greater accountability in support of the mission of the Church.  The Strategic Plan is the result of 20 months of study and consultation, including the input of thousands of people from across the Archdiocese — pastors and other clergy, Catholic school leaders and families, parish staff and parishioners.  The Strategic Plan helps guide the Archdiocese in living out its mission to make the name of Jesus Christ known and loved by promoting and proclaiming the Gospel in word and deed through vibrant parish and school communities.

Archdiocese Announces Reinvesting in our Schools Initiatives

Catholic Schools: Reinvesting In Our Future

Download the Reinvesting In Our Future Booklet (pdf)

On August 11, 2011 the work of the Catholic Schools Commission culminated in the announcement of initiatives aimed at reinvesting in schools throughout this local Church. These initiatives will strengthen schools for this generation and generations to come and focus on four areas: governance, educational excellence, advancement, and funding models. All work is infused with a strong sense of Catholic identity which is central to all Catholic schools and a core to our mission.

 

Just as the initiatives outlined in the Strategic Plan in October 2010, these efforts are aimed at a culture of increased collaboration, ongoing evaluation, and greater accountability.

Archbishop Nienstedt clearly stated his vision for schools in this Archdiocese on August 11, 2011, “The overall goal for all Catholic schools is to prepare young men and young women to be virtuous disciples of Christ and, as such, to be active leaders in our Catholic Church as well as our civic communities; bringing their gifts of faith and reason to the issues and challenges of our world today.”

The Archbishop also declared a firm commitment to Catholic schools, “As our Catholic schools are an indispensible tool for the mission of the Church, I believe that this entire local Church should share responsibility for supporting our Catholic schools.”

The Catholic Schools Commission was established in January 2011 to build upon the work done over the past two years by the Archdiocesan Strategic Planning Task Force and the Alliance for Catholic Educationconsultants from the University of Notre Dame. The Commission engaged with stakeholders across the Archdiocese throughout its work. Consultation opportunities included focus groups, meetings, and web surveys participated in by more than 3,000 school and parish leaders, parents, teachers, and others. The Commission submitted its recommendations to the Archbishop in June 2011. After a period of careful review, the Archbishop announced the approved initiatives in August 2011.

Visit the Office of Catholic Schools page to learn more about the initiatives to reinvest in our schools.

CSC June Update

From Commission Co-Chairs: John McMahon and Karen Rauenhorst

On June 20, 2011, the Catholic Schools Commission reviewed and voted on its final draft recommendations. The Commission’s final recommendations were delivered to the Archbishop on June 27, 2011.

The Commission co-chairs would like to thank everyone who has shared input, insights, and prayers during the Commission’s work. The input and efforts of many have enhanced the recommendations, and set the foundation for a collaborative approach going forward. In August, the Archbishop and inaugural members of the Archdiocesan Catholic Schools Advisory Council will lead a discussion outlining the strategy, initiatives and priorities for strengthening the Catholic schools of the Archdiocese. Catholic school principals and presidents as well as pastors and parish business administrators with schools have been invited to attend this August gathering. There remains much implementation work that will be the responsibility of the Archdiocesan Catholic Schools Advisory Council working collaboratively with leaders from Catholic schools from throughout the Archdiocese.

The Commission would like to offer its special thanks to everyone who participated in the web surveys this spring and summer. Results from three web surveys during April through mid-June were shared with Commission members. A total of 392 pastors, parish business administrators, principals/presidents and parish finance council members participated in the funding models/financial survey. A total of 66 principals/presidents and marketing directors/coordinators participated in the marketing leader survey. Nearly 2,500 parents (parents of school age children in Catholic and/or not in Catholic schools as well as parents of soon-to-be school age children) have participated in a parent survey which remains open.

Please visit archspm.org this fall for an update on outcomes of the work of the Catholic Schools Commission.

 

CSC May Update

From Commission Co-Chairs: John McMahon and Karen Rauenhorst

On May 16, 2011, the Catholic Schools Commission reviewed input from 3 of the Commission’s 4 committees. Below is a summary of discussion at this meeting.

I. COMMISSION OVERALL

Input:

  1. Web surveys—A web survey related to finance ran from April 29 to May 12. 392 pastors, elementary and secondary school principals/presidents, parish business administrators, and parish finance council members participated in this first survey. A web survey related to school marketing ran from May 12 through May 23. 66 elementary and secondary school principals/presidents, marketing directors and other marketing staff and volunteers participated in this survey. A parent survey aimed at perceptions of Catholic schools and school choice decision-making launched on May 25. The survey is intended for prospective school parents, current Catholic school parents, and parents of school age children not enrolled in Catholic school. As of May 31, nearly 700 parents have participated in the survey. We’ll continue to push for parent participation for the next several weeks during this busy time of year. The information being gathered is useful not only for the work of the Catholic Schools Commission but also the soon-to-be-named Archdiocesan Catholic Schools Advisory Council and the Archdiocese’s Office of Catholic Schools going forward.
  2. Information collected via comments made to cscommission@archspm.org. We have received many very insightful and useful comments and suggestions that we are incorporating into the Commission’s work. We encourage all school stakeholders to share their comments at cscommission@archspm.org before June 3.

II. ADVANCEMENT COMMITTEE

  1. Branding firm is working to develop an archetype around which a branding message will be built.
  2. The Advancement Committee will be the final committee to develop recommendations; branding initiative will continue into the 2011-2012 school year. The above-mentioned parent survey will provide additional insight as this work continues.

III. EDUCATIONAL EXCELLENCE COMMITTEE

  1. Commission approved a recommendation for establishing benchmarks for addressing school vitality and viability for all Catholic schools to support a culture of continuous improvement and ongoing renewal within the schools.
  2. Commission approved a recommendation regarding the enhancement, formalization and support of principal recruitment, selection, development and assessment.

IV. FUNDING MODELS COMMITTEE

  1. Commission approved 5 recommendations related to standardization of financial reporting, revisions to archdiocesan financial aid distribution, all parishes’ support of Catholic schools, enrollment guidelines related to financial viability and revenue enhancement and cost reduction opportunities.

V. GOVERNANCE COMMITTEE

  1. Commission approved a recommendation related to clarification of roles and responsibilities for the parties involved in the governance of consolidated schools in order to enhance the schools’ capabilities and long-term viability.

We continue to ask for input and participation in this important process. You may email your comments, concerns or questions before June 3 to cscommission@archspm.org.

 

Leaders at local Catholic School Make Difficult Decision to Close at End of 2010-2011 School Year

After struggling for ten years to become financially viable, the pastor and parish trustees have recommended that the Academy of Sts. Peter and Paul in Loretto be closed at the end of the current school year. The recommendation has been accepted with regret by Archbishop John C. Nienstedt.

Due to ongoing declines in enrollment, the Academy was among those schools included in the Archdiocese’s Urgent Review process announced last October. As a result of this process, school leaders  set a final deadline of May 6 for achievement of a minimum enrollment goal for the 2011-2012 school year of 96 students. That goal was missed by a wide margin, despite a marketing and recruiting campaign, necessitating today’s closing announcement.

In a letter to parents and parishioners, Father John Gallas, pastor of the parish, wrote, “In spite of our very best efforts, we did not make our goal. This parish has valiantly and willingly carried the financial burden of the school for many years, but at the present time, the burden exceeds our capacity to give.”

Father Gallas told school parents that a meeting for all parents will be held next week. Representatives from neighboring Catholic schools and the Archdiocese’s Office of Catholic Schools will also be in attendance. Since the parish has always set aside a percentage of its offertory income to support the Academy, the pastor explained that a portion of these funds will now be used to assist parents to continue their children’s education in neighboring Catholic schools. All families seeking assistance in finding a Catholic school which meets their needs are invited to call the Catholic Schools Hotline at 612-SCHOOLS (612-724-6657).

The Academy began the urgent review process in October 2010 with the forming of a local school task force. The local task force engaged in careful analysis and review of data related to financial management, academic quality, Catholic identity (adherence to archdiocesan religion standards and other guidelines), and advancement (marketing, development), as outlined in the Strategic Plan under the criteria for viable schools. The urgent review process included an open meeting with school families and other stakeholders at the school during which the local task force detailed the status of the school as relates to each of the viability criteria.

Beginning next fall, there will be 94 Catholic schools within the Archdiocese. During the 2010-2011 school year, more than 30,000 students are attending Catholic schools in the Archdiocese. Catholic school enrollment trends generally mirror that of public schools which are also challenged with a decline in school age population.

The Archdiocese remains firmly committed to Catholic schools, which offer benefits not only to students and families through excellent education of the whole child, but also to the greater community. Catholic schools in the Archdiocese save Minnesota taxpayers roughly 300 million dollars annually in costs related to public school education. Catholic schools have a 98% graduation rate.

CSC April Update

From Commission Co-Chairs: John McMahon and Karen Rauenhorst

On April 18, 2011, the Catholic Schools Commission reviewed input from the 8 focus group meetings which took place in February – April. Commission also reviewed and discussed draft recommendations from 3 of the Commission’s 4 committees. Below is a summary of discussion at this meeting.

I. COMMISSION OVERALL

Input:

  1. Focus groups –There were 8 focus groups, participated in by 24 school principals/presidents, 9 pastors, 6 business administrators as well as teachers, marketing directors/committee members, parish finance council members, school council members, school benefactors and parents. Overarching themes from the eight focus groups held between February and April:
    • There needs to be a clear message from the Archdiocese that Catholic schools are a priority.
    • Some central services or standards-making are acceptable and perhaps needed if local need/benefit is there and input opportunity is given.
    • We have to identify high-leverage support opportunities for the schools.
    • We need to fix the money problem or nothing else matters.
    • The current model of one parish/one school is not working in some places; we need to utilize a variety of different/complementary models.
  2. Web surveys—The first web survey went live on April 29. It will remain online until the end of the day on May 12th. This particular survey is focused on financial issues and relates to the work of the Funding Models Committee. Pastors, school principals/presidents, parish business administrators, and parish finance council members were invited via email to take part in this first survey. Several more surveys, each identified for certain groups of school leaders and stakeholders, will be carried out over the coming weeks.
  3. Information collected via comments made to cscommission@archspm.org. We have received many very insightful and useful comments and suggestions that we are incorporating into the Commission’s work. We encourage all school stakeholders to share their comments at cscommission@archspm.org. Committees are drafting recommendations now so now is a great time to provide input.

II. ADVANCEMENT COMMITTEE

  1. Branding firm is reviewing data and identifying any additional necessary research to help develop messaging for Catholic schools.
  2. The Advancement Committee will be the final committee to develop recommendations; branding initiative will continue into the 2011-2012 school year.

III. EDUCATIONAL EXCELLENCE COMMITTEE

  1. Commission reviewed a draft recommendation for a viability rubric which identifies ten elements of successful Catholic schools which align with Strategic Plan criteria; MNSAA was consulted in the development of the rubric; the rubric is intended as a tool for school leaders.
  2. Commission discussed draft assessment principles recommendation from the committee. Recommendation is tabled until next Commission meeting. The committee continues to work toward developing a proposal to meet the needs of students, schools and the Archdiocese.

IV. FUNDING MODELS COMMITTEE

  1. Commission reviewed draft recommendations related to templates for financial planning and reporting and best practices related to planning, reporting and analysis of financials.
  2. Commission discussed a draft recommendation regarding tuition-setting best practices, with a particular focus on more uniform calculation of cost per student and communication with stakeholders regarding the cost of education.
  3. Commission discussed a draft recommendation regarding potential changes to method of distribution of financial aid which comes through the Archdiocese.

V. GOVERNANCE COMMITTEE

  1. Commission approved a recommendation related to the charter and membership profile for Archdiocesan Catholic Schools Advisory Council.
  2. Commission approved a recommendation related to best practices, roles, responsibilities and membership for individual school advisory boards.

We continue to ask for input and participation in this important process. You may email your comments, concerns or questions at any time to cscommission@archspm.org.

CSC March Update

From Commission Co-Chairs: John McMahon and Karen Rauenhorst

On March 21, 2011, the Catholic Schools Commission was addressed by Archbishop John C. Nienstedt who briefly outlined his vision for Catholic schools and his commitment to Catholic schools as central to the mission of this local Church. The entire Office of Catholic Schools staff were introduced and provided an overview of what they do. Commission members reviewed the progress that the working committees have made over the past month. Below is a summary of discussion at this meeting.

I. COMMISSION OVERALL

Input:

  1. Meetings/conversations with key stakeholders –
    • The Catholic Schools Commission has now met with school principals three times at monthly Catholic School Leadership Day meetings in January, February and March. We will continue to seek input and remain engaged with school principals throughout this process. The Commission is on the principals’ agenda for the final meeting of the program year in May.
    • An update on the work of the Catholic Schools Commission was included in the electronic Archdiocesan Update newsletter published in mid-March. This newsletter is read by clergy and business administrators. This update was posted to this website on March 1.
  2. Focus groups—The first round of focus group discussions took place in late February. Six more focus groups, targeted to particular committee deliverable areas, are scheduled for late March through mid-April.  These focus groups consist of 10-12 volunteers from urban, suburban, exurban and rural school communities across the Archdiocese. We have attempted as much as possible to ensure balance of participant composition of these groups.
  3. Web surveys—There will be web surveys beginning in mid-April targeted to stakeholder groups designed to provide feedback on specific issues under discussion by the committees of the Commission.
  4. Information collected via comments made to cscommission@archspm.org. We have received many very insightful and useful comments and suggestions that we are incorporating into the Commission’s work. We encourage all school stakeholders to share their comments at cscommission@archspm.org. Committees are drafting recommendations now so now is a great time to provide input.

II. ADVANCEMENT COMMITTEE

  1. Retained a nationally recognized branding firm to help develop messaging for Catholic schools.
  2. Reviewing input being collected during an oral history project aimed at distilling sentiment regarding the value of Catholic schools. This project is being carried out by an independent local communications firm retained for this purpose. Information gathered will be helpful in the development of the overall message about Catholic schools in this Archdiocese.

III. EDUCATIONAL EXCELLENCE COMMITTEE

  1. Identified ten elements of successful Catholic schools which align with Strategic Plan criteria.
  2. Committee recognizes need for Archdiocesan wide assessments in multiple grades that can be compared to public school assessments and is working toward developing a proposal to meet the needs of students, schools and the Archdiocese.

IV. FUNDING MODELS COMMITTEE

  1. Reviewing templates for financial planning and reporting and best practices related to planning, reporting and analysis of financials.
  2. Considering tuition-setting practices, taking into consideration potential changes to archdiocesan parish assessment formula.

V. GOVERNANCE COMMITTEE

  1. Charter and membership profile for Archdiocesan Schools Advisory Board – final review
  2. Best practices, roles, responsibilities and membership for individual and regional school advisory boards – 2nd draft reviews
  3. Framework and operating principles for Catholic schools’ relationship with parishes and Office of Catholic Schools – beginning review
  4. Office of Catholic Schools model – beginning review

We continue to ask for input and participation in this important process. You may email your comments, concerns or questions at any time to cscommission@archspm.org.

Archbishop Nienstedt’s Open Letter Regarding School Closings

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The closing of a Catholic school always involves sad and difficult decisions. Families and school staff are deeply impacted, as is the entire parish and school community. We may take comfort, however, in knowing that when a school building closes, the history and tradition of the school community lives on in the generations of students who walked its halls and were formed in its classrooms.

This week, I accepted the recommendations of local school leaders from St. Joseph School in Red Wing and St. Mathias School in Hampton that their schools should close at the end of the 2010-2011 school year. Task force members at these schools carefully examined demographic, financial, and other data in making a realistic recommendation regarding their schools’ viability. Additionally, leaders at San Miguel Middle School of Minneapolis, an independent school administered by the De La Salle Christian Brothers, have announced that their school will also close at the end of this school year.

Viable Catholic schools are an essential element in fulfilling the mission of the Church in this Archdiocese even as they are beneficial for our society as a whole. In addition to receiving a high quality academic and religious education, Catholic school students are given an opportunity to live out their faith in service to the larger community, providing a foundation for students to become faith-filled ethical leaders in the local and global community.

Catholic schools face the challenge of remaining viable while also being affordable to all families who desire a Catholic school education for their children. Catholic schools encounter many of the same shifting dynamics that impact public schools: there are fewer school age children than several decades ago; buildings are aging; and providing the skilled teachers and up-to-date technology to educate the leaders of tomorrow costs more today than it did just a few years ago.

Under the Strategic Plan for the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, which was announced in October 2010, all Catholic Schools will engage in ongoing evaluation of sustainability and a structure of greater accountability aimed at strengthening the fabric of Catholic schools within the Archdiocese. Catholic school viability is measured against criteria in four areas: Catholic identity, academic quality, financial management, and community outreach.

The Archdiocesan Office of Catholic Schools is working with Catholic schools from across the Archdiocese to reach out to families from the schools that will close at the end of this school year. Together, we will do everything we can to help these families find a new Catholic school to meet their needs. Families wishing additional assistance may call the Catholic Schools Hotline at 612-SCHOOLS (612-724-6657).

I am also asking staff from the Office of Catholic Schools to work with the teachers and administrators affected to assist them in finding employment in other Catholic schools.

May God continue to bless you and the members of your parish and school community as we strive to provide for the mission of the Church during these difficult times.

Cordially yours in Christ,
The Most Reverend John C. Nienstedt
Archbishop of Saint Paul and Minneapolis

Archbishop Nienstedt’s Open Letter Regarding School Closings (Spanish) (pdf)

Three Catholic Schools Make Difficult Decision to Close at End of 2010-11 School Year

St Paul, MN, January 14, 2011 – Pastors, principals and other leaders at three Catholic schools in the Archdiocese have made the difficult but necessary decision to close their schools at the end of the 2010-2011 school year, due to lack of long-term sustainability. All three schools will remain open through the end of the current school year. These schools are: St Joseph School of Red Wing (43 students); San Miguel Middle School of Minneapolis (60 students); and St. Mathias School of Hampton (22 students).

St. Joseph and St. Mathias schools went through an intensive urgent review process, as outlined in the Strategic Plan for the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, which was released in October 2010. The urgent review process is part of a strategic planning process for all schools involving ongoing evaluation and greater accountability intended to strengthen Catholic schools as a whole in the Archdiocese. San Miguel Middle School, an independent school administered by the De La Salle Christian Brothers, completed its own review process, focused on long-term financial sustainability, in making its determination.

“The closing of a school is always difficult,” said Marty Frauenheim, Superintendent of Catholic Schools. “The Archdiocese is working closely with school leaders to ease the transition for affected families.”

Affected families have received a letter from their school leaders indicating how they can be assisted in enrolling their children in a nearby Catholic school. Arrangements are being made with neighboring Catholic schools regarding transportation and tuition. Leaders at those neighboring schools are welcoming families affected by the school closings. Efforts are also being made to help affected employees. All families seeking assistance in finding a Catholic school which meets their needs are invited to call the Catholic Schools Hotline at 612-SCHOOLS (612-724-6657).

St. Joseph and St. Mathias schools began the urgent review process in October 2010 with the forming of local school task forces. Those local task forces engaged in careful analysis and review of data related to financial management, academic quality, Catholic identity (adherence to archdiocesan religion standards and other guidelines), and advancement (marketing, development), as outlined in the Strategic Plan under the criteria for viable schools. The urgent review process included an open meeting with school families and other stakeholders at each individual school during which the local task force detailed the current status of the school as relates to each of the viability criteria. The local task force then developed a recommendation for the long term future of their school based on what they learned through this process. Each task force was charged with developing a realistic and specific plan for implementing their recommendation.

In mid-December, members of the local school task forces individually presented their recommendations regarding the future of their particular schools to a Review Board made up of archdiocesan staff and others. The Review Board reflected with local school task force representatives on the sustainability of their school in light of the insights gained from the urgent review process. Leaders at all schools which went through the urgent review process say they greatly appreciated the opportunity for reflection.

After these three closings at the end of the 2010-2011 school year, there will be 95 Catholic schools within the Archdiocese. During the 2010-2011 school year, more than 30,000 students are attending Catholic schools in the Archdiocese. Catholic school enrollment trends generally mirror that of public schools which are also challenged with a decline in school age population.

The Archdiocese remains firmly committed to Catholic schools, which offer benefits not only to students and families, but also to the greater community. Catholic schools in the Archdiocese save Minnesota taxpayers roughly 300 million dollars annually in costs related to public school education. Catholic schools have an impressive 99% graduation rate.

“The outcome of our new structure of ongoing evaluation and greater accountability in the Archdiocese will be even stronger Catholic schools,” said Superintendent Frauenheim. “We want parents to know that they can confidently choose any Catholic school in the Archdiocese and know that their children will receive a solid Catholic education. Catholic schools offer high quality academic programming taught in a safe and nurturing learning environment infused with the virtues that build the character of students throughout their lives. Catholic school leaders are committed to continually raising the bar to build on our tradition of excellence.”

For more information, please see the Catholic Schools website or Strategic Decisions Regarding Schools (pdf) within the Strategic Plan document.

Archbishop Nienstedt responds to petitions for appeal of parish mergers

Saint Paul, MN, November 19, 2010 — In response to information received from parishioners in their petitions to reconsider parish merger decisions announced by the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis last month, Archbishop John C. Nienstedt is modifying two of the 14 original mergers. He has confirmed the original merger decisions in the remaining 12 mergers.

In the New Prague area merger involving St. Benedict, St. John the Evangelist, St. Joseph, St. Scholastica, St. Thomas and St. Wenceslaus, the Archbishop has modified the merger to remove St. Thomas of Derrynane (in the community of Saint Thomas) from the merger. Instead, St. Thomas will merge with St. Anne of LeSueur. The other details of the St. Wenceslaus merger remain the same: the remaining four parishes will merge into St. Wenceslaus and the St. John the Evangelist, St. Scholastica, and St. Wenceslaus buildings are identified to remain open. The Archbishop has issued new decrees for the New Prague area merger as well as for the new merger of the parishes of St. Thomas and St. Anne.

In the case of the northeast Minneapolis merger of Holy Cross, St. Anthony of Padua, St. Clement, and St. Hedwig, the Archbishop has confirmed his original decision to merge these four parishes, with modifications as outlined in a new decree of merger. First, the name of the combined parish community after the merger will be Holy Cross. Second, the effective date of the merger has been changed to take place upon the retirement of Father Earl Simonson as pastor of St. Clement parish. Father Simonson’s retirement will take place by July 1, 2013. Finally, as a point of clarification, the Archbishop has reaffirmed the Polish nature of the combined parish community, including the continued offering of Mass in Polish and the Archbishop has stated that Mass will continue to be offered onsite to residents of Catholic Eldercare facilities that are adjacent to the church buildings of St. Anthony of Padua and St. Hedwig.

With the revisions announced today to parish mergers taken into account, 21 parishes are scheduled to merge into 15 receiving parishes. The net effect of the changes, after implementation of all the announced mergers, is a total of 192 remaining parishes compared to the current number of 213 parishes.

A merger decision does not necessarily mean that the merging parish’s church building will close. Decisions regarding the church buildings of the newly combined parish community will be made by local leaders in consultation with the Archbishop and Presbyteral Council, a representative body of priests.

Parishioners at parishes affected by these new decrees of merger, who believe they are negatively impacted by a decision, have until November 29th to request in writing that the Archbishop reconsider the decision. Parishioners affected by the 12 mergers confirmed by the Archbishop may appeal the Archbishop’s appeal response to the Vatican. More information about the appeal of a parish merger may be found at http://planning.archspm.org/wp-content/uploads/Appendix-A.pdf.

“As we embark on the changes recommended by the Archdiocesan Strategic Plan,” Archbishop Nienstedt said, “I ask all Catholics to remember that we are one local Church whose greatest gift is our faith in Jesus Christ and in his Body, the Church. Despite the challenges involved, especially for those affected by the mergers proposed, I ask our Catholic faithful to remain strong in the practice of their faith and equally strong in their resolve to continue building the new parish communities that will begin to unfold. Throughout this process, I encourage us to pray for each other.”

Archdiocesan staff members are working with pastors, lay leaders, and parishioners at affected parishes during this time of transition. Pending appeals, the first round of mergers will go into effect on January 1, 2011. Changes will roll out over the following months and years. The changes will not all happen at the same time.

The Archdiocese announced its Strategic Plan the weekend of October 16th and 17th, 2010. The plan shapes the vision for the future of the local Church and restructures parishes to foster a more vibrant faith community.  It is intended to ensure the Church’s continued vitality for the 800,000 Catholics in the 12 county area it serves. The Strategic Plan is the result of 20 months of study and consultation, that includes the input of thousands of people from across the Archdiocese — pastors and other clergy, parish and Catholic school leaders and staff, parishioners and Catholic school families. A 16 member Strategic Planning Task Force comprised of clergy, religious, and lay members was charged with gathering and analyzing this input, as well as demographic and other data, when formulating recommendations to the Archbishop.

Official Press Release (pdf)