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Mass attendance has fallen 78% since 1990, Erie bishop says, as he plans for parish restructuring

April 27, 2023

The Diocese of Erie, which once had 130 parishes and now has 93 parishes, is planning for a new round of parish restructuring, Bishop Lawrence Persico said in a letter to the faithful.

“Basically we have to work at right-sizing the diocese based upon the number of parishioners as well as the number of clergy,” Bishop Persico told the Erie Times-News. Bishop Persico, who has governed the northwestern Pennsylvania diocese since 2012, supervised the most recent round of restructuring in 2016, which led to the reduction of 116 parishes (and 141 church buildings) to 93 parishes (and 127 church buildings).

“The number of practicing Catholics in our diocese has declined steeply, as has the number of active priests available to serve in parishes,” the prelate wrote in his letter. “In fact, while the population in the 13 counties of our diocese has dropped by about 7% since 1990, the number of Catholics who attend Mass on Sunday has dropped by 78%. I understand the pandemic hastened some of this decline. But that does not change our situation.”

Bishop Persico expressed hope that the new round of restructuring will “create communities that are vibrant and dynamic, and in a position to extend a sense of welcome and belonging to all.”

From 1990 to 2012, the diocese was led by Bishop Donald Trautman, who was known for his opposition to more accurate Mass translations. The 2018 grand jury report on sexual abuse in Pennsylvania dioceses “singled out” Bishop Trautman, the Erie Times-News reported; indeed, the grand jury report mentioned Trautman 438 times. (Bishop Trautman strongly criticized the report.)


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