NY Archdiocese Begins Church Mergers, Closures Under Restructuring Plan

It was an emotional day of reckoning Friday for dozens of neighborhood churches in the city. They're shutting their doors as part of a wrenching reorganization by the Archdiocese of New York. NY1's Erin Clarke filed the following report.

The final mass at the Shrine Church of St. Ann in the Bronx was followed with hugs and tears from parishioners like Fedora Natili who has been coming here for decades.

"It's too much," said Natili.

"Very sad, very sad," said one man. "We definitely don't want it to close."

"I'm sad because this is the church that we grew up," said another man. "My whole family we came here for years."

This Catholic Church, built in 1928, was one of 43 in the city shutting its doors Friday, part of a sweeping consolidation of parishes by the Archdiocese of New York.

In total, 74 churches in the Bronx, Manhattan, Staten Island, Duchess and Orange Counties were closing, the largest restructuring in Archdiocese history, brought about by changing demographics and a decline in church attendance.

"Nobody's going to church no more," said one woman.

Some church buildings will close indefinitely and it will be up to the parish to decide the future use, while others will be used for special ceremonies.

"In Manhattan, in other parts of the Archdiocese, we needed to merge parishes in order to most effectively use the resources and meet the needs of the people," said Joseph Zwilling, Archdiocese of New York.

Some at St. Ann's feel their needs are being overlooked.

Their church will merge with nearby St. Brendan's. Just five blocks away, a difficult walk though for some elderly parishioners.

"I have a disability," said one woman. "I can't come for St. Brendan's when there's snow. It's no good for me."

"I'm very close and I can't walk too long," said another woman.

The Archdiocese said it has been working with parishes to ease the transition since last fall when the restructuring was announced. Several churches have already begun the process and clergy are encouraging parishioners to embrace the change.

"There are challenges in our faith like closing our church to move to another place," said Rev. Father Paul Nwobi. "Those challenges open new blessings so we should not take it very negatively."

So with heavy hearts, but resilient spirits, the congregation left the Shrine Church of St. Ann's for the last time.

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