NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — Parishioners across the New Orleans area are dealing with the news that several churches will close.

It’s a decision by the Archdiocese of New Orleans that affects 13 church parishes from New Orleans to Garyville.

Archbishop Gregory Aymond says the archdiocese made the difficult decision to merge parishes as they cope with the impacts of recent challenges, like the COVID-19 pandemic, Hurricane Ida and inflation.

In four cases, two parishes are merging into one, and in another case, three parishes will merge into one.

Transfiguration of the Lord, St. James Major and St. Gabriel, all located in Gentilly, will merge into one parish with a new name, and any of the three campuses remain an option for its location. 

These changes are among the results of what the archdiocese is calling a parish planning pastoral process.

Former Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman has been attending Mass at St. James Major Catholic Church for 25 years and is currently serving as a lector. He says he learned there was a possibility his church may close in the last few days.

“That really is not only disappointing, but it distresses me, and I think, a lot of the parishioners,” Gusman said.

Aymond says they formed a parish sustainability committee last year to provide each parish with a profile that highlighted its strengths and weaknesses.

A couple of parishes demonstrated their improvements while others didn’t.

“It was incredibly important to us and to me personally that each parish knows their recommendations and desires for their future were not only heard but seriously considered.” Aymond said in a recorded video.

In 2020, the archdiocese filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, with Aymond stating the archdiocese can no longer supplement parishes and ministries that are struggling financially.

However, Gusman believes their focus is lost.

“I think it’s really discouraging to make spiritual decisions on a business basis, and we ought to be looking at trying to expand the faith, trying to expand spirituality instead of on money reasons, trying to close churches,” Gusman said.

The archdiocese says these mergers will be effective, beginning July 1, 2024.

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