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Nine South Side Catholic Churches And Schools Face Possible Closure, Consolidation

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The Archdiocese of Chicago will make a decision Wednesday night on whether to close or consolidate several Catholic churches and schools on the South Side.

Students and staff at nine parishes in Bridgeport, Canaryville, and Chinatown will learn their fate as part of an archdiocese plan to save money, and revitalize ministries.

Bridgeport Catholic Academy has encouraged members to attend a community meeting Wednesday night at St. Barbara Church, where representatives from the archdiocese will announce what's next for their school and for eight parishes on the South Side.

"I understand the economics of the church wanting to consolidate parishes, but my wife and I have talked, and we think that more people are actually going to leave the church, just because they're not going to want to go to a new parish," said Matt Frazier, whose son attends BCA.

Frazier said he's not worried about the outcome of Bridgeport Catholic Academy.

"This school is not going anywhere. I mean, some of the other schools we already know are closing, but we know BCA is at max capacity, so they're fine," he said.

Eight parishes in Bridgeport, Canaryville, and Chinatown face an uncertain fate; including St. Anthony, St. Barbara, St. Mary of Perpetual Help, Nativity of Our Lord, St. Gabriel, St. Jerome Croatian, Santa Lucia-Santa Maria Incoronata, and St. Therese Chinese.

"They don't have the money, and the churches aren't being attended like they used to be. I mean, I was at mass the other day, and there was 83 people in church," said John Dundich, a parishioner at St. Anthony.

Cardinal Blase Cupich spoke Tuesday about what he called a difficult decision.

"We suffer from demographic changes. Populations erode in neighborhoods that were once there where the school was once vibrant before, so we have to make some hard choices," he said.

According to published reports, Cupich already has decided to consolidate two churches not on the list. St. Michael will merge with Immaculate Conception to form a new parish in July. A new pastor will be hired to lead the parish, and work with the archdiocese to come up with a long-term strategy for the school and church.

Immaculate Conception will stay open to serve the new parish.

The archdiocese said no final decision has been made on the structure of the closings and consolidations. A formal announcement will come at Wednesday night's meeting at St. Barbara.

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