LE MARS, Iowa (AP) — Two Catholic parishes in the Le Mars area will merge in response to fewer available priests and declining rural population.
St. Joseph and St. James Catholic churches will merge in large part because of declining numbers of priests, according to the Le Mars Daily Sentinel (http://bit.ly/1cnfMJi ).
The Rev. Kevin Richter told congregants gathered at St. Joseph Catholic Church on Sunday that the dwindling number of priests is an issue around the country as priests retire and others leave the priesthood only years after ordination.
"It's harder and harder to work all the time to figure out where we're going to find priests," Richter said. "The numbers continue to decline. They're just not there."
Richter said some smaller communities continue to lose population, while larger cities such as Le Mars remain more stable. He noted that in the Sioux City diocese, 22 of 24 counties have decreasing populations.
At least one of three rural churches in Merrill, Struble and Ellendale eventually will close, Richter said.
Monsignor Mark Duchaine will continue his work at Assumption Church in Merrill, St. Joseph in Struble and St. Joseph in Ellendale, but when he retires or is reassigned, the church in Merrill will close, Richter said. Duchaine is now in his 60s.
The church in Ellendale could stay open, but Richter said it might become a mission. Although the Struble church could also close, it could remain open with more limited uses in the future.
Richter said the buildings still would be available for weddings, funerals and perhaps monthly masses.
Information from: Daily Sentinel, http://www.lemarssentinel.com