- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 4, 2014

BELLEVILLE, Ill. (AP) - Five rural southern Illinois parishes will be consolidated with others next month, partly due to a lack of priests in those affected communities, the Diocese of Belleville has announced.

The closures that Bishop Edward Braxton say resulted from “difficult decisions” take effect March 3, the Belleville News-Democrat (https://bit.ly/1fMrVuU) reported Tuesday.

The affected parishes include St. Leo in Modoc, Immaculate Conception in Bridgeport, St. Catherine of Alexandria in Grand Chain, St. Mary in Mound City and St. Francis Xavier in St. Francisville.

The Very Rev. Eugene Wojcik, the diocese’s dean of the West Vicariate, says the diocese doesn’t have the resources to meet the needs of all the parishes, given that priests are aging with an insufficient number of recruits to fill the voids. All five soon-to-close parishes were sharing a pastor with at least one other parish, he said.

It was not immediately clear how many Roman Catholics attended the five soon-to-close parishes.

But Msgr. Daniel Jurek - pastor at St. Leo and the St. Joseph parish 8 miles away in Prairie du Rocher - said the decision to close 26-family St. Leo has been on the horizon for years. St. Leo has not had its own pastor for several decades, Jurek said.

“You just can’t keep these little ones going,” he said, understanding that some St. Leo parishioners may not favor the closure but someday see it as an opportunity. “You can either go, ‘Boohoo, boohoo, it’s all over’ or you can go, ‘Thank you Lord for being with us.’”


Information from: Belleville News-Democrat, https://www.bnd.com

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