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Fargo Diocese to reorganize churches

The Catholic Diocese of Fargo is proposing to combine parishes, close one church, move another and open two schools.

The plan is a response to a Parish, Seminary and School Review, which found increasing population growth to the south and west of Fargo.

Among the proposed changes:

  • West Fargo’s Holy Cross Catholic Church, 1,194 families, and Blessed Sacrament Church, 639 families, would merge and worship at Holy Cross, which would expand, while Blessed Sacrament would close.
  • The congregation of St. Benedict’s Church of Wild Rice, 215 families, would move to diocesan property at County Road 17 and 64th Avenue South in Horace, N.D.
  • St. Anthony of Padua, 900 families, and the Cathedral of St. Mary, 567 families, would “cluster,” sharing one parish staff.
  • Two schools would be added to the diocese: one at Holy Cross in West Fargo and the other at the new St. Benedict‘s site in Horace.

Fargo Bishop Samuel Aquila made the announcement to priests on Saturday morning. The information was then published in newsletters distributed after weekend masses.

Work on the changes would begin in the fall if the proposals go through, Monsignor Joseph Goering, vicar general of the Fargo Diocese, said Monday. He added there is no timetable at this point.

Goering said it's unknown if merging Holy Cross and Blessed Sacrament and clustering St. Anthony and the cathedral will lead to job cuts.

"Parishes are basically going to have to look at that and see what needs to happen to fulfill the mission," he said. "We'll have to see how that comes out."

He said the diocese last went through a round of consolidating parishes between 2004 and 2006. Thirty-three rural eastern North Dakota churches were slated for closure at the time.

He said there are no plans to close St. Anthony. There are also no plans for the current St. Benedict's, but there are "a number of possibilities" including moving the church, which was built in 1913.

Parishioners and parish staffers are invited to a round of meetings starting at 7 p.m. Feb. 1 at St. Anthony's Social Hall. Similar gatherings at 7 p.m. Feb. 3 at Sts. Anne & Joachim's social hall and 9 a.m. Feb. 5 at Holy Cross' Crossway Center will give an overview to the proposals with a follow-up question-and-answer period.

A second round of meetings will follow starting at 7 p.m. Feb. 15 at Holy Cross' Crossway Center, where "the proposal will be more deeply assessed, looking at benefits, concerns, questions and ideas for refinement," according to a release from the diocese.

The proposals did not address the future of Cardinal Muench Seminary. The diocese announced last April the seminary would close at the end of the 2010-2011 school year, citing the high cost of educating a small number of students as the reason. A proposal for the north Fargo site will be announced on March 12.

Holy Cross is joined by a common meeting space with Lutheran Church of the Cross. Goering did not say how the diocese planned to expand the church.

Rev. Bill Rindy, Bishop of the Eastern North Dakota Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, said there is room for both churches to expand on the site and thinks both can continue to work well together.

Readers can reach Forum reporter John Lamb at (701) 241-5533