Another diocesan reorg: Will it be a disaster, too?

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Another diocese--this time a big one, the Archdiocese of Minneapolis-St. Paul--has announced a reorganization process, with promises that "nothing has been decided," according the co-chair of the process, Father John Bauer. (You can register your opinion by clicking the link above if your a resident of the archdiocese.)

"We went into this with no preconceived ideas. People think there already is a plan out there, that everything has been decided," Bauer told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. The fear that everything has been decided is not unreasonable, as parishioners from Boston to Miami to Albany, N.Y., have all expressed doubts that their dioceses took their input into consideration.

To wit: Already on the table are mergers and consolidations among the 217 parishes and 93 schools of the archdiocese--hardly thinking outside the box.

The worst idea of all, at least as reported in the Star-Tribune story, is the description of what the task force is supposed to do: "The task force's job is to reshape the archdiocese from a 19th century model--when people walked to daily mass at neighborhood churches--into an organization that will thrive in a 21st century landscape dotted by big 'destination churches' that people drive to attend." In other words, Minn-St. Paul may borrow the "megachurch" model, taking another step into a consumer-driven model of Christian communities. Yuck.

I hope the archdiocese doesn't fall into the megaparish trap. As I wrote in my August column: "Most Protestant congregation in the United States have fewer than 100 Sunday worshipers, and they keep going, admittedly not without difficulty. Why can't we?" Consolidation is not the only solution, and not every parish needs some massive building that costs a fortune to heat during the brutal winters of the upper Midwest.

My unfortunate prediction, however, is that Minneapolis-St. Paul will have about 50 fewer parishes and 10 new pastoral behemoths.