St Brigid, St Columbkille to oratory status

After 16 months of waiting, parishioners at St Brigid Catholic Church in Grand Junction got word Sunday that the church will go to oratory status next July.

Parishioners at St Columbkille in Churdan also learned that their church will become an oratory at the same time. Members there learned in January their church was under consideration for the diminished status. St Columbkille was not listed for oratory status in the Sioux City Diocese’s first draft of its Ministry 2025 plan in March 2016.

The Rev Jeff Schleisman, pastor of the Greene County Catholic churches, as well as members of those churches and St Joseph in Jefferson, have taken every opportunity during the Ministry 2025 process to argue in favor of full status for all three churches.

A month ago parishioners at the churches voted in favor of merging the three parishes into one parish in hopes of warding off oratory status. That would have allowed weekend masses to be celebrated there. That proposal was not approved by the diocese.

St Brigid and St Columbkille will still be available for weddings and funerals, for mass of the feast day of St Brigid and St Columbkille, and for one other mass during the year. There will be no daily or weekend masses there.

Ministry 2025 combines the Catholic churches in Greene and Boone Counties into one cluster. Fr Scheisman will celebrate mass twice each weekend in Jefferson and once at St John Catholic Church in Ogden. Fr Randy Schon will celebrate two masses each weekend at Sacred Heart in Boone and two at St Malachi in Madrid. The schedules haven’t been determined.

In making the announcement, Schleisman referred to the “drought” of vocations that has led to the reorganization of the diocese. “When crops need rain they send roots deeper. The same should take place in our Christian faith,” he said. “The drought of priests should call us to sink our roots deeper, to build our faith in Christ.”

“As we move forward, our community is whatever we need it to be,” he added.

The proposal will not be finalized until August, but Schleisman said there are no options left to keep the churches open.

A challenge for a church in oratory status is that there is no weekly collection and no money or administrative assistance from the diocese. St Patrick in Cedar Township has been an oratory for more than 20 years. Former parishioners have contributed money and time and have held fundraisers to keep the historic building viable.

Members of a parish going to oratory status can vote to close the church all together rather than maintain the building. St John in Paton and St Paul in Scranton closed and the buildings were sold.


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