Future of St Columbkille once again bleak

Story updated Monday – see below

Greene County Catholics are in limbo after learning last week that the “devil is in the details” when it comes to the Sioux City Diocese’s plan to reduce the number of churches.

St Brigid in Grand Junction and St Columbkille in Churdan were slated to go to oratory status in July. Masses could be celebrated there only twice a year, although weddings and funerals could continue being held there. An oratory receives no financial or administrative support from the diocese.

Fr Jeff Schleisman, pastor of the two churches and St Joseph in Jefferson, announced at Easter masses that St Brigid and St Columbkille would not become oratories, but would become worship sites. Regular weekend masses would continue in all three churches, along with St John in Ogden, which will become part of the cluster.

Schleisman said he had received a phone call but not written notice of the change. He decided to share the news because people at the Saturday evening vigil service at St Columbkille were noticeably somber, knowing that would be the last Easter celebration at the church.

The letter arrived last week and it didn’t include the confirmation of good news for which everyone was hoping.

Instead, Schleisman explained at a weekday mass, the diocese has changed definitions. The term “oratory” will no longer be used. What the diocese has called an oratory in the past is now being called a “worship site,” and what the diocese has called a worship site in the past (a church without a resident priest but where weekend masses are held on a regular schedule) is now being called a “secondary church”. A church with a resident pastor is now a “canonical church.”

Using the new definitions, as of late Friday afternoon, St Brigid and St Columbkille will effectively be closed at the end of June. A priest will live in Jefferson and say regular weekend masses at St Joseph and St John in Ogden. St Joseph will be a canonical church and St John will be a secondary church.

Schleisman hasn’t given up yet. The wording in the letter concerning St Brigid was ambiguous; Schleisman has requested a meeting with Bishop Walker Nickless to get clarification.

Update – Schleisman received clarification from the bishop Saturday. St Brigid is to be a secondary church along with St John. Both will have regularly scheduled weekend masses.

St Columbkille will become a worship site. The last regular weekend mass there will be the last weekend in June.

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