People will get their first chance Thursday evening to weigh in on a proposal to close dozens of Catholic churches in Baltimore and some nearby communities in Baltimore County.

Representatives of the Archdiocese of Baltimore will share details of the proposal — which calls for reducing the number of parishes from 61 to 21 — at a 6:30 p.m. meeting at Archbishop Curley High School in Northeast Baltimore. Members of the public will then be allowed to comment. People can also log into the meeting virtually.

The number of church buildings used for worship would be reduced from 59 to 26 under the proposal.

File photo shows Corpus Christi Church at 110 W. Lafayette Ave. in Baltimore, on March 15, 2023. It would be merged with Saints Philip and James under the Archdiocese of Baltimore’s consolidation plan. (Paul Newson/The Baltimore Banner)

The session will include “prayer, reflection, sharing and listening,” Christian Kendzierski, an archdiocesan spokesperson, said in an email. “Parishes will have representatives to offer feedback from a collective parish perspective.”

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Plans to close and consolidate churches elicited outrage and dismay from many Catholics, including those who have donated their time and money to maintain facilities and build programs at their home churches.

The proposal calls for many disparate parishes to be consolidated; for example, St. Vincent’s, a liberal and LGBTQ-friendly parish on the edge of downtown would be merged with St. Leo’s, a distinctly Italian-American parish in Little Italy, and St. Patrick’s, a more traditional parish in Highlandtown.

The proposal also calls for the closure of many historic parishes, such as St. Ann’s in East Baltimore, which recently celebrated its 150th anniversary. Dedicated parishioner Ralph Moore raised $30,000 in pennies to help cover the cost of a new roof for the church, which has a historically Black congregation.

The archdiocese says that the closures and consolidations are necessary.

In the mid-1900s, there were more than 250,000 people worshipping at Baltimore’s Catholic churches. Today, about 5,000 to 8,000 attend Sunday Mass in the city, and many of them come from the suburbs

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The archdiocese began holding meetings and gathering input from parishes about a year and a half ago, to form a plan called Seek the City to Come. A final plan is slated to be announced in June.

Two additional listening sessions are scheduled for next week.

A meeting in Spanish will be held at 7 p.m. Monday at Our Lady of Fatima Church in Southeast Baltimore.

A final session is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 30, at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in Guilford.

Julie Scharper is an enterprise reporter for The Baltimore Banner. Her work ranges from investigations into allegations of sexual harassment and abuse to light-hearted features. Baltimore Magazine awarded Scharper a Best in Baltimore in 2023 for her series exposing a toxic work culture within the Maryland Park Service.

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