When Baltimore-area Catholics learned the fate of their respective parishes on Wednesday, those who attend eight churches may have been pleasantly surprised to see them spared in the Archdiocese of Baltimore’s final merger plan.

But the surprise wasn’t a pleasant one for members of three other churches that initially were recommended to stay open, but since have been slated for closure.

After two years of planning and community input, the archdiocese released its final plan late Wednesday, catching some people off guard because final decisions weren’t expected until June. The archdiocese is merging parishes amid a significant drop in attendance at Mass.

“None of these decisions were easy, not one of them,” said Auxiliary Bishop Bruce Lewandowski, who has overseen the consolidation plan.

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He said Wednesday’s announcement begins a transition phase for the archdiocese that will run through Dec. 1, the first Sunday of Advent, when the newly redrawn parishes will be asked to celebrate their first Mass.

“We’ve been doing a lot of talking about this and listening and revising proposals, now we actually have to work,” he said Thursday.

The archdiocese said Wednesday that it would slash the number of parishes in the city and parts of Baltimore County from 61 to 23, while reducing the number of worship sites from 59 to 30, dramatically reducing the Catholic Church’s footprint in a city where the first U.S. diocese was established in 1789.

Many area Catholics were eager to see how church leaders would respond to feedback shared at three packed listening sessions. They got their answer Friday.

Under the final plan, eight churches that were initially recommended for closure were spared: St. Rita’s in Dundalk; St. Clement Mary Hofbauer in Rosedale, in Baltimore County; St. Francis of Assisi in Northeast Baltimore; Our Lady of Victory and St. Joseph’s Monastery in Southwest Baltimore; Our Lady of Good Counsel in Locust Point; St. Athanasius in Curtis Bay; and St. Veronica’s in Cherry Hill.

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Cynthia Mendoza learned from her husband that Our Lady of Good Counsel, which has become like a second home, would remain open as an “additional worship site” in a parish anchored by Holy Cross. She didn’t believe him at first — the draft plan slated Good Counsel for closure, and Mendoza didn’t expect a final decision until next month.

“We are all very happy that it’s not closing,” Mendoza said Thursday.

For others, the reality that their church would in fact be closing began to sink in.

“Today there are a few Catholic Church parishioners in Baltimore that are feeling good that their parishes will still have worship,” said a Facebook post by Rudy Dehaney, who is director of faith formation, youth and young adult ministry for Blessed Sacrament and St. Matthew parishes and also works for Notre Dame Maryland as a campus minister.

“Many will have different emotions after seeing the final proposal knowing that their current home will be closing. One of them is me and my home parish,” continued Dehaney, whose home parish is Blessed Sacrament Church.While I feel better off than most, it will still be hard. So take time for prayer, a good word, a song, or conversation for everyone who will have a tough time and hope for perseverance in troubled times and that a new, loving, accepting home maybe found. But today, tomorrow, or much longer … we grieve. Let us be comforted.”

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Someone commented on the post, “We do grieve. Not so much for the loss of our beautiful churches, but for the loss of the faith communities that will be broken up. I believe many more will leave the Catholic Church.”

The final plan included some unwelcome news for three churches that congregants might have thought were safe: Transfiguration Catholic Community in Southwest Baltimore; St. Rose of Lima in Brooklyn; and Church of the Annunciation in Rosedale, in northeast Baltimore County.

The archdiocese had recommended keeping all three open in the draft plan released in April.

Lewandowski said late shifts in the plan, dubbed Seek the City to Come, came in response not only to feedback received at listening sessions, but from thousands of letters, emails and phone calls.

“People started telling us where they would go to church, where they wouldn’t, where they would continue to and move to,” Lewandowski said. “We want to retain as many people as we have right now as possible.”

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Over the next six months, he said, church leaders will need to decide how newly merged parishes handle faith formation, food distribution, outreach to people in need, assignment of ministers and other matters. At the same time, he said, the Church needs to be mindful of the sense of loss and grief that many members will feel.

“These are not easy times for a lot of folks as they form new parishes,” he said.

Archbishop William E. Lori called the final plan “heart-wrenching but necessary and overdue.” Church leaders have stressed that attendance at Mass is a fraction of what it was when dozens of churches were built to serve a swelling immigrant community in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Older churches are costly to maintain and fix up, Lori noted, and funds would be better spent on mission and ministry.

Lewandowski said last month that the proposal was not related to the archdiocese’s decision to file for bankruptcy in September, before a state law went into effect allowing more survivors of childhood sexual abuse to file lawsuits. Last year, the Maryland Office of the Attorney General released a 456-page report outlining decades of heinous sexual, physical and emotional abuse by more than 100 members of the clergy. Lori said “the report details a reprehensible time in the history of this Archdiocese, a time that will not be covered up, ignored or forgotten.”

Congregants who turned out at listening sessions pleaded with church leaders to save individual parishes. They spoke of feeling a special connection to churches, or of how some served as the religious homes of Black, Latino, Polish or Filipino members.

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“We took people’s advice under serious consideration,” Lewandowski said.

A room full of people sit at blue cafeteria tables and look toward a projector screen for a presentation.
The Archdiocese of Baltimore held three public meetings, including one in Spanish, about its plans to close certain churches, in the spring of 2024. (Daniel Zawodny)

Here is a look at some of the places where the archdiocese changed its original plans after hearing from members:


St. Rita’s will remain an “additional worship site” after initially being recommended for closure. It will merge with Our Lady of Hope as well as two churches that are closing, St. Luke’s and Sacred Heart of Mary.

East Baltimore

Members of Holy Rosary Church in East Baltimore packed listening sessions to urge that their church, long a focal point of the city’s Polish community, not be merged with Sacred Heart of Jesus. The archdiocese did not maintain Holy Rosary as a stand-alone parish, but did designate an “additional worship site at Holy Rosary with English, Polish, and Spanish ministry.”

Members of Holy Rosary Church hold up flags during a presentation at Seek the City Night on April 25, 2024, in Baltimore. The Archdiocese of Baltimore decided to maintain the church, the religious home of many congregants of Polish heritage, as an additional worship site. But it will be folded into another parish. (Eric Thompson/for the Baltimore Banner)

Northeast Baltimore County

The Church of the Annunciation in Rosedale was initially recommended to serve as the anchor of a proposed Far Northeast Parish, but now it will close. The parish will instead be seated at St. Michael the Archangel on Willow Avenue near Overlea, which was to be an additional worship site. Another Rosedale church, St. Clement Mary Hofbauer, will serve as an additional worship site after initially being recommended for closure.

Northeast Baltimore

Another place of worship that received a lifeline is St. Francis of Assisi on Harford Road in Northeast Baltimore. It will remain as an additional worship site as part of a merger with St. Matthew’s on Loch Raven Boulevard.

However, five other churches in Northeast Baltimore will close, as originally recommended: St. Dominic, the Shrine of the Little Flower, St. Anthony of Padua, Most Precious Blood, and Blessed Sacrament.

West Baltimore

Church leaders had recommended merging five churches in West Baltimore, with St. Bernardine serving as the anchor and St. Peter Claver remaining open “temporarily.” The archdiocese confirmed that St. Peter Claver will remain open as an “additional worship site.”

“The Archdiocese is intentional about keeping parishes planted in storied African American communities, such as St. Ambrose in Park Heights and St. Bernardine in Edmondson Village,” church leaders said in a news release. “Both St. Francis Xavier and St. Peter Claver hold historical importance in the life of the Church and for Black Catholics specifically. They, too, will remain open.”

The West Baltimore churches slated for closure are St. Edward, St. Gregory the Great and St. Pius V.

The closing of Catholic churches in Baltimore City is particularly “devastating” to Black and brown communities, according to Rev. Robert Turner, the pastor of Empowerment Temple in Baltimore. ”The Catholic Church for several decades has been the entity that has helped in educating Black youth. They stayed when others left. They take those that others sometimes believed were unteachable.”

He said he was concerned about “the transportation issues [that] closures and mergers would create for communities that already struggle with public transportation.”

Transfiguration Catholic Community on West Hamburg Street will close under a Catholic Church consolidation plan finalized in May 2024. (Abby Zimmardi)

Southwest Baltimore

Our Lady of Victory was targeted for closure in the original archdiocese plan but will now anchor a parish there. St. Joseph’s Monastery on Old Frederick Road also got a late reprieve and will serve as an additional worship site for the redrawn OLV Parish.

Not so lucky was Transfiguration Catholic Community, located on West Hamburg Street, just west of M&T Bank Stadium. Church leaders had initially recommended keeping it open, but said Wednesday that it should be folded into Our Lady of Victory, as well.

St. Benedict in Southwest Baltimore will also close.

South Baltimore

Parishioners at Our Lady of Good Counsel, which has served the Catholic community in Locust Point since the late 19th century, had reason to cheer when they learned that it would remain open as an additional worship site.

The original plan called for folding it and St. Mary Star of the Sea into Holy Cross, with Masses being celebrated at the Federal Hill church, which was founded by German immigrants in 1858.

Cynthia Mendoza poses for a photograph in front of Our Lady of Good Counsel Catholic Church Wednesday, May 8, 2024, in Baltimore. Mendoza was thrilled that her church would not be closing, but she had questions about its status as an “additional worship site” to Holy Cross. (Gail Burton for the Baltimore Banner)

With Our Lady of Good Counsel set to become one of seven “additional worship sites” around the Baltimore region, Mendoza said she and other parishioners are eager to get more clarity about what that designation means practically. Will they still hold Sunday Masses there? Can they continue with catechism taught on church grounds and other ministries? Will it still be available for weddings and baptisms?

The news is also a call to action: “This means there’s a lot of work to do,” Mendoza said.

Lewandowski said he envisioned activities such as Masses, baptisms and fundraising continuing at “additional worship sites.”

Curtis Bay/Cherry Hill

Across the Middle Branch of the Patapsco River, the archdiocese switched things up. St. Rose of Lima was proposed to stay open and anchor a new Curtis Bay-Cherry Hill parish, but now it’s slated for closure. The parish will instead be seated at St. Athanasius, which was set to close. It will offer English and Spanish ministry.

St. Veronica on Cherry Hill Road was also set to close but it, too, was spared. It will remain a standalone parish in the Cherry Hill neighborhood, which also learned this week that it will become a stop on the free Charm City Circulator bus line.

St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church in Baltimore will close under a Catholic Church consolidation plan finalized in May 2024. (Abby Zimmardi)


In some cases, the archdiocese changed or specified where to send congregants losing their church.

For example, the final plan will merge St. Mary of the Assumption with Cathedral of Mary Our Queen. Also, Corpus Christi will merge with The Baltimore Basilica rather than Saints Philip and James.

“We’re gonna be fewer, but with bigger parishes in the configuration, we want to be involved in as many neighborhoods as possible,” Lewandowski said.

Abby Zimmardi and John-John Williams contributed to this report.