The Archdiocese of Baltimore’s recent announcement to parishioners of the draft plan for how the Catholic Church will be present in Baltimore was understandably upsetting for many, especially those with ties to churches slated to close. This process, known as Seek the City to Come, is much needed and will allow the archdiocese to more efficiently serve the needs of communities where it has an anchoring presence.

As a member of the Archdiocese of Baltimore’s Board of Financial Administration, a consultative body required by canon law to ensure proper financial stewardship, I was aware of the process at its outset. It was evident to me and the other board members that while there was a vision, the outcome wasn’t predetermined. Archbishop William Lori initiated this process and is meeting his canonical responsibility to utilize the financial resources entrusted to him to advance the Catholic Church’s mission.

In what were once heavily Catholic and mostly European immigrant neighborhoods in Baltimore, a tremendous need for churches existed. Those churches served as neighborhood social hubs as much as houses of worship. Now, those church buildings are no longer needed.

Decades of demographic shifts, occurring in Baltimore as well as other East Coast industrial cities, saw those Catholics migrate to the suburbs. Today, those neighborhoods are largely populated by non-Catholics. Multiple Catholic churches remain nearby for those city residents who continue to practice their faith.

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In 1970, Baltimore was the sixth-largest city in the United States. Today, it is only the 31st-largest. It stands to reason that such a sizable population shift will have a major impact on institutions that must expand and contract based on that movement.

Now, the Catholic Church must decide how to be present to the communities that have come to rely on it for more than places to worship. The Seek the City process will reduce the number of churches but a host of services and ministries will still provide the kind of support people, including many who are not Catholic, desperately need. The church community will still be positioned to put faith into action for the good of others.

The archbishop has responsibly and, I believe, courageously engaged in a highly transparent process that allows Catholics to help shape how churches will remain present in Baltimore.

Difficult and painful decisions are a necessary part of this process and surely will draw a range of emotions. I applaud the archbishop for taking this bold and necessary step that will ensure the Catholic Church remains relevant and continues to be among the most important and impactful institutions doing good in Baltimore.

Joe Foss is a member of the archdiocese’s Board of Financial Administration and former vice chairman and chief operating officer of the Baltimore Orioles, as well as a former executive for several companies.

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