SIOUX CITY (KTIV) -- Hundreds of people gathered Tuesday outside the Sioux City Diocese Office to protest the closing or merger of rural parishes in Iowa.
The Diocese of Sioux City said it's due to reductions in community and parish population, reduced numbers of parishioners active in their faith, and drastic downturns in the sacraments and ministries.
"It's just a building, but it's also a community," said Molly Klocke, a member of St. Joseph's in Dedham, Iowa.
Anger and frustration. It was the overwhelming feeling from many demonstrators Tuesday afternoon outside of the Diocese of Sioux City.
"We're trying to make a statement to the bishop and to the administration that this is really important especially to the rural parishes," said Roger Dentlinger, member of Holy Name Parish in Marcus, Iowa.
Dentlinger said he understands there is a priest shortage. But he said they've offered up other strategies to the bishop.
"We would like them to possibly consider even having a rotating schedule," said Dentlinger. "If you can't have the mass every weekend in our church, we would be very happy to have a weekend mass every other weekend or once a month if need be to take the load off of the priest but still minister."
But many people said they feel ignored.
"We've supported our churches financially," said Molly Klocke, a member of Saint Joseph Catholic Church in Dedham Iowa. "We've taken care of their buildings. We show up there. We are at mass. We are vibrant, active parishes that are being shut down. We've done everything we are supposed to. The only thing that we can't do is bring priests to the diocese."
Some, feeling like they're being abandoned.
"If you want to know a community, you should visit a community," said Daryl Klocke, a member of St.Mary's in Willey, Iowa. "I don't feel anybody from Sioux City has come to these small towns and seen our pain probably to even see what is going on."
Others worry the closures will lead many Catholics to leave the faith because they lose their individual parish and community.
"We celebrate weddings, funerals of people of our parish and if you're not part of that parish, you lose that identity," said Dentlinger.
Their hope from the demonstration, to buy some time for alternatives rather than closing the parishes.
The Bishop came out during Tuesday's demonstration to say a prayer for all those attending.
Concerning the closing of parishes, the Diocese provided the following statement to KTIV:
Bishop Walker Nickless understands the deep emotions of the faithful regarding the ongoing pastoral planning process in the diocese and appreciates their deep love of the church.
The diocese is responding to rapidly shifting demographics, reductions in community and parish population, reduced numbers of parishioners active in their faith and drastic downturns in the sacraments and ministries, while at the same time seeing critical shortages in vocations similar to what dioceses are experiencing nationally and internationally. These trends have been occurring for almost three decades in the Diocese of Sioux City.
Bishop Nickless is working not by looking back on how things have been done for the past 50 to 75 years, but instead by looking forward in restructuring and reorganizing in order to bring vitality and growth to newly-designed parish groupings. At the same time, the bishop is working to build the participation in the sacraments and ministries and increase vocations.
The Diocese of Sioux City is radically shifting the parish groupings from simply maintenance to a mission dynamic, enhancing evangelization throughout northwest Iowa.
The bishop keeps all the faithful in his prayers during this time of change in the Diocese of Sioux CityOfficial statement from the Diocese of Sioux City
The restructuring and reorganization Bishop Nickless mentioned is a plan called "Ministry 2025," which was introduced in 2016 as a way to address the dwindling number of priests in the diocese.