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Catholic Diocese of Columbus closing 15 churches in central Ohio, including nine in Columbus

Holy Rosary and St. John Catholic Church on the near east side of Columbus.
George Shillcock
Holy Rosary and St. John Catholic Church on the near east side of Columbus is one of 15 Catholic churches slated to close in Central Ohio.

The Catholic Diocese of Columbus announced it will close 15 churches in central Ohio, including nine churches and one school in Franklin County.

The Columbus churches slated to close include Corpus Christi, St. Ladislas, Holy Rosary/ St. John Church, Parroquia Santa Cruz, St. Philip the Apostle, Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, St. Matthias and St. Anthony Church and school. Attendance is declining and fewer people want to become priests, which is putting a strain on the Catholic Church.

A study initially recommended closing 32 churches, but Bishop Earl Fernandes narrowed the list to 15. The other churches include St. Mary Church in Groveport, St. Mark Church in Lancaster, St. Mary Church in Bremen, St. Francis de Sales in Newcomerstown, St. Peter and St. Paul Church in Glenmont, Church of Atonement in Crooksville and St. Bernard Church in Corning.

The diocese operates 108 parishes in 23 counties.

Judy Crnkovich grew up in Corpus Christi Catholic Church with her 10 siblings, attending school, church festivals and singing with her twin in the church choir. She got married there nearly 45 years ago, and now attends St. Catherine's.

Crnkovich said she is sad it is closing and will miss the memories she made there.

"(St. Catherine's) is thriving just because there are a lot of Catholics there. But on the south end, a lot of them have moved out and it's a whole different type of generation that is coming in there," she said.

The Catholic Church is closing parishes across the country, as the number of people willing to work as priests decreases and attendance dwindles.

Fernandes said in a video released Thursday morning that pastoral planning and these closures was going to be necessary, and made sense to him because of the number of people going to mass, the location of churches and the loss of population in rural areas.

"Columbus is unique, in that its growing in the Midwest as a city with lots of jobs coming here. But also Columbus, like many other dioceses, have an aging clergy, so something needed to be done, not just for the retraction of the diocese, but for the mission of evangelization," he said.

The diocese's began its "Real Presence, Real Future" study on how to adapt to these difficulties before Fernandes arrived.

"It seemed natural to continue that process," Fernandes said.

There are fewer active priests than there are churches in the Columbus diocese. Many priests work at multiple churches and Fernandes said that leads to burnout among other difficulties.

The percentage of the U.S. population that considers themselves Catholic has been declining steadily as more secular beliefs take root, especially in younger generations, according to the Pew Research Center.

Faris Owens attended a funeral service at Holy Rosary & St. John Catholic Church Thursday. She attended the church for over 30 years before going into assisted living.

She had similar sentiments about that church closing to Crnkovich's.

"I'm sorry that it is being closed, because I think that it is very important in this neighborhood," Owens said.

George Shillcock is a reporter for 89.7 NPR News. He joined the WOSU newsroom in April 2023 following three years as a reporter in Iowa with the USA Today Network.