A decision on whether to close or merge at least two Schoharie County churches as part of a restructuring of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany should be announced later this week.
Recommendations from 39 local planning groups were completed last summer and an official from the Diocese said Thursday that about 20 percent of the worship sites in the Diocese will be closed or merged.
The announcement by Bishop Howard Hubbard is expected to be made on Saturday.
Parishioners in the parishes to be affected will be informed before the media is notified, said Ken Goldfarb, communications director for the Diocese.
The announcement that about 20 percent of the worship sites (which does not mean parishes), was made earlier than anticipated, Mr. Goldfarb said.
In April, among the changes that were rumored were the closing of St. Anna’s Church in Summit and St. Joseph’s Church in Schoharie.
Father Thomas Holmes, who celebrates Mass in both Middleburgh and Schoharie, declined comment Thursday on the possible closing until the decision is made public.
Most of the changes will not be immediate, Mr. Goldfarb said, and could take “some time to implement.”
Some will be done rather quickly while others could two to three years, he said.
The Diocese covers 164 parishes in 14 counties.
The planning process to be announced this week, titled Call to BE Church, began two and a half years ago.
The process called for 39 local planning groups to be made up of leaders from two or more neighboring parishes.
The groups were given three options: to close a parish, to merge a parish with another parish or “link” it with another to share resources.
This process has been occurring in Dioceses throughout the Northeast, Mr. Goldfarb said, noting that other Dioceses have closed a higher percentage of sites than the Albany Diocese will propose.
“While it’s going to be difficult to deal with this circumstance,” Mr. Goldfarb said, “it is not unlike other Dioceses in the Northeast.”
While not mentioning Schoharie County in particular, Mr. Goldfarb noted that there have been population declines in the region as people have been moving south.
A church once built for 220 people is now serving 60, he said.
In addition to a population shift, there has been a decades-long decline nationally and locally in the number of priests.
“You need to use your resources in a better way,” Mr. Goldfarb said.
Bishop Hubbard said the sites to be closed will be sold.
The first preference, he said, was for religious uses and then non-profit groups and lastly, to the commercial sector.