A tough question in a sad circumstance

Here is an item from a newspaper in Sioux City, Iowa.


SIOUX CITY — Sioux City Catholic tradition is in peril.

One of the oldest area churches, 117-year-old St. Joseph’s, recently experienced a fire. It damaged the roof and attic, but the sanctuary was left relatively unscathed. The Diocese Web site says the building is being tested for strength, but "the major support systems are holding up well."

But on Tuesday, the Journal reported that diocesan officials began "talks on the fate of St. Joseph’s."

We’ve heard that line before.

St. Casimir’s Catholic Church was gorgeous, built in 1915 by Lithuanian immigrants in Morningside. Despite strong membership and financial solvency, the Diocese closed it in 1998 and demolished it in 2007. And it all began with "talks."

We can’t afford "talks" this time. We can’t allow the Diocese to destroy another vital link to our Catholic traditions. We must draw the line.

You see, St. Joseph’s maintains tradition other area Catholic churches have discarded.

St. Joseph’s has a stunning marble high altar. The Cathedral’s was torn out in the ’70s. Even its current state of beauty can’t compare to its formerly glorious interior.

St. Joseph’s white marble side altars are a beautiful testament to God. Immaculate Conception’s were ripped out a few years ago as part of a misguided "renovation" that disrespected the original design, rendering the church modernistic and ugly.

If a church absolutely must be closed, let it be one with less history and beauty. St. Joseph’s is a tangible link to Sioux City’s Catholic history and must not be destroyed. — Matthew Hittle 

I have such sympathy for this fellow.

It is such a pity that parishes have to close.

But… the question must be asked:  Where is the money going to come from so that it can stay open?

Having a parish is not a "free" deal.  Someone has to pay the bills.

If the bills aren’t being paid, how can one expect the parish to stay open?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Jack Hughes says:

    1st thought, perhaps some Bishops should take a leaf out of Bishop François Melchior Charles Bienvenu de Miollis’s book (Bishop of the Diocese of Dinge, France 1805-1838) that would enable them to restore the Churches/keep them open

    2nd thought Lex orandi, lex credendi

    3rd thought are the Bishops really suprised that thousands of Catholics are attending beautifull SSPX Chapels after they’ve wrecked the diosicen Churches? (its a little more complicated than that but the point still stands)

    4th thought, are the Bishops serving God Or Mammon

    5h and final thought; why don’t the Bishops ask their flock to help with the restoration costs? I know that times are tough but those who have gone before us sacrificed (I know tough word) in order that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass could take place in appropriate soroundings.

  2. mhittle says:

    Thank Fr. Z for posting my letter!

    This parish has never had money troubles and has actually been recognized for its high rate of donation.

    Also, the diocese, as mentioned in the letter, closed a beautiful Lithuanian parish in 1998 even though the parishioners gave incredible amounts of money and gained new parishioners all the time.


  3. ray from mn says:

    This is a tough circumstance that is occurring in the big rust belt cities of the East Coast and the Archdiocese of St Paul and Minneapolis is also currently studying what to do with its surplus of parishes in some areas.

    In the case of Sioux City, I don’t know the details by parish, but it is a city of 82,000 with eight parishes, including St. Joseph’s. The total diocese has a population of 470,000, with 20% Catholics (94,000) So that’s maybe 15-20,000 Catholics in the city.

    That’s a tough call for the bishop. He’ll probably want to evaluate the other parishes along with St. Joseph’s and see where is it best to invest for the future.

    There is no doubt but there will not be eight parishes in the area in ten years.

  4. mhittle says:


    That’s a good point. This parish has never hurt for members and routinely packs ’em in, despite being very small in physical size.

    There are a couple of churches that could be combined, Immaculate Conception, (the one mentioned in the letter) and Nativity. Nativity was built in the 70s and is very … ugly. At least IC has a chance at being pretty sometime!

    I’m considering calling the FSSP to see if they’re interested in the case that they do shut down St. Joseph’s. Any other suggestions?

  5. Aaron says:

    In my neck of the woods, on at least three occasions a parish with good attendance and money in the bank was closed and merged with a parish with money problems. This made people wonder if the bishop wasn’t cynically assuming that the every-Sunday-and-some-weekdays folks with generous pocketbooks would make the longer trip—grumbling, but still showing up and giving—while the folks in the problem parish might just go down the street to the closest non-denominational worship service if their neighborhood Catholic church went away. It does make sense.

    I don’t think “where will the money come from?” is a question in many people’s vocabulary these days. We’ve gotten everything we’ve wanted for the past 50 years, whether we could afford it or not—just borrow it and figure it out later. I think the “the Vatican is so rich with all that gold and art” meme has taken solid hold too.

  6. Jack Hughes says:

    apologies in advance for the rant.

    how many of the USCCB bishops actually give a damm about the souls under their care?

    what do all of those conferences in 5* hotels talking about climate change actually achieve? when the money could be better spent on Churches/helping the poor

    why wern’t they all down at Notre dame last may witnessing for life and getting themselves arrested?

    How did the state of catechises in the US become so bad that its left to a former attorney in California (Karl Keating), a Poor Claire with attitude (Mother Angelica) and a former Anchor Man in Michigan (Michael Voris) to educate the laity ?

    I’m not a fan of Archbishop Nicoles, but at least here in the UK he stand’s up for his flock and is trying to reform the Catholic Schools.

  7. ray from mn says:


    ICKSP, The Institute of Christ the King, Sovereign Priest has a few “oratories” in Wisconsin and elsewhere that they maintain.

    If St. Joseph’s is a beautiful as you say, your bishop might be amenable to working with them also.

    An “Oratory signifies a place of prayer, but technically it means a structure other than a parish church, set aside by ecclesiastical authority for prayer and the celebration of Mass.”

    Check their web page:


  8. Frank H says:

    Maybe I am missing something, but in the case of this fire-damaged church, would not their casualty insurance cover the repairs?

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