Buffalo Diocese to ‘rightsize and reshape’ its 160 parishes

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Buffalo Bishop Michael Fisher and other local Catholic leaders will announce plans to “rightsize and reshape” the diocese’s 160 parishes during a press conference at 4 p.m. Tuesday.

Their plans, according to a press release, are not specific to particular parishes across Western New York’s eight counties, but “became apparent following a comprehensive and collaborative planning process directed by its Road to Renewal division.”

News 4 will provide coverage of their announcement in this article and on tonight’s newscasts.

“The plan to be presented today resulted from lessons learned as parishes came together in the
Family of Parishes model that began with 36 Parish Families created in December of 2021,” the diocese said in the press release.

The reshaping comes amid a challenging period for the diocese, with declining numbers of priests and parishioners compounded by their October announcement that settling nearly 900 claims of childhood sexual abuse will cost at least $100 million. Roughly 600 of those cases involved clerics, including some with multiple allegations.

“At the end of the day, what it will cost will be painful,” Richard Suchan, chief operating officer for the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo, told News 4 Investigates during a three-part series about the diocese’s financial future. “It’s not going to be a number that leaves the diocese or any of our parishes in a good financial situation.”

The Family of Parishes model has helped optimize diocesan resources in recent years, rotating masses and priests through nearby churches in groups or “families” of three to six (a map of parish families can be seen here). Several parishes have also announced plans to close recently, including St. Lawrence in Buffalo and St. Andrew’s in Tonawanda.

Bishop Fisher will be joined at Tuesday’s news conference by Rev. Bryan Zielenieski, Vicar for Renewal and Development, and Rev. Mark Noonan, pastor of Family #11, ONE Catholic.

Explore News 4 Investigates’ three-part series on the Buffalo Diocese

Part 1: Cost to settle sex abuse claims will be ‘painful’ for Diocesan community

Part 2: Catholics are more careful with church donations after Diocese bankruptcy

Part 3: Buffalo Diocese: ‘We can say we’re sorry, but we need to ante up’

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Nick Veronica is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team as the Digital Executive Producer in 2021. He previously worked at NBC Sports and The Buffalo News. You can follow Nick on Facebook, Twitter and Threads. See more of his work here.

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