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St. Thomas More looks for ways to remain open

Published: Friday, Aug. 2, 2013 2:38 p.m. CST • Updated: Friday, Aug. 2, 2013 2:45 p.m. CST
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(BCR photo/Goldie Currie)
St. Thomas More Catholic Parish, located on Chestnut Street in Dalzell, is looking to increase the number of parishioners and double its weekly contributions to avoid having to close its doors early. The parish is expected to merge with Holy Trinity Parish in Cherry in July 2014. Masses will continue to take place until then, unless the parish financially cannot make it at that time.

DALZELL – St. Thomas More Parish in Dalzell has been given a chance to extend its time until the church doors are permanently closed.

If the Catholic parish can double its weekly collection and find a way to fill its pews during masses, it has the chance to remain open until July 2014.

According to the Rev. Patrick Fixsen, however, looking at the current amount of weekly collections and number of parishioners gathered at mass, the church has the possibility of closing in January after it’s merged with Holy Trinity Parish in Cherry.

“Unfortunately, if the parish closes, the church will close permanently. There will no longer be a handicap accessible church in Dalzell; a place for adoration of the Blessed Sacrament will no longer be available in the area; and I’m certain many people will be very sad to no longer have a church in Dalzell,” Fixsen said.

He explained after St. Thomas More’s suspensions years ago, many parishioners left. But with the Reid Group Study going on within the Diocese of Peoria, the church was given the opportunity to remain open as a worship site while being merged into Holy Trinity if it could remain financially sound to cover expenses.

“When a church is built in a community it is meant to serve and provide a place to spend time with and attend Holy Mass with Our Lord. Unfortunately, people do not always see it that way anymore,” he said. “The world is winning the battle for many peoples’ souls and church is not as important anymore. Unless people have passed on the need for faith and a church strongly enough, churches have begun to close due to lack of parishioners.”

Fixsen expressed hope in the church being able to remain open as long as possible.

“St. Thomas More has a great group of people who love their church and love Jesus Christ, but it takes more than a few people to keep a church open these days,” he said. “As the economy continues to falter more and more, even more challenges are presented.”

The church is now attempting to put together an outreach program made up of a core group of parishioners. Their goal is to get more people back to the church either by sending letters and through home visits. The church is also in the planning stages of organizing community events in an attempt to get more involvement from past and present parishioners.

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