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Catholics Face Fewer Options In Northwest Iowa

Amy Mayer/IPR
Beginning this weekend, Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Manilla will only offer one Mass per weekend. The change is part of the Diocese of Sioux City's Ministry 2025 plan.

The Diocese of Sioux City is rolling out changes that will close or consolidate many Catholic churches in northwest Iowa as part of its Ministry 2025 plan.

A shortage of priests and declining participation in weekly Mass fueled the Diocese to find more efficient ways to serve Catholic communities. Father Paul Kelly celebrates Mass in English and Spanish at St. Rose of Lima in Denison, a small western Iowa city that may soon welcome more parishioners from nearby communities.

“We’re going to continue having Mass here like we did before,” Kelly says. “So the people here are not really going to see any effect at all. It’s the people in the rural areas that are going to see the effect with their little churches being closed.”

The churches in Manilla and Manning, for example, will drop from two weekend Masses to one and neither will have a resident priest. Other churches will be merged into nearby parishes and remain open only for weddings, funerals and other special events.

Kelly will stay in Denison and continue to travel to other towns. The changes have been months in the making and local parishioners worked with priests to come up with plans that would serve Catholics without burning out their clergy.

“I think that there’s a plan in place that will make our religious experience even more vibrant than potentially it is now,” says Jim White of rural Westside in Carroll County. “So, we resist change but many times we’ll look back and say change is good.”

Although most priests will still serve multiple locations, they are capped at celebrating three regular Masses per weekend. The Diocese of Sioux City includes 24 counties in northwest Iowa. 

Amy Mayer is a reporter based in Ames