Cardinal William H. Keeler will announce today the details of a long-awaited reorganization of Roman Catholic parishes in Baltimore, closing at least one and consolidating groups of others under a single pastor.
He and Auxiliary Bishop John H. Ricard have scheduled a joint appearance at St. Mary Star of the Sea Church in South Baltimore at 10:30 a.m. to discuss the "restructuring" of urban parishes that has been under way since May.
Although Cardinal Keeler kept a tight lid on information about the decisions as they were debated and made final last week, today's announcements are expected to include:
* Closing Our Lady of Lourdes Church at Liberty Heights Avenue and Edgewood Road, which has ministered to the Ashburton neighborhood since 1925.
Under discussion was a proposal to shift part of the mostly black Lourdes congregation to St. Cecilia's Church at Windsor Avenue and Hilton Street, which would be staffed by a priest of the Vincentian religious order living at the Church of the Immaculate Conception, at Druid Hill Avenue and Mosher Street.
* Cutting back on services at St. Ann's Church, Greenmount Avenue and 22nd Street, and "twinning" it with St. Wenceslaus Church, Collington and Ashland Avenues. Priests of the Redemptorist order at St. Wenceslaus would be responsible for both congregations.
* Putting the Redemptorists in charge of St. Patrick's Church, Broadway and Bank Street, in a pairing of its congregation with that of nearby St. Michael the Archangel Church. St. Michael's, at Lombard and Wolfe streets, has been staffed by the Redemptorist order for 143 years.
Under the Redemptorists' recommendation for St. Patrick's, it would become a "chapel of ease" -- a secondary church with a reduced worship schedule. Its longtime pastor, the Rev. Blair Paul Raum, would be reassigned elsewhere.
* Placing St. Stanislaus Kostka Church, at Ann and Aliceanna streets in Fells Point, under the care of the Franciscan priests stationed at St. Casimir's Church, Kenwood Avenue and O'Donnell Street. Both parishes have had congregations of Polish ancestry and share the Father Kolbe School at St. Casimir's.
* Creating an affiliation between the congregation of Most Precious Blood Church, at 5010 Bowleys Lane, and that of St. Anthony of Padua Church, at 4420 Frankford Ave., with priests of the latter responsible for both parishes.
* Merging the staffs of St. Peter the Apostle Church, Poppleton and Hollins streets, and those of as many as three other churches.
Discussed last week was a possible partnership involving three Southwest Baltimore parishes -- St. Peter's; St. Martin's, at Fulton Avenue and Fayette Street; and St. Jerome's, at Scott and Hamburg streets -- and a downtown church, St. Alphonsus, at Saratoga Street and Park Avenue, which has a long history of ministry to Catholics of Lithuanian ancestry.
Within St. Peter's parish is a traditional Lithuanian residential neighborhood.
None of the Baltimore churches associated with the Josephite religious order was on last year's endangered list, but an expected change of residence for Bishop Ricard, a Josephite, might be related to the restructuring process.
The bishop has lived for about 10 years in the rectory at St. Francis Xavier, a Josephite church at Caroline and Oliver streets in East Baltimore. He is believed to be preparing to move downtown to St. Alphonsus, which is without a pastor.
Bishop Ricard told St. Alphonsus parishioners last Sunday that their 150-year-old church -- whose first pastor was St. John Neumann, canonized in 1976 -- will be kept open as it celebrates its anniversary this year and will be given the honorary ecclesiastical designation of "shrine."
Today's announcements come at a time when many historic black congregations are taking a new look at the costs of maintaining landmark churches in deteriorating inner-city neighborhoods, where most of their parishioners no longer live. Several large black Protestant congregations recently moved to the suburbs or are considering such a move.
Sixteen of the 58 Catholic parishes in the city were identified early last year as being subject to intensive reviews of their resources and programs with an eye to closing some. About half of the parishes on the endangered list have predominantly black congregations.
Three months ago, Bishop Ricard, who has been in charge of the cutting effort, said, "We have made enough progress to determine that we will implement a combination of mergers, staff-sharings and closures to reach our goal. Clearly, some people will be angry, some people will be upset. But the status quo is not possible."
The goal, he said, is "proper stewardship" of the dwindling financial resources of the affected churches "to meet the spiritual and physical needs of changing neighborhoods."
A shortage of Catholic priests and a dramatic drop in the number of urban parishioners -- from 150,000 to fewer than 33,000 since the 1940s -- triggered the reorganization.