St. Joseph Joliet Parishioners Blindsided By Bishop Ronald A. Hicks Decision

As part of the Joliet Diocese’s Targeted Restructuring Plan, Bishop Ronald A. Hicks, Bishop of the Joliet Diocese, has announced his decision to decrease the number of Joliet/Crest Hill parishes from 16 to 7. To the surprise of parishioners, the historic St. Joseph Parish of Joliet was not spared.

In parish listening sessions provided by the Joliet Diocese to St. Joseph parishioners, four scenarios were presented regarding consolidation and/or reconfiguration of the parishes of St. Joseph, St. Anthony, St. Bernard, and St. Mary Magdalene, all located on the eastside of Joliet. In each of these four scenarios, St. Joseph Parish would either remain a stand-alone parish or become the parish seat of a newly created parish consisting of St. Joseph, St. Anthony, St. Bernard, and St. Mary Magdalene. As a result
of this information, parishioners believed the parish was secure since they trusted the information the Diocese
provided. However, parishioners now feel misled.

On January 25, parishioners were blindsided to learn that St. Joseph Parish Joliet would not be a stand-alone parish nor the parish seat in a consolidation. St. Joseph is to be downgraded to the status of a secondary worship site of the newly created parish in which St. Mary Magdalene will serve as the parish seat. The new parish consists of St. Anthony and St. Bernard, both to be closed, and St. Joseph and St. Mary Magdalene. St. Joseph parishioners are reportedly unhappy with the plan.

Advocates Mary Petrella and Micheal Vidmar say that at first glance, the decision made by Bishop Hicks may not seem so bad. St. Joseph will remain open as a worship site. However, being a secondary church in a newly created parish, St. Joseph Church loses rights. One of the main rights lost is the number of masses St. Joseph Church is guaranteed to provide in a year. As a secondary church, St. Joseph is guaranteed only two masses per year: one on the patron saint feast day (March 19) and one on the date of church dedication (October 15).

While the Diocese is not eliminating weekly mass at St. Joseph Church at this time, that could change. Advocates say the fate of St. Joseph is very uncertain and the threat of potential church closures in the future is reality.

Advocates say the newly created parish of St. Joseph, St. Anthony, St. Bernard, and St. Mary Magdalene is a territorial one. This means that the new parish has distinct boundaries of a particular area on the far eastside of Joliet and these boundaries do not physically include St. Joseph Church. Canon Law requires all churches within a territorial parish be located within its boundaries. Under the Bishop’s plan, St. Mary Magdalene would gain control of all assets and
operations of St. Joseph, despite St. Joseph being located outside of the territorial boundaries of the new parish. How can Canon Law be violated?
The advocates report that St. Joseph Parish has no debt, holds a modest real estate portfolio with well-maintained facilities, provides numerous ministries for the parish and to the community, and has more money in the bank than all of the three other parishes combined. However, all of St. Joseph’s assets are to be transferred to St. Mary Magdalene. Parishioners are keenly aware that the only way the new parish can survive is with St. Joseph’s assets. St. Joseph needs to be the parish seat or a stand-alone parish.

“St Joseph is a magnificently beautiful church with a 120-year history built by Slovenian immigrants in 1904. The parish has earned recognition by Pope Francis, the Republic of Slovenia, the State of Illinois Senate, the City of Joliet, and it is an anchor in the downtown district,” says advocates Mary Petrella and Micheal Vidmar. ” In addition, St. Joseph is also part of the Downtown Joliet National Register Historic District. It is centrally located in downtown Joliet and draws people to worship from all parts of the city as well as neighboring cities and villages.”

The parishioners filed an appeal with Bishop Hicks to amend or reconsider his decree regarding St. Joseph Parish. It was hand delivered to the Joliet Diocese Office on February 2, 2024. On February 9, 2024, Bishop Hicks rejected the parishioners’ appeal in a terse two sentence rejection. Parishioners are determined more than ever to right this wrong and are now submitting an appeal to the Dicastery for the Clergy in Rome.