The Diocese of Gaylord is currently without a Bishop after disgraced former Bishop Steven Raica was transferred to the Diocese of Birmingham, Alabama, last month. Currently, the Diocese is being led by an 83 year old retired Bishop Walter Hurley. No indication has been given by the Diocese or the Vatican as to when (or if) the Diocese will have a new bishop.
Some parishioners have voiced concerns that the Diocese of Gaylord could be absorbed into a neighboring diocese. This is in part due to the significant loss of Catholics attending Mass in the Diocese over the past 10 years. This loss has gained great momentum recently with the extended closure of churches for months, supposedly in reaction to the Coronavirus epidemic. Other dioceses in Michigan have seen similar hemorrhaging of their Catholic populations. As an example, in 1990, the Archdiocese of Detroit was boasted to be 400 parishes strong. There are now only 200 parishes in the Archdiocese, and talks are ongoing in the Archdiocese to close 100 of these parishes. This would be a 75% decrease in Catholic Churches in the Archdiocese just over 30 years.
Also of concern is the decrease in Masses seen in parishes across the Diocese of Gaylord. Opportunities to attend the Extraordinary Form of the Mass has been decreased in the Diocese. Other parishes have stopped offering a Sunday evening Mass. Many have noted that the Masses offered in the Diocese these days are poorly attended compared to a year ago. It seems as if the shrink wrap over the Diocese is getting tighter and tighter as the air is sucked out of what once was an active Catholic culture in northwestern lower Michigan.
We will continue to monitor this situation closely. We must continue to hope and Gaylord Diocesan Watch is hopeful that the present hardships endured by the faithful in our Diocese will be the foundation for a vibrant Catholic future in our area. Please pray for a good bishop to lead this Diocese.