Chicago archdiocese laying off 10 percent of work force

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago is laying off about 10 percent of its work force and is planning to close or consolidate about five schools to reverse "unsustainable" deficits.

The downsizing, which apparently has been in the works for months, coincides with the arrival of Cardinal Francis George in Rome this week to participate in the conclave to choose a new pope.

In a lengthy letter to parishioners posted on the archdiocese website, George outlines cost-cutting measures for the archdiocese, which has been running operating deficits of more than $30 million every year for the past four years.

"Since this trend is unsustainable, I want to set out the measures we are taking to ensure prudent stewardship of our resources for years to come," George says in the letter.

At the Pastoral Center, 75 positions have been cut, including 55 full-time roles. That reduction is estimated to save $11 million to $13 million annually by fiscal year 2015, according to George.

“Our employees are faith-filled men and women who have worked tirelessly for the good of the Church.  Please keep them in your prayers,” he wrote.

George wrote in his Cardinal’s Column that other cost-cutting measures would include closing or consolidating “a few schools that are no longer sustainable.”

About five schools will be closed or consolidated, some of which have seen demographic changes or other challenges, according to the letter. The Archdiocese plans to give out scholarships to children affected by the change so they can attend nearby Catholic schools.

The Archdiocese will also reduce its annual aid to schools by $10 million next year. “We hope to return to a sustainable level of aid for those schools that will always be facing financial difficulties,” George wrote.

In addition, pastors received letters in the past month informing them there would be no more loans granted from the archdiocese bank.

No parish priests will lose their assignments in the downsizing, the Tribune has learned. But administrative staff at the pastoral center could be cut.

Earlier this year, the school system rolled out a strategic plan to make schools more self-sufficient.

"This review of archdiocesan finances has been necessary but difficult," the cardinal concludes in his letter. "Reductions in some services and in staffing will, of course, be particularly difficult for the persons and parishes directly affected by them.  These actions are being taken now because the financial situation imposes them.  We are also taking them, however, so that the archdiocese will have the resources she needs for her mission."

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