Diocese restructuring begins, marks emotional day for many

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Saginaw is cutting the number of parishes in half across Mid-Michigan.

The announcement made earlier this year by Bishop Joseph Cistone.

He cits dwindling attendence and a lack of priests for the reconfiguration.

53 of 109 parish churches will now fall into one of three categories; parish churches, additional-use churches and occasional-use church.

That's what Saginaw's St. George's Church will become beginning Monday.

For long-time parishioners, it's a hard pill to swallow.

"I love this church and I live close by and friendship with everybody and our family could get along real good here." said Donna Fortier of St. George's.

After 55 years, Donna Fortier is saying goodbye to her church with family who came into town for the occasion.

"Five of my sons came. I have seven but five are here."

Pastor Jose Cabrera blessing the church he treasures after a year of service.

"It was a challenging moment."

For him and his congregation.

"It's dramatic, It's a dramatic change. It's very sad for many people to see their church go into occasional status." said Priest, Jose Cabrera.

St. George's is going to be open part time beginning Monday.

The church will share services with other parishes including St. Casmir and Anthony.

"I don't know what I want to do, where I want to go. I hate to give it up," said Fortier.

However, with dwindeling attendance Pastor Cabrera emphasizes the positive change.

"As difficult as it may be it will really bring a future full of hope for the Diocese of Saginaw," he said.

Since 1988, membership in the diocese has declined more than 50,000 churchgoers.