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Archbishop formally closes seven New Orleans churches

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NEW ORLEANS -- The Archdiocese of New Orleans has formally closed seven historic Catholic parishes as a painful downsizing of the regional church in the wake of Hurricane Katrina nears completion.

Archbishop Alfred Hughes signed the relevant decrees; formal notifications were to be distributed in letters hand-delivered to affected rectories on Friday (Oct. 17) afternoon, archdiocesan spokeswoman Sarah Comiskey said.

Comiskey said Hughes has closed these parishes:

* In Uptown New Orleans, 121-year-old Our Lady of Good Counsel, 152-year-old St. Henry and 159-year-old St. Stephen were closed, re-emerging as a new parish, called Good Shepherd, worshipping at St. Stephen church.

* In Central City, 141-year-old St. Francis de Sales parish and nearby 92-year-old Holy Ghost parish were closed, re-emerging as a new parish called St. Katharine Drexel, named after the founder of Xavier University. That community will worship at Holy Ghost church.

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* In the Seventh Ward, 92-year-old Corpus Christi and 60-year-old Epiphany of Our Lord were closed, re-emerging as a new parish called Corpus Christi/Epiphany. That community will worship at Corpus Christi church.

Comiskey said the old parishes will celebrate their last Masses Oct. 26, the day they officially dissolve.

That came as a jolt to at least one community. Barbara Fortier, a leader in the fight to keep open Good Counsel, said its pastor, the Rev. Patrick Collum, told parishioners last week their last Mass would be Oct. 30.

"We're disappointed that archbishop again has not honored his word," she said.

Alden Hagardorn, a parishioner involved in the fight to keep open St. Henry, said lay leaders there will meet Saturday and formulate a response to Hughes, "but we are far from ready to close the doors of this church."

Read more about the closing of New Orleans parishes here: Neighborhoods, some still in ruins, mourn, resist parish closures.

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