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St. Gregory parish in Lafayette closing

LAFAYETTE — The Church of St. Gregory the Great in Lafayette will hold its last mass on Sunday, August 8.

It was announced in May the parish will close, but discussion about St. Gregory’s closure began over a year ago.

Parish council president Mark Schuelke said the board knew the parish would close in March 2020. The discussion on whether to close had been going for years. St. Gregory’s continues to be financially stable, but a limited number of priests in the area and a shrinking number of parishioners convinced the parish to close.

Schuelke said it has become more difficult to find volunteers to help with the mass and many of the church members are aging. He said St. Gregory’s church decided to be proactive about the closure and choose a specific date to close. August 8 was chosen because it is traditionally St. Gregory’s harvest festival.

The COVID pandemic has made the closing even more difficult. The parish members were unable to meet in person through the last year and could not properly grieve the loss.

Schulke said the closure was difficult and compared it to a loss in his family. Many people in the church have important memories tied to the church. Schulke said he was married there and his children were baptized there.

“The town itself will be impacted,” he said. Lafayette is a tight community and the loss of the parish will be felt by everyone.

Schulke is grateful the members have another chance to come together to celebrate and remember St. Gregory’s during the Mass and dinner program on August 8.

St. Gregory the Great was incorporated on Dec. 16, 1942. On September 1, 1943, Fr. Clemens was assigned the first resident pastor in Lafayette. The first mass in the renovated church was on December 3, 1944. A rectory was built in 1951. With the priest shortage, the pastorate in Lafayette later combined with St. George. Larger farms and smaller families have caused a decrease in the parish population. With 130 households, St. Gregory joined the Holy Cross Area Faith Community.

The parishioners of the church of St. Gregory the Great have a choice of joining any of the parishes in the area. After August 8, parishioners who have not indicated a change in membership will become members of the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in New Ulm.

The parish sacramental records and membership cards will be moved to the Cathedral offices in New Ulm. The cemetery records and funds for the church will remain intact and will be under the custodial care of the Catholic Cemetery of New Ulm.

The board meets quarterly to discuss maintenance and policy issues for the New Ulm Catholic Cemetery and other cemeteries that will become part of their responsibility and oversight.

Msgr. Grams thanked members of the administrative committee for the Church of St. Gregory the Great who have taken on the task of preparing the closing celebration and the disbursement of the property.

“Know that the parishes in the Holy Cross Area Faith Community and beyond will welcome you and look forward to your participation as faithful Catholics in a new faith community. Be assured of my prayers during this time of transition that is understandably filled with grief, apprehension and hope.”

Special dinner and program celebrating the parish are scheduled for Sunday, August 8.

The property will be up for auction on Sunday, August 15.

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