The decision to merge five small Catholic parishes into two in Allegany and Wyoming counties was due mostly to a growing priest shortage, Bishop Edward U. Kmiec acknowledged on Sunday.
"It comes down eventually to the number of priests we have available to serve these parishes," Kmiec said.
In Allegany County, slated to merge into a single parish are Sacred Heart in Angelica, St. Joseph in Scio and St. Mary in Belmont. They will take the name Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph and be housed in the Belmont church.
In Wyoming County, Assumption Parish in Portageville was set to merge into St. Mary Parish in Silver Springs. The Portageville property will no longer be used.
The merging parishes, each of which consists of fewer than 140 families, have seven centuries of combined history.
The announcements at weekend Masses were the latest in a Diocese of Buffalo planning process called "Journey in Faith & Grace," which began in 2005 and is expected to result in dozens of church shutterings across eight counties.
Diocesan officials project they will have fewer than 150 priests available by 2015, and they're already struggling to find enough priests to staff 266 parishes, missions and oratories in the area.