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Indiana’s 1st Catholic cathedral losing parish status

VINCENNES, Ind. (AP) – Indiana’s first Roman Catholic cathedral will cease to be a parish church with regular weekend Masses this summer.

St. Francis Xavier Church in Vincennes will remain open but it will only be used for weekday Masses, funerals and weddings starting in July due to the city’s five parishes combining, said Rev. Dave Fleck, the church’s pastor.

“We have no intention of abandoning it, and it will continue to be used,” Fleck told the Vincennes Sun-Commercial.

A council made up of members from all five Vincennes parishes voted to have Saturday and Sunday Masses celebrated at two of the churches as they are consolidated into a single parish in the southwestern Indiana city.

The current St. Francis Xavier Church was built in 1826 – 10 years after Indiana achieved statehood. It became a cathedral when the Diocese of Indiana was created in 1834 and held that status until 1898, when the Diocese of Indianapolis was established.

Four Catholic bishops are buried at what is known as the Old Cathedral in the city that was Indiana’s territorial capital. A $1 million restoration was completed last year.

The Diocese of Evansville, which includes Vincennes, had recommended in 2013 that the city’s five parishes consolidate amid a shortage of priests and declining attendance. The Vincennes parishes now share two full-time priests.

Fleck said none of the five church buildings will be closed and all will host at least one weekday Mass.

The care of the buildings will continue to be the “responsibility of the local community,” he said.

“It’s hard at the moment, the changes,” Fleck said. “Anytime we have change, it’s hard for people. And yet it’s an opportunity to grow beyond what we are now, and that is very important for us.”