Catholic Diocese studies restructuring plan; Galesburg-area churches face possible closures


St. Patrick Catholic Church in Galesburg
St. Patrick Catholic Church, 858 S. Academy St., in Galesburg was established in 1863. (JAY REDFERN/WGIL)

The Catholic Diocese of Peoria is seeking input on a restructuring plan that would include the merger of some parishes and closure of several churches across the region, including ones in Galesburg, Abingdon, Alexis and Wataga.

The Growing Disciples Pastoral Plan arose through a process that was intended to promote conversation, feedback and sharing of ideas, according to a statement from Bishop Louis Tylka on a website for the plan (

Under these proposed models, the parishes of Immaculate Heart of Mary, Corpus Christi, and St. Patrick in Galesburg, Sacred Heart (Abingdon), and St. Aloysius (Wataga) would become one parish which would use the worship sites of Immaculate Heart of Mary and Corpus Christi.

St. Patrick’s, Sacred Heart and St. Aloysius would not be recommended for future use.

Father Lee Brokaw, who serves the parishes in Galesburg and Sacred Heart in Abingdon, tells WGIL, “Final decisions have not been made yet, and these models have been released in order to foster and receive feedback on them to determine how to proceed.

“To clarify: at this time, we still only have a model, a proposal, and no decisions have been made. For any church that is ultimately designated as ‘not in use at the end of this process, decisions will need to be made on a case-by-case basis about the best approach to take considering the circumstances and options available.

He added, “At this time, we do not have any answers as to what will happen to locations designated ‘not in use’ at the end of this process.”

Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Abingdon.
Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Abingdon. (MOLLY PRESCOTT/WGIL)

Brokaw said feedback from parishioners will be collected from all over the Diocese of Peoria through Nov. 22. Feedback will be considered by Bishop Louis Tylka and the Catholic Leadership Institute to formulate the final decisions on the parish models.

These final decisions on all the parishes across the Diocese will be announced on May 19, 2024. At that time, the Diocese will begin implementing the decisions made, a process which could last between 6 months and 2 years depending on circumstances and needs.

“However, in Galesburg, we expect this process to be quicker than other areas in the Diocese because we have already done some of the work by uniting our parish offices and other efforts to bring our parish community together,” Brokaw said.

In the Monmouth area, the parishes of Immaculate Conception – Monmouth (school), St Patrick (Raritan) and the St. Theresa site of Immaculate Conception (Alexis) would become one parish with worship sites of Immaculate Conception and St. Patrick. St Theresa would not be recommended for future use.

St. James in Williamsfield also faces closure.

Area Catholic churches see decline in attendance

Corpus Christi Church
Corpus Christi Catholic Church on South Prairie Street in Galesburg. (JAY REDFERN/WGIL)

According to plan documents published online by the diocese, the three Galesburg churches and the ones in Abingdon and Wataga had a combined average weekly Mass attendance of 719 in 2022.

Corpus Christi experienced a 66% drop in Mass attendance between 2015 and 2022. Its average weekly Mass attendance was 162 in 2022.

Average weekly Mass attendance last year at Immaculate Heart of Mary in Galesburg was 372, a decrease of 22% between 2015 and 2022.

Between 2015 and 2022, the following Catholic churches in the Galesburg Planning Area experienced these declines in attendance:

  • Sacred Heart (Abingdon) -50%
  • Corpus Christi (Galesburg) -66%
  • Immaculate Heart of Mary (Galesburg) -22%
  • St. Patrick (Galesburg) -30%
  • Immaculate Conception (Monmouth) -17%
  • St. Aloysius (Wataga) -61%
  • St. Mary Magdalene Parish (Matherville/Aledo) -45%
  • St Augustine (Macomb-St Augustine) -15%
  • St Patrick (Macomb-Raritan) -29%


According to Brokaw, when multiple worship sites are in use for one canonical parish, one of those sites must be designated as the “primary” site. He notes it is common language used across the Diocese for this proposal, and is determined by a number of factors, such as where the priests reside, where the office is located, where a school is located, physical size of the building, etc.

“The terms are not judgments of quality or subordination,” he said.

Brokaw and Father Nathan Hopper serve the parishes in Galesburg and Sacred Heart in Abingdon. Father Deus Byabato serves as Pastor of St. Aloysius, Wataga and also as chaplain at OSF St. Mary Medical Center.

Pastor: First Catholics arrived in Galesburg 170 years ago

IHM Catholic Church Galesburg
Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church, 2401 N. Broad St. in Galesburg was established in 1956. (JAY REDFERN/WGIL)

The first Catholics came to Knox County more than 170 years ago, according to Brokaw.

“There is quite a history of our Catholic Faith in the community and the deep investment of many generations of parishioners in the town and surrounding countryside we love,” Brokaw said. “This Growing Disciples process honors and acknowledges the good that our ancestors and previous generations did.

“Our faith today is built on this strong foundation and legacy and we are indebted to them for their sacrifice. Our Catholic faith in Galesburg and the surrounding communities is alive and growing with over 20 faithful journeying to become Catholic this year.”

Brokaw said it’s important to recognize today’s world is different from the world of previous generations when the existing structure was implemented.

“This includes current church buildings in towns and in the country as well as the priests serving the people,” Brokaw said.

“With these changes from previous generations comes a need to look at how we can serve the people now and in the future while most effectively using our church buildings, resources, and care for our priests.”