Two Catholic parishes in the Le Mars area will merge in response to fewer available priests and declining rural population.
St. Joseph and St. James Catholic churches will merge in large part because of declining numbers of priests.
The Rev. Kevin Richter says the dwindling number of priests is an issue around the country as priests retire and others leave the priesthood only years after being ordinated.
Richter says some smaller communities continue to lose population, while larger cities such as Le Mars remain more stable. He notes that in the Sioux City diocese, 22 of 24 counties have decreasing populations.
At least one of three rural churches in Merrill, Struble and Ellendale eventually will close.
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