SALEM — Some big changes are coming to the Salem Catholic Collaborative.
In a handful of announcements posted on social media and the collaborative's website in the past couple of days, the collaborative announced that it is experiencing what the Rev. Dan Riley called "painful cuts caused by financial crisis."
Those cuts include two buildings that will be closed "for financial reasons," and the elimination of several staff positions, including the collaborative's finance and operations manager, administrative assistants and "many in the area of music ministry."
Riley, too, is leaving. In a post on the organization's website, Riley said his final service will be Sunday, Nov. 6.
Riley has served for three years as pastor for the collaborative, which includes three of Salem's five Catholic churches — Immaculate Conception on Hawthorne Boulevard, St. James on Federal Street and St. John the Baptist on St. Peter Street.
The two buildings in question are former schools, which hadn't been used for that purpose for some time.
The Rev. Francis Sullivan, the collaborative's parochial vicar, will be appointed as a temporary replacement for Riley and, on Nov. 28, a new priest will be appointed by the Archdiocese to take over as administrator.
Calls to the collaborative's administrative offices seeking comment were directed to the Archdiocese.
Terrence Donilon, secretary for communications and public affairs at the Archdiocese in Boston, said the collaborative "has announced a series of steps to meet the long-term pastoral needs of the faithful, while controlling expenses."
"Unfortunately, revenue to the collaborative has not kept pace with expenses and therefore will require staff reductions and closing of some facilities to address the financial shortage," Donilon said. "Specifically, the meeting center, which is the former St. James School, will close, and the use of the former St. John the Baptist School will cease."
Riley arrived in Salem in June of 2013. At the time, he was replacing pastors at four city churches who had a combined 70 years experience in Salem. That included the Rev. George Dufour, who had more than 20 years at St. Anne's Church on Jefferson Avenue. That church was later removed from the collaborative.
Donilon said it's common for leadership in the Archdiocese to change alongside a change in strategy, that it's "very normal for pastors to move to different parishes based on their skills and the needs of the parish."
Riley's departure from Salem isn't an end to his career, he noted.
"Father Riley, who is a gifted and holy priest, will take a brief sabbatical before receiving his next parish assignment," Donilon said. "Modifying the approach is something the Archdiocese has prepared for as it continues to implement 'Disciples in Mission,'" the Archdiocese's pastoral plan.
Through the collaborative's website, Riley said the option to continue as the pastor of the Salem Catholic Collaborative or serve elsewhere was presented to him.
"After taking an extended period of time to consult, pray and reflect, it seemed that transferring was where God was calling me," Riley wrote. "Why? It seemed that a fresh voice would be helpful to take the Salem Catholic Collaborative to the next level."
But it wasn't a decision made easily, according to Riley.
"The main reason against my leaving Salem, for me, is that I'm very fond of you," he wrote. "I'm going to miss you a lot!"
Donilon declined to discuss the nature of the financial crisis precipitating the changes. Rumors have been circulating about a large amount of debt, and Riley's post on the website put the gap at $449,000 last year, but Donilon said he couldn't provide any further information.
"Clearly, there are financial considerations which precipitated the steps we have announced," Donilon said. "But we will be working with the collaborative to stabilize it over the long term."