More Catholic churches are closing and other parishes are being merged as part of a restructuring of the Diocese of Saint John.

The bishop who made the decision hopes it will lead to a rebirth of the church.

Bishop Robert Harris of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saint John says talks started a decade ago about how to best revitalize and realign the diocese.

He says the decision was difficult, but necessary.

“We said in the years to come we will have to look at the viability of each one of our churches,” explains Bishop Robert Harris. “We’re going to have to do demographic studies, we’re going to have to look at finances and come up with a plan.”

The plan is to merge 58 parishes across the province into twenty seven.

Nine churches will also close.

Five of those are in Saint John, one in Fredericton, and three mission churches in Miramichi will also close their doors.

“The closures have to happen for a variety of reasons,” explains Bishop Harris. “It could be financial, it could be geographic, and so it could be the condition of the church itself, the building in which people worship.”

Bill James has lived across the street from St. Peter’s most of his life.

Two of his uncles were priests at the church, now it’s on the list to be shut down.

“I feel very sad,” says James. “Used to go to the gym there beside the church, there used to be a bowling alley and I used to play ball down the street, you know. There is a playground, everything was right here, eh.”

Bishop Harris says there will still be 70 churches operating in those twenty seven parishes.

“As we gather our resources, both human and financial, we will be better able to provide for ourselves, youth ministry, and adult faith formations, “says Bishop Harris, “ whatever it is we want to provide to grow our community.”

Over the course of the next decade, Bishop Harris says the diocese will determine if additional mergers need to take place.

Bishop Harris adds no priests will be losing their jobs.

The closure of the five churches in Saint John will happen by September.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Jonathan MacInnis.