Three small Catholic churches in our area shutting down Sunday services, including the well-known Shrine of St. Patrick in Clark County.

The Diocese of Jefferson City has announced that in addition to St. Patrick, St. Martha's in Wayland and Notre Dame in La Grange will also shut their doors.

The problem is too many churches and not enough priests to staff them. Priests are stretched thin, offering multiple masses at multiple locations each weekend. It's not just service schedules. Pastoral care has priests on duty day and night. Declining mass attendance at churches in general is another contributing factor.

A parishioner at St. Patrick told me that church groups will stay active, still offering many events for the community. That will bring people to this tiny community, whose identity is totally centered around the church that bears its name.

Rest in peace small country churches. When they go, so does a part of what makes small-town America great.