Missionaries serving in the Italy Catania Mission report that the mission will be discontinued this July. The mission will be absorbed into the Italy Rome Mission. Missionaries were notified that this consolidation will occur in part due to preparing members for the building of the Rome Italy Temple. The decision to consolidate the two missions was also likely influenced by the consolidation of the two districts on Sicily last year in preparation to create the first stake on the island. The Palermo Italy District may become a stake prior to the combining of the missions but no announcement has been made. Once the consolidation occurs there will be around 120 missionaries in the Italy Rome Mission. This consolidation will allow for greater missionary resources to be utilized in areas with more rapid growth and increase the responsibilities for local members in sharing the Gospel with others.
The Spain Bilbao Mission will be discontinued this July and a massive realignment of the three remaining Spanish missions will occur. Districts in Leon and Vigo will transfer to the Spain Madrid Mission and the Vitoria Spain Stake will become part of the Spain Barcelona Mission. The Canary Islands will become part of the Spain Madrid Mission and the Elche Spain Stake, La Mancha Spain District, and a couple mission branches will belong to the Spain Malaga Mission. Missionaries were very surprised about this change considering that the Spain Bilbao Mission had its most successful year in 20 years as the first stake within the mission was created and convert baptisms were up 81% from 2008 in 2009. The Spain Barcelona Mission also had a very successful year as measured by convert baptisms with 402 baptisms. The missions in Madrid and Malaga have also seen good success in the past year. The decision to combine the decision is an inspired one which has come as a result of greater leadership development and maturity among the local members. The establishment of the first stake in northern Spain was a result of local members taking greater responsibility in conducting the Church.
Below I have the letter from the mission president of the Spain Malaga Mission informing missionaries concerning the changes.
The First Presidency has determined that on 1 July 2010 the Spain Bilbao Mission will be dissolved and the boundaries of the Spain Barcelona and Spain Madrid Missions will be realigned to include the areas now served by the Spain Bilbao Mission. President Richard R. Clegg (from the Bilbao Mission) will be the new mission president of the Spain Málaga Mission. In conjunction with these changes, the Elche Stake (from the Barcelona Mission) and La Mancha district (from the Madrid Mission) will be associated with the Spain Málaga Mission. The Canary Islands (Las Palmas de Gran Canaria Spain District) will be associated with the Spain Madrid Mission presided over by President Watkins.
This consolidation, together with many others, will be announced in the Church News on 13 February 2010. While these changes will impact certain missionaries this summer, the move will not affect our role as missionaries to baptize worthy converts. Rather, it is a reflection of the great success which we are experiencing in the growth of the Church in Spain.
This is an exciting and positive move as the Church continues to expand throughout the earth and as ward and stake leaders and members take a more active role in missionary work and the growth and development of the Church in Spain. It is an inspired response to a number of important changes in the work in Spain.
First of all, as you well know, the number of missionaries worldwide and the number of missionaries serving in Spain has been decreasing. This decrease is driven largely by a reduction in the total number of 18 and 19-year-olds in the population throughout North America and Europe. We started our mission with 120 missionaries and by July will have 74. Other missions are going through similar reductions. Overall, the number of missionaries serving in Spain will be less than 300 this year. This is a dramatic decrease from several years ago when we had nearly 800 missionaries in five missions in Spain.
Second, the growth of the stakes in Spain has reduced the amount of Church administration done by the missions. Before the creation of the Madrid Stake in 1982, mission presidents served as the ecclesiastical leaders of all members of the Church in Spain. With the recent creation of the 10th stake in the country - the Spain Vitoria Stake, created out of the Bilbao District of the Spain Bilbao Mission - most Church members now live in stakes led by local stake presidents, and missions have responsibility for fewer mission districts.
Finally, in 2002 the First Presidency announced certain changes which gave stake presidents and bishops the responsibility for missionary work in their stakes and wards. The stake presidents and bishops in Spain have taken on that new responsibility in a very effective way, so that even with the reduction in full-time missionaries, the work of baptizing worthy converts has increased dramatically.
We are excited about this coming change and what it says about the growth of the Church in Spain. While we look forward to welcoming into our mission the great missionaries and members of the La Mancha District and Elche Stake, we will deeply miss the wonderful missionaries and members of the Canary Islands. We know that this inspired change will help the work move forward in a country which we all love deeply. I have had the tender privilege of knowing and working alongside Presidents and Sisters Clegg and Watkins. I am confident those of you who will share that privilege will be greatly blessed by their dedication and love. I invite you to include them in your prayers now as they anticipate and prepare for these new assignments.
May God bless each of you with continued success in this great work of gathering the children of our Father in Heaven into His Kingdom through the waters of baptism.