BRAINTREE, Mass. – The Archdiocese of Boston on Thursday announced the first phase of an overhaul that aims to strengthen parishes for a region-wide push to refill empty pews.

The restructuring will organize the archdiocese’s 288 parishes into 135 clusters, called collaboratives, that will share clergy, buildings and resources.

The archdiocese, among the largest in the country, released the list of its first 12 collaboratives, which include 28 parishes from throughout its geographic range. Most of the collaboratives combine two or three parishes from the same community. They were formed in Belmont, Beverly, Billerica, Boston, Brookline, Lakeville, Lynn, Lynnfield, Methuen, Newtown, Salem and Weymouth.

The remainder of the archdiocese’s parishes will be grouped together in two or three more phases over the coming years, with the last collaborative up and running by 2019, said the Rev. Paul Soper, the archdiocese’s director of pastoral planning.

The changes come amid weak attendance, failing parish finances and a priest shortage. But Soper said the plan is an attempt to marshal the church’s strength so it can better spread the faith at its core. “We do not believe Christ is irrelevant to this generation,” he said.

The plans cap a decade in Boston that saw the height of the clergy’s child sex abuse scandal and widespread parish closings.

Today, just 16 percent of the area’s Catholics attend Mass, and 40 percent of parishes can’t pay their bills. The archdiocese expects the number of active priests to fall from about 450 to below 200 within a decade.

The restructuring is an attempt to attack these statistics by building a stronger, more efficient platform for evangelization.

One pastor will lead the collaborative’s clerical staff, and the individual finance councils will be merged into one.