Diocese Will Tell Priests Today Which Local Churches Will Close

By Lisa Roberson
The Chronicle-Telegram
March 14, 2009

Local priests arriving for church today will be visited by a courier with an important message to convey.

That message will contain the future of local churches, and for some it will mean the end is near.

After months of consideration, Bishop Richard Lennon will be telling the priests which longstanding churches within the Cleveland Catholic Diocese will close under the diocese’s Vibrant Parish Plan. The announcement will be detailed in a letter sent to local priests today with the assumption that the priests will share the message with their congregations this weekend.

The last time such a letter arrived in church mailboxes was May 2007. At the time, Lennon’s Vibrant Parish Plan called for a mass reorganization of the Cleveland Catholic Diocese. In the plan, called the Vibrant Parish Plan, the most talked about component was the call for about 60 churches in the region to close. As a result, all 224 churches in the parish were grouped together in collaborative clusters and given specific plans to address. In Elyria and Lorain, plans include closing churches.

“Deciding to do this is not something that has happened overnight,” diocese spokesman Bob Tayek said. “This is not just about closing a church. This is about building a stronger and a better church.”

The plan calls for those churches slated to close to do so by June 2010. Parishes have the power to appeal Lennon’s decision within 10 days.

However, Tayek said most churches will not do that.

Between now and then, parishes are to follow Canon Law and Lennon’s directive as to how they should go about discontinuing their services and the distribution of sacred church artifacts.

No one knows for sure what the final decision will be as Lennon has the ultimate say, but all of the local churches, which are now lumped together in various clusters, have made recommendations on what their fate should be.

The Elyria cluster’s five churches — St. Agnes, St. Mary, St. Jude, Holy Cross and Sacred Heart — and their respective parish leaders have been told they must serve the area with just three parishes. The cluster’s suggestion has been that Holy Cross and Sacred Heart close.

In west and central Lorain, the largest church cluster in the 69 that make up the diocese, the priests have recommended that St. Mary and St. Peter, the cluster’s two largest churches, be left intact. Holy Trinity, Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, St. Ladislaus and St. Stanislaus will merge and reorganize into a new parish with a new pastor and a new name at the Holy Trinity location, according to previous statements by the Rev. David Novak, the cluster’s spokesman and pastor of Holy Trinity Church.

In the South Lorain cluster, a committee of members and priests say they would prefer to see St. Vitus and Ss. Cyril and Methodius merge with St. John. They would reorganize into a new parish with a new pastor and a new name.

Membership growth, pastoral needs and location all played a factor in what made one church vulnerable over another.

In the West and Central Lorain cluster, there has been a 9 percent decrease in parish households and a 31 percent decrease in Mass attendance in the past decade, according to figures from the diocese.

Parish households in the Elyria cluster have decreased by 16 percent since 2000, and Mass attendance has decreased by 34 percent.

Dwindling attendance also forced the St. Vincent de Paul School in Elyria Township to close in June 2008.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.