|Lorain Parishes Appeal Closings
By Steve Fogarty
March 28, 2009
At least two Lorain churches plan to appeal their proposed fates under the massive restructuring plan announced March 14 by the Cleveland Catholic Diocese, which calls for the closing of nearly 30 churches and the merger of 41 more parishes with neighboring churches by June 2010.
Friday was the deadline for Catholic parishes in the Cleveland diocese to appeal their planned closings or mergers with other churches.
The parish council at St. Joseph Church has decided to write a letter of appeal to Bishop Richard Lennon, according to Lou Maldonado, a deacon at the church.
"The parishioners' council is asking the bishop to reconsider the closing of the church," Maldonado said.
St. Joseph, at Reid Avenue and West 15th Street, is one of three churches slated to close in west and central Lorain, which comprises the single largest cluster in the diocese. The other two churches tabbed to close are St. Ladislaus on East 29th Street and St. Stanislaus at Elyria Avenue and East 28th Street.
"We're asking that the bishop allow the parish to form with the new parish that is to be created instead of just closing." Maldonado said.
St. Joseph has approximately 180 households in its parish. Dating to 1896, the church was established to serve a primarily German population, but its demographics have gradually changed over the years.
"It's now a real melting pot … a mixture of ethnicities," Maldonado said.
The church still operates in its original building.
Members of Lorain's St. Mary Church have been vocal in their opposition to their parish closing, and a woman who answered the phone at St. Mary Parish at 310 W. Eighth St. said the church is appealing the planned merger with Holy Trinity on Elyria Avenue. She declined to provide any other details.
Lennon's plan would combine Holy Trinity and St. Mary into a new parish whose home site would be determined at a later date.
Lennon's recommendations went against the local cluster's suggestions, which called for St. Stanislaus, St. Ladislaus, St. Joseph, Holy Trinity and Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary to reorganize into one new parish under the name Holy Trinity.
In South Lorain, where there are five Catholic churches, sources at St. John the Baptist at Grove Avenue and Homewood Drive said the parish was not appealing the plan to merge with St. Vitus on East 32nd Street and St.Cyril and Methodius Church on East 31st Street.
In Elyria, Sister Mary Dorothy Tecca of St. Mary Church said she was unaware of any plans to appeal the restructuring by Holy Cross or Sacred Heart, the two churches slated to close.
Tecca serves as spokeswoman for the Elyria cluster of churches.
"No one in Elyria is doing it (appealing). Those plans are really in line with what we sent to the bishop," she said, referring to recommendations initially forwarded to the diocese.
Under the Elyria cluster's plan, members of Holy Cross and Sacred Heart are to be served in the future by St. Jude, St. Agnes and St. Mary churches.
Calls to Holy Cross went unanswered Friday, while office personnel at Sacred Heart referred questions to a parish life coordinator, who is handling church matters in the absence of a pastor.
Sacred Heart no longer has its own priest. The coordinator was not reached for comment.
Several years in the making, the diocese's massive overhaul calls for 29 of 224 churches to close. Another 41 parishes have been informed they are to merge with one or more neighboring parishes. These consolidations will produce 18 new, blended parishes — all of which will result in a net reduction of 52 parishes within the eight-county area served by the Cleveland diocese.
The reduction in number of parishes is to be achieved by June 30, 2010, under terms of the Vibrant Parish Plan first announced in 2007.
The plan is chiefly the outgrowth of a pattern of shifting populations as older churches in aging, inner-city neighborhoods saw their parishes dwindle while newer, large churches sprang up as centers of activity for hundreds if not thousands of parishioners in suburban areas.
"It really gets back to the migration patterns," diocese spokesman Robert Tayek said. "That is where it starts. There's nobody left to support these (older, inner-city) churches and their services."
Conversely, the diocese is looking at possible ways of accommodating suburban parishes that have experienced explosive growth in recent years, including St. Mary and Holy Trinity, both in Avon.
Even more phenomenal growth has occurred at St. John Newman in Strongsville, which has approximately 13,000 members, and St. Ambrose in Brunswick, which numbers 15,000 in its parish and is served by three priests.
Tayek declined to say how many churches might be appealing the diocese plan.
"The bishop has gotten letters of appeal and will respond within 30 days of receiving them," Tayak said. "If he declines to reverse his decision, parishes have 15 days to appeal to the Vatican."
Tayek stressed successful appeals would succeed "only under unusual circumstances." He could not elaborate on what those circumstances may be.
Letters of appeal were required to be submitted by a member of the parish, not the parish priest, Tayek said.
"It must be substantive in nature, with specific reasons as to why a given parish is vital," he said.
Appeals of diocese recommendations or decisions is "rarely instituted," according to Tayek, who added letters of appeal have an even less chance of reaching the Vatican level.
Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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