Another Cleveland Church closing


#1

From today's Plain Dealer —

Though not Catholic I still find these stories incredibly sad:

About 100 Polish-Americans bowed their heads in somber prayer and song today in front of a chain-link fence that surrounds boarded-up St. Casimir Catholic Church on Cleveland’s East Side.

The group, protesting Bishop Richard Lennon’s closing of the ethnic church three weeks ago, decorated the fence with drapes of red and white, the Polish colors, and paintings of Jesus and the Virgin Mary.

For an hour, the protesters sang hymns in Polish and English, their voices wafting under sunny skies through the blighted and mostly deserted neighborhood at East 82nd Street and Sowinski Avenue. It was the largest turnout yet for what have become weekly gatherings.

Carol Arbaczewski, 55, of Mentor, said she was glad her mother didn’t live to see the day that her beloved church closed.

“My parents were married here and buried here,” she said. “My roots are here.”
Ray Kasperski, 81, expressed the anger that simmered beneath the surface.
“I was baptized here,” he said. “I may stop going to church altogether.”

St. Casimir was a casualty of Lennon’s ongoing plan to close 50 parishes in the eight-county diocese by June. More than a dozen parishes have been shut down so far. Another Polish church, St. Barbara on Cleveland’s West Side, is scheduled to close next year.

When Lennon went to St. Casimir Nov. 8 to say the last Mass and officially de-sanctify the 91-year-old building, he was met by hostility in the packed sanctuary. During the Mass, hecklers shouted “Judas!” and angry worshippers broke out in Polish songs, interrupting the service. A man in his 90s pulled the plug on the bishop’s microphone.
St. Casimir parishioners have appealed to the Vatican in Rome in an attempt to overturn Lennon’s order. They say the church, founded by Polish immigrants in 1892, had money, a priest from Poland and was well attended.

The twin-towered building was built in 1918 and is richly adorned with sacred icons and an elaborate altar that stands as a shrine to the Virgin Mary. Polish Pope John Paul II visited the church in 1969, when he was Cardinal Karol Wojtyla.


#2

What this article - or at least the part quoted - doesn't say is WHY the bishop is closing these churches. :shrug: Anybody know? My guess is a shortage of priests. But the article makes it sound like the bishop is just closing them down for fun, or to irritate people.

It's unfortunate that the church would be closed down; there are also some beautiful historical churches in my area that have been de-consecrated, though one of them was recently reclaimed and is now an active parish again. However, I just have to comment on this -

[quote="Lutheranteach, post:1, topic:177923"]

Ray Kasperski, 81, expressed the anger that simmered beneath the surface.
“I was baptized here,” he said. “I may stop going to church altogether.”.

[/quote]

Stop going to Mass and receiving the body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ just because your favorite parish was closed and you're mad at the bishop? Obviously this person doesn't understand the point of church, and neither does the writer of the article.


#3

[quote="Lutheranteach, post:1, topic:177923"]
From today's Plain Dealer —

Though not Catholic I still find these stories incredibly sad:

Ray Kasperski, 81, expressed the anger that simmered beneath the surface.
“I was baptized here,” he said. “I may stop going to church altogether.”

[/quote]

I find it incredibly sad that Mr. Kasperski apparently feels that celebrating the Mass and receiving the Body and Blood of our Saviour should be so easily discarded. I don't care if it's in a tent somewhere; as long as I can experience the glory of Mass I am happy.


#4

I also wondered about why these churches are being closed but the article said the church was in a blighted area; maybe that means that all the buildings around the church are abandoned and there is a security issue. I don’t know but it would have been nice if the author of the article had discussed this.

I also question why hecklers would interrupt the Mass by shouting “Judas!” Of course the author doesn’t really say when the Mass was interrupted so I suppose it could have been after the Mass or before it - the article is so inconclusive that it makes no sense.

I used to attend Mass at San Gabriel Mission in California. That church was closed because it just was not safe. The building was part of an original mission and it had extensive earthquake damage and had to be closed. It was a shame.


#5

How do you know the writer doesn’t understand? All he did was quote the actual reaction of a person. That’s what good reporters do.

I think a lot of the ethnic churches are underestimated by the hierarchy. I don’t think they get the notion that these churches are a central part of people’s lives. You can judge for yourself if that’s good or not, but you cannot deny that’s how they feel about it. Many of these people have family who sacrificed enormously during the tough economic times of the Depression to keep those churches alive, and successive generations grew up hearing all about how important it was to keep the church floating even if everything else around them was sinking. Take care of the church no matter what.

Now, with generations of those seeds firmly planted, the congregation seems to feel they are shoved aside as if they don’t matter. What they’re feeling is betrayal; as though the hierarchy is saying, “this is Church business… it doesn’t concern you!” You try convincing someone who went without food a few days a week so the church could have flowers on the altar that it doesn’t concern them. Notice the harshest critics are people who would have been small children who shared in those sacrifices during those times.

I know quite a few parishes just like that, and they are not filled with people who yell “Judas” at a Bishop without provocation. There is a huge disconnect here; sounds like they either aren’t be given any reason, or the reason seems unreasonable to them.
Compassion just doesn’t seem to be visible anywhere in the process.


#6

The other part is that these churches are being closed by a Bishop that was brought in just last year to replace a long time popular bishop. He's seen as a hatchet man who has no understanding of what these churches mean to the local communities...those things have added an extra level of bitterness to some of what is going on. Some of the churches being closed are quite viable, good attendance, decent cash flow, they're just the neighborhoods are seen as over served so the churches are being merged or closed.


#7

According to the articles I just looked at, the current bishop was installed in 2006 after the other bishop resigned. Somebody had to be the bishop. Also that is technically not “last year.”

There are priests in my area who have to serve multiple parishes. They do multiple masses at multiple parishes every Sunday and also during the week. They are desperately overworked. This is probably happening all over the place, and maybe that’s why the churches are being closed. I don’t really know, since I’m not personally involved in the situation. It just seems a little rash to assume that the Church hierarchy doesn’t understand that the local communities love their churches and is ignoring them. Why does that have to be the assumption?


#8

I used to live in the area and I’m familiar with the situation. For the most part, the churches that are closing no longer have a local congregation because the original parishioners mostly moved away by the 80s. The Sunday Mass-going crowd mostly consists of Catholics from other parishes who are driving in from other neighborhoods. Did anyone notice that the person quoted in the story lives nowhere near the parish?

If the St. Casimir community was so essential to her, why did she move 20 miles away from it? If the parish still served a local community, it probably wouldn’t have closed. Perhaps this is archaic, but the Catholic church strongly believes in local parishes serving their local neighborhoods. In fact, priests are personally responsible for the spiritual welfare for any parishioners within their parish boundaries. The reconfiguration in Cleveland will free more resources for the overtaxed parishes in the suburbs, where too few priests have too many parishioners. Because many parishes were built near each other to serve multiple ethnic communities (such as an Italian parish and a Polish parish), those who were “left behind” still have many nearby Catholic churches to attend.

I sometimes attended one of the parishes that was scheduled for closure (on the West Side). Attendance was ridiculously low and very few parishioners (like 5 or 10) actually lived in the neighborhood.

As sad as the situation may be, a congregation almost entirely composed of “commuters” is not sustainable in the long run, and these parishes will eventually run into trouble. With the population of Cleveland shrinking, a crisis was going to erupt sooner or later, and it’s probably best that the parishes are closed now, before things get even worse.


#9

[quote="Student09, post:2, topic:177923"]
My guess is a shortage of priests. But the article makes it sound like the bishop is just closing them down for fun, or to irritate people.

[/quote]

It's a combination of the Cleveland diocese's priest shortage, tiny congregations, and questionable parish finances. (Most of the parishes are technically "in the black" right now, but when it's time to replace the roof on the 80-year-old buildings, plus all the other deferred maintenance, they'll be sunk.)

As the parishioners of the parishes die off, nobody living in these blighted neighborhoods is going to be there to replace them. Given the decline of Cleveland in general, I would expect the situation of these parishes to get worse, not better, if they continued operating like this.


#10

It just seems a little rash to assume that the Church hierarchy doesn't understand that the local communities love their churches and is ignoring them. Why does that have to be the assumption?

Why? Because usually when Catholics faithful to the Church AND their parish are given an explanation, even one they don't necessary like but is based on reality (if the above poster is correct), you don't find them going to Mass and shouting "Judas" at the Bishop, that's why. We don't know why the decision was made; it could well be perfectly justified and the Bishop is doing exactly what he should do. But it's undeniable that the church full of people who showed up for the last Mass - in seeming contrast to the theory that they are, save a dozen or so, all commuters - didn't get the memo.

If a church is not economically feasible to keep open, the facts is the facts. In my community we've had to close and consolidate public schools and people in those neighborhoods go bonkers at the public meetings. They don't want to hear it, but they don't come out of the meeting having no idea why they're closing. So I can well appreciate how much more a closing church might mean.

I don't know if it needed to close or not. I tend to trust the Bishops so I assume there is a good reason. I'm simply saying it appears more effort could have been focused on working with the parishioners so it doesn't end up with the last Mass being a zoo.


#11

I think what has some folks in an uproar is that after a long study and all kinds of meetings a report was prepared and sent to the Bishop. There were some churches that were not listed to be closed that Bishop Lennon decided would be closed and never provided a reason or explained himself. There was an appeal process, but nearly every appeal was immediately dismissed. Only one church scheduled to be shuttered was taken off the list.

Here is a little more info on all that has happened this year:

blog.cleveland.com/metro/2009/03/parishioners_in_the_cleveland.html


#12

It would not surprise me if it was during Mass. I live in Cleveland diocese and heard from my neighboring parish priest that at one of the Parishes closing Masses, when the Bishop said during the Mass “The peace of the Lord be with you” there was NO REPLY from the congregation, but stone cold silence.
:mad:
This diocese needs prayers…especially for Bishop Lennon. He is under vicious attack right now.


#13

[quote="Student09, post:2, topic:177923"]
What this article - or at least the part quoted - doesn't say is WHY the bishop is closing these churches. Anybody know? My guess is a shortage of priests. But the article makes it sound like the bishop is just closing them down for fun, or to irritate people.

.

[/quote]

yes we know his reasons are amply documented in the diocesan and local press, and widely discussed here last year when they were announced. The process by which these decisions were reached, the appeals process, and action urged and taken by targeted parishes have also been amply documented. they are good an necessary, but the results are still extremely painful. But if you visit, as I did last summer, many of the neighborhoods where these buildings are located, you will see the reasons for yourself.


#14

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