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.