Sunday, August 28, 2011

After long valient fight, St Mary church is closing

Below is an excerpt from a long article from the Buffalo area about parish closings of vibrant parishes and the plea for relief.

Aug. 28, 2011
Monica Pullano was thankful to be part of St. Mary Parish even if it was for just one more day, after parishioners heard the stunning announcement on Oct. 13, 2007, that the church would soon be closed.

As it turned out, members of St. Mary spent almost four additional years in their beloved Catholic church on a bank of the Erie Canal in downtown Lockport.

But the extra time is now winding down. After exhausting all options with the Vatican to stay open longer, the 152- year-old parish is gathering today for a final Sunday Mass.

“I’ll be bringing plenty of Kleenex, I know that,” said Pullano, a Lockport resident.

The congregation on Thursday will merge with All Saints in Lockport, and St. Mary will be converted to oratory status, which means parish activities and regular Sunday worship won’t be held there any longer.

“We’re at the end of the road on this,” said Jean Skop, also of Lockport. “It’s hard to see something so good end.”

More than any other Catholic parish in the Diocese of Buffalo, the people of St. Mary fought the closure tooth and nail.

They spent about $50,000 on canon lawyers to press their case in Vatican courts. They organized letter-writing campaigns to Bishop Edward U. Kmiec. In 2008, they rented a large billboard space just a few blocks from the diocese’s chancery offices on Main Street, for a sign that

read, “Why Should St. Marys, Lockport CLOSE? Over 1,000 Families Want To Know.”


For many members, the closing of St. Mary has raised larger issues about the future of Catholicism.

A growing shortage of priests was one of the impetuses behind the diocesan restructuring— although St. Mary parishioners maintained that their pastor, the Rev. Gary Kibler, had agreed to stay until his planned retirement in 2015.

Kibler, who has been appointed senior parochial vicar at St. Mary Church in Swormville, effective Sept. 1, did not return calls to comment.

Nonetheless, the diocese is now down to about 185 active priests, and another wave of retirements is forecast that will bring that number closer to 140 within the next four years, while only a handful of seminarians are in training to be ordained.

“I guess the church should look at alternate priesthood. You don’t close a viable community,” Pullano said. “If the shortage of priests is the issue, then let’s look at that issue.”

The Vatican might need to re-examine its restrictions against ordaining women and married men, Pullano said.


“We’ll all go forward. Our faith is strong. But for a lot of us, our religion is faltering,” said Skop.

Several dozen people have indicated they would be part of a new group called St. Mary Renaissance that will meet for prayer, meditation and music initially on Sept. 10 in a Protestant church.

Full article at Buffalo News

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