Cleansing Fire

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Thirty Pieces

April 14th, 2010, Promulgated by Gen

From Cleveland:

(Please note – this isn’t a commentary on this parish’s apparently dubious liturgical practices. It’s a commentary on church closures. We can discuss the liturgical and theological problems in the comment box if you want.)

CLEVELAND, Ohio – The twelve final words on the back of St. Peter Catholic Church’s Easter Sunday program said it most plainly.

A timeline spanning 156 years ended this way: “Parish suppressed and church building closed April 2010 by Bishop Richard Lennon.”(I don’t know the political situation in Cleveland, but I have a suspicion that the bishop does not bear as much blame as one, say, in Rochester, New York.)

But before the Rev. Robert Marrone kicked out the wooden blocks and locked the massive arched doors — that had remained open to worshipers from all walks of life since 1859 — he served up a forceful sermon.

His words were the last orated in the church thanks to an agreement with the Cleveland diocese to cancel a final Mass set for next week at which Lennon was to desanctify the church.(All that’s really needed to desanctify a church is a lay preacher in an alb, incompetent altar servers, and whordes of “extraordinary” ministers of Holy Communion.)

Marrone took aim at two audiences.

To church leaders, he warned that the closing of the downtown church and suppression of the parish would come to be seen as, “one of the most egregious mistakes ever made by this diocese.”(Sound familiar?)

He summoned history itself to make his point recalling early church leaders traveling on horseback, begging for money to build. All the pancake breakfasts, spaghetti dinners and rummage sales manned by parishioners to keep the church alive, afloat, during rough times. Members who carted in wheel barrels of concrete to pave a new floor on one of the hottest days of 1989 and, a few years later, the parishioner who carved their beloved altar in the courtyard.

And the last battle fought and won to restore the historic towers and edifice in the face of a city dwindling around it, just five years ago. Marrone said the decision would come not only to symbolize the abandoning of what he called the most historic church in the city and the dispersing its vital congregations but also “tragic and even sometimes sinful decisions” by church leaders — leaders who were leaving the promises of Vatican II unfulfilled and leading instead with fear.(Again, I’m not sure how one should take this statement, due to our removal from Cleveland. I tend to doubt they’re in the same “reform of the reform” mindframe we are, but who knows?)

The closing of St. Peter – a part of what he called the church closing epidemic – was not because of economics, or lack of clergy or parishioners, Marrone said.

Instead it was a “steadfast refusal and or inability to imagine things in a different way.”(Again – sound familiar?)
To Marrone’s flock, whom he sits among (uh oh) — not above (God forbid the priest actually “presides”)— during Mass, the priest urged that they extricate themselves from their connection to the building where they worshipped.

As the hundreds there to celebrate their belief that Jesus Christ rose to give them new life, dabbed their eyes or sobbed as if they were attending a funeral for a beloved friend, Morrone prodded them forward.
“This community has always respected and honored its past but it has steadfastly refused to live in it,” he said.

He said they would leave the white-washed walls and brilliant stained glass windows, “as an empty tomb” which, going forward, will represent only the “incredible lack of faith, hope and love in our church.”(I’m not entirely certain who’s to blame, specifically, for this parish closing. Maybe their bishop, maybe some council that “suggests” things to him. Details would be nice if anyone has any.)
But he urged the diverse (oh?) group of church members, some who drive in from suburbs, some who walk from nearby shelters, to refuse to play it safe and keep their mouths shut. Rather, he said, they should be brave like Jesus’ disciples.(Kind of like those kooks who drive into the heart of downtown Rochester to Our Lady of Victory or St. Stanislaus – nut jobs, all of them.)

And he cautioned them not to “mistakenly confuse blind obedience with faithfulness” and “allow more churches to become tombs to the living dead.” Marrone warned that the collective silence of church faithful in the face of church officials’ actions could make them equally culpable. (Whether this man is liberal or conservative, this ought to ring true to many of us.)
“The power of fear which has caused this injustice is not the last word, must not be the last word and will not be the last word,” Marrone said.
“I know it seems unbearable but we can bear it. Go forth into the world and be living stones,” Marrone said. “God will tent with us wherever he go.”
And with that, the parishioners took with them, their light — symbolized by thin w
hite candles — and left the church in a procession which took them sobbing into the street.
As they gathered in the sunshine, many parishioners vowed to move forward, each heading their beloved priest’s advice in their own ways.
The Wienceks, a family of five that drives in from Medina County, didn’t know where they would end up. Tom and Anka Wiencek have been members of St. Peter for 20 years.
“I’m thinking that many people will support the new community,” Tom Wiencek said, referring to the non-profit Community of St. Peter to be housed in a building on Euclid Avenue.
He hoped it might even become a model.
“The people will become the stones,” said Brenda Pestak, who met her husband at St. Peter on Good Friday in 1981, a day he carried the cross into the church.
“This is not the end,” she said. “This is the beginning.”
An end with one last message left inside the “tomb” for the man leading the charge to close more than 50 churches in the eight-county diocese.
At the foot of the altar, in a plastic baggie, coins glimmered and a note read: “A gift for Bishop Lennon. 30 pieces of silver for the one who has betrayed us.”

 The question of whether this parish is a loyal one or a dissenting one is not relevant, at least for the point I’m trying to make. We cannot be silent when our churches are closed or threatened with closure. To be silent is to be complicit in the stripping of Christ before His crucifixion, just as we watch our altars stripped one last time, the relics removed from their resting place.

Not all of the closings here in Rochester are the fault of Bishop Clark. Many are, legitimately, due to shifting demographics. However, for the few parishes that are being targeted, such as St. Thomas, there is such blatant political maneuvering as to be sacrilegious. When we are presented with true injustice, we must be vocal and cry out, addressing the problem. Yes, pray, but pray and act together. Let your efforts to save your parishes be a perpetual prayer to God. Words are clumsy instruments contrived by humanity – actions are mirrors of divinity. Words are necessary, but so too are actions. Do not abandon yourselves to despair, but take heart. Any parish that has been closed, be it liberal, indifferent, or solid, has gone through unimaginable sufferings. To sit back and twiddle your thumbs is to be a living example of a Christian who has lost his sense of charity.


 

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12 Responses to “Thirty Pieces”

  1. avatar RochChaCha says:

    Gen,

    I've been scouring the web to see what is really going on here. Sounds to me like St Peters in Cleveland is the equivalent to St Mary's in downtown Rochester.

    http://photos.cleveland.com/plain-dealer/2010/04/peterg.html

    If you can see the photo in the link above, it is hard to tell if this is a Catholic church. I am not sure I can even find the sanctuary in these pics. It appears as though the former parishoners are going to start their own 'community' to continue their social minstry outreach…..

    These poor folks in Cleveland would not be in this situation had Bishop Clark been their Bishop.

  2. I read that article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. It was in the Easter Sunday edition. That paper must have a political agenda to slam the Church and her local Bishop to have chosen THAT day of days to publish the story. I was so angry when I read it.

    I think if you read it a little closer and looked at the photos it is evident that it was a heretical parish. (BTW Cleveland is full of them! I could tell you stories)

    http://blog.cleveland.com/metro/2010/04/final_mass_at_downtown_st_pete.html

    These pictures show a church, painted plain modernist white, in which there is no visible altar at the point it would have been originally built nor is any religious art or decoration visible. It has been ?remuddled? in their own image. While it's not a very convincing argument, but to consciously remove these things out of an existing building and then to see the other changes speaks volumes. I guess those changes happened in 1989 when they carved a new altar in a "ability to imagine things in a different way."

    No kneelers. The people face each other. Who is important here? This must be part of the ?promises of Vatican II.?

    They didn?t want the bishop to attend the final Mass, ?His words (the priest) were the last orated in the church thanks to an agreement with the Cleveland diocese to cancel a final Mass set for next week at which Lennon (the bishop) was to desanctify the church?

    ?"The power of fear which has caused this injustice is not the last word, must not be the last word and will not be the last word," Marrone said.? What ?fear? is he alluding to? Fear of the heterodox? Of the ?promises of Vatican II?? The ?ability to imagine things in a different way."

    ?And with that, the parishioners took with them, their light — symbolized by thin white candles — and left the church in a procession which took them sobbing into the street.? Whose light?

    Still it wasn?t as bad as this parish that, thank God, is now closed.
    http://blog.cleveland.com/sunpress/2010/01/st_louis_church_celebrates_fin.html

  3. Opps. RochChaCha you beat me to the punch, a little.

  4. BTW, regarding parish closures. I don't like them. I've been through two.

    However, many times in the inner city and in older suburbs they tend to be necessary.

    We the faithful need to evangelize the world and bring people to Christ's Church. More faithful members will lead to more priests, then the Bishops can keep the Churches open.

  5. avatar RochChaCha says:

    JFK….not a problem. I was reading the same garbage you were reading from the Cleveland Plain Dealer and was baffled by the images of what the interior of the church looked like. And the parishoners who claimed that the Bishop's letter was 'threating' are not being very honest, especially since the letter was posted online and was done in a very pastoral and loving way.

  6. avatar Gen says:

    Great points. I think I mentioned legitimate demographic problems – this stems from what JFK said about proper evangelization. If we've got parishes like this one and St. Mary's spreading this loosey-goosey Gospel of Error, the people leave. It's that simple. While no parish deserves to close (they are consecrated, after all), none would need to if they said the black and did the red.

  7. avatar Anonymous says:

    I have to respectfully disagree with any Catholic who would say that "it is time to close an inner city parish or older suburban parish".

    Either you don't know the whole story of what has been taking place in the Diocese of Rochester during the past 30 years or you are a supporter of Bishop Clark's "personal agenda" to consolidate to one mega church.

    I can present a dozen cases of parishes closed against the will of the parishioners, but let me tell you about one.

    3 priests, 4 nuns and the parishioners pleaded to Bishop Clark, to allow their parish to remain open. The priests pledged to cover all Masses. Bishop Clark closed the parish citing a shortage of priests and money.

    Bishop Clark never told you and the rest of the parishioners in the Diocese of Rochester about the 3 priests and 4 nuns or the $287,000 in the parish savings account. A parishioner gave me a copy of the financial statement and Bishop Clark's decree to close the parish.

    Bishop Clark was the President of the parish corporation and sold their parish for $200,000.

  8. avatar Gen says:

    That's obscene. How can a shepherd purposely scatter and wound his flock?

  9. Anon at 8:53 am,

    That is not what I was writing about. Here in Cincinnati, there are several VERY inner city parishes where there are very few members and few families. They are with several city blocks of each other and the Cathedral or in some of the older ?suburbs? with several within one mile (or so).

    Should a priest remain there or should several combine into one parish with several hundred members? The old but beautiful buildings are literally falling down because they can afford simple maintenance.

    There are parishes in the suburbs with thousands of FAMILIES with one or two priests. What is more prudent in spending your resources of priests and treasure?

    I think your situation MAY be more limited to your local leader and his appointments.

  10. Sorry, that should have been, "can't afford simple maintenance."

  11. avatar Anonymous says:

    But remember, church closings were accelerated in Rochester because of the dictate from Bishop Clark that priests retire at age 70

    This was intended to exacerbate the priest shortage and give ammunition for ordination of married men to the priesthood and ultimately for the ordination of women.

    Such ideological dictates caused a great deal of suffering to the laity in the diocese.

    It seems that when ideology is "god", everyone else can go to hell. Perhaps the bishop figured that the anger expressed by those whose churches were closed would give fuel to his fire to change the nature of the priesthood.

  12. avatar Anonymous says:

    Anon 8:53 a.m. – could you tell us the name of the parish that had 3 assigned active priests that was closed by Bishop Clark?


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