I totally agree with what you said - "They had us believe we were part of the decision process. It was a farce."LOCKPORT — Closing St. Mary’s Church does not make sense to members of the Roman Catholic Church on Saxton Street and the head of the parish Strategic Committee feels the decision was made before Journey of Faith and Grace started.
Michael Ulrich charged that Sister Regina Murphy, SSMN the Director of Research & Planning for Diocese of Buffalo ruled Lockport will only have two churches.
“We were spinning our wheels,” said Ulrich who went to many meetings.“We had no say from day one. It had us believe we were part of decision process. It was a farce. It was obvious we were only to get two churches. She’s the one. It’s sad.”
In 2007, Bishop Edward Kmiec ruled that St. Joseph’s, St. Mary’s and St. Anthony’s were to merge with St. Patrick’s and form All Saints Parish.
Murphy headed the commission of Journey of Faith and Grace.
St. Mary’s has continued to grow and has appealed to the Vatican. That appeal is before the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, but Kmiec decreed that the church on the Big Bridge will close by Sept. 1. The strategic committee will keep the appeal alive.
In 2005, Murphy said,“Some parishes have neither the membership nor the finances to support the ministries necessary for a full parish life, with a disproportionate amount of a parish budget often needed to maintain old and underutilized buildings."
St. Mary’s says it does not fit that criteria. It has 800 to 900 people at its weekend Masses. The church is growing, has a positive budget and a new parish center. Children are eager to take part in religious education.
“Nobody came from the diocese to meet with us or Father Gary,” said Ulrich who noted that St. Mary’s got a positive score on 17 of 18 points as a parish.“Finances, percent at Mass and programs, we were good on all of them,” he said.
The bishop ruled that St. Mary’s will no longer have weekend Masses and will only be used as a oratory for special services.
Kmiec wrote,“I have been saddened by the effect St. Mary’s appeal has had on the unity of the Catholic Community of Lockport, and I hope the good will that is in each one’s heart will heal any wounds of division.”
Those words were not fair and upset the Rev. Gary Kibler who has been pastor 11 years, according to Ulrich.
“I have a lot of friends at other parishes who have supported us,” Ulrich said.“I don’t know where the bishop is coming from. I’d like to know who he’s talking about. That came as total shock.”
Parish leaders want to know if they had the support of parishioners from other Catholics in the city.
Parishioner Bruce Steltzer spoke up at an informal meeting after Saturday’s Mass and is looking into the question.
“There is a lot of support for St. Mary’s to stay open,” said Steltzer who spoke to two leaders at St. John the Baptist leaders.“They don’t see the sense of it either. They don’t see a division.”
There may have been division when St. Mary’s began its appeal. St. Joseph’s, which had a newer church, did not appeal.
Father Gary who said he would stay on as pastor until he retired, does not know what his future role will be. St. Mary’s Stewardship Council will meet at 7 p.m. today.
We were told JF&G was a "grass roots" process. Far from it. The decision to close our church had already been made. All the endless meetings, letter writing, etc. were totally useless.
Good luck to St. Mary's. Keep fighting -- hopefully your outcome will be better than the one we had three years ago.