Akron Catholic Church Closings
Imagine a great marble room filled with different members of your community all gathered together to celebrate. The seats made of old wood and the windows filled with priceless stained glass. Lilies border the front and give off a pleasant aroma from the moment you sit down. The scent of burnt wicks in the back fills the room with warmth and comfort. The organ starts and chills run down your back as the group grows silent and the room hums with each note played. Each member, as still as the statues displayed, watch as the man with long cloaks as white as his hair march his way up to the podium and begin his sermon. This is my church, where I spend my Sunday's and share my faith with my family. For those who share in some denomination and believe in some higher being, imagine the sanctuary you worship at gone.
Akron received the news through their pastors and priests sometime around 2009. There was nothing anyone could do about it but wait to hear the damage to be made. Bishop Lennon of the Cleveland Catholic Diocese was making changes by closing and merging multiple, family, catholic churches in the Akron and Cleveland areas. This was affecting the parishioners by taking away their religious home away from home of decades and generations. Parishioners were attending Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church for more than 50 years with their children and grandchildren. This was one of many churches in the area to be closed and forced parishioners here to find other churches to go and worship. The church closings were a result of the shortage of clergy men as well as a shortage of financial means. Churches have never brought in a great deal of money and have not for some time and should not result to this decision. Bishop Lennon said the reason to merge "was to strengthen the Catholic Church's presence and pastoral care in response to declining care, enrollment, and population shifts". I feel that the presence from each individual church with their parishioners brought strength to that church in its own way. The number of parishioners has gone down greatly because of work or social reasons but for the families that continue their ritual of worship on Sunday's should not be punished. Coming from someone who belongs to a church that survived the destruction process can state that mass on Sundays and holidays have become overly crowded and uncomfortable due to the limited space and too many parishioners. We have welcomed many families with open arms through mass and school but is making mass loud and distracting.
St. Anthony Padua, a small, marble church that was accompanied by many from North Akron, was shortly in the danger zone of first becoming shut down and then merging with another church close by. We slowly came out of the scare but instead lost our 6th-8th grade classes of our elementary school to the school close by. My mother attended St. Anthony's along with my aunts and uncles, older cousins, and younger cousins. This was putting families out of options with lower income parents and more expensive private grade schools. St. Anthony's is one of the cheaper catholic school systems and many parents could not afford to switch to more expensive schools and did not want to resort to the Akron Public School System. The thought of having to leave and spend our Sundays at a different church we didn't grow up at and did not know the priest or pastor was unsettling. We didn't understanding the reasoning behind merging or switching and didn't feel it was necessary. My parents were married at St. Anthony's and I plan on doing the same. I was baptized, made my first communion, and made my confirmation there and would like to see my children make the same movements into the Catholic Church there as well. This affected many parishioners who share their lives with their churches as well. Even though we were one of many churches and were safe during this process, 6 others were not as lucky. No actions were taken by the parishioners because of the warning the priests were given by Bishop Lennon. It was short notice and not much could be done in the short amount of time given along with most of the decisions already made.
If I were to make changes to stop this from happening I would start with making a meeting with Bishop Lennon's secretary. I would slowly make my way to having a meeting with Bishop Lennon himself. I would try to convince him the issues the community had with the changes he was planning on making and convince him he should think of the community first rather than just the financial quota of the Catholic Cleveland Diocese. He should also consider the families that are in financial trouble and cannot always make the same donation that others can. This is a major problem many parishioners are facing when churches are asking for more each week and families must think of their children first. This should not be an issue that they should face. I treat my time at church one where I can forget about troubles I face and focus on worship and being thankful for what I have. If churches are having trouble with money then they should take matters into their own hands by having fund raisers such as spaghetti dinners and carnivals for the children in that parish. Twice a year my church puts on a spaghetti dinner and a 50 plate dinner. Students and parishioners put the dinner on through volunteer work only and thousands of dollars are made to help support athletic and costs to run the church. This can draw in more parishioners and bring in more money to pay for decorations, water, heating, and electric. Many problems could have been fixed if we had the right time and approach. We have made due with the extra additions and those who no longer have their churches managed to find churches close to them.
I couldn't imagine losing a piece of tradition that has been in my family since my mom and her siblings were little. I now cherish ever Sunday and holiday I spend there because I realize at any moment they could have torn down a piece of my family tradition. Many changes could have been made to stop the process of church closings such as fundraisers and meetings to convince Bishop Lennon on why their church should have stayed open. If only more notice would have been given they could have kept our sanctuary open.