Saturday, the 19th of September, as mild and splendid a late summer day, that one can have, Saint Hyacinth had their ending mass. It is difficult to speak kindly of the local ordinary. Richard Lennon came to Cleveland, Ohio, to suppress [close] parishes. He as auxiliary did the same in troubled Boston. This was not his first such closure and seizure in town. It has already come routine. To use a simile, he is like an imported gunslinger. He has nasty tasks to do, and he takes count. Many are the notches he is cutting. He is a tall man, it is not unusual for him to be the tallest in a crowd. In general his public speech is neither loud, nor plentiful. He is determined to use the full force of his office.
An hour before mass, two uniformed city policeman sat on the last bench in church, while less than a dozen congregants, prayed and sat before them. They would later go in the parking lot. They would talk to the arriving bishop, a half hour before mass. Lennon rides in a black Infiniti. Four men stand in the street across the church entrance, one holds a Betsy Ross flag, another holds the papal flag, two others hold signs: “CATHOLIC ETHNIC CLEANSING” read one sign, “SAVE OUR PARISH” read the other. Three black teens walk on the sidewalk between. The girl says to the boys, “Dey want to keep dere cherch open”.
The neighborhood can hardly be thought of as doing better without this parish, than with it. The church is very close to an interstate terminus. Cleveland has suffered from the mortgage crisis, Ohio especially, did not regulate these matters. With the other economic hardships, this has further weakened neighborhoods. Nearby is a disreputable scrapyard, that has made the press several times, once for a large explosion. Many factories are shut, but one with stamping presses has gone from 40 hours a week to 24 hours a day. Many houses have been broken into. Others have been boarded up. Occasionally a particularly, brutal crime is noticed by the media.
The church, itself, has modest grandeur. It is wonderfully tidy. It has character. It is sacred space on a comfortable scale. The baptistry alcove shares a slavonic [polish], marian presence. The stations of the cross are stained leaded glass, illuminated from behind. A porcelain crock dispenses holy water. There is no shabbiness.
To use an euphemism, the neighborhood has been in ‘transition’. Immediately about the parish, it does not look too bad. The old school/church has gone too seed, shrubbery grows in the gutters. A son of the parish, John Krol became the cardinal archbishop of Philadelphia. Most of the parish has always been working class polish. The future does not appear promising to residents to-day.
Now, the weekly collection has had a threshold of a thousand dollars. The parish has been run by a deacon. The priest, connected with the cathedral, has come only to celebrate mass. This scenario is why this parish was suppressed so easily. Every parish is not required to have a resident priest, but those in Cleveland shall (it seems).
The scene will be repeated. Lennon will show up, preside over the liturgy, take the parish. Monday morning it will be physically seized. It may be possible* to take three in a weekend. The last closure date is to be 30 June 2010. Saint Emeric, Imre in magyar [hungarian], Amerigo [America] in italian, is scheduled for that day. They are still protesting to Rome, as are about a dozen others.
Reasons given are demographic and financial. Clergy is in short supply. Saint Emeric has gotten their pastor from the old country. He is not incardinated in Cleveland. Other parishes have missionary order priests serving. Some parishes are physically and financially healthy. There are such demographic and economic issues, but there is no one to one correspondence. Ethnic, urban parishes are taking a huge hit. Perhaps, certain pastors are not favored. Some of this deplorable outcome is to pay for past scandals. It is not pleasant. Parishes are held in trust and are created to be perpetual.
*It will happen this weekend, St. Hedwig (polish), Akron on Saturday, September 26; and in Lorain, St. Stanislaus (polish), and St. Ladislaus (hungarian) on Sunday, the 27th. The diocese covers eight counties, with the cities of Akron, Lorain, Elyria also hit hard, but with less media coverage. The eastern european nationality parishes are heavily targeted.