Monday, May 31, 2010

Preparing a parish for extinction

Some parishes have funeral cards printed up for the day of extinction. Supra: funeral cards for the day the parishes were taken: Holy Trinity (Slovak), Saint Stanislaus (Polish), both of Lorain, Ohio.
Now, these 58 or so churches, and their parish communities, that have been scheduled for execution were not killed the next day. They had all their possessions accounted for liquidation. The congregations were being prepared for the day of slaughter. The church staff was coached, the clergy was leaned on, so they would not stand tall. Some bent to different degrees, some snapped. They were being used to prepare their people, to keep them docile. They were brow beaten if necessary by those 'loyal' to the bishop.

Now, at Saint Lawrence, there had been no resident priest for years, and no pastor. Sacramental priests were usually the available Benedictines of the nearby abbey. Often the celebrant was the retired abbot, Clement Zeleznik; sometimes the current abbot, Christopher Schwartz; the youthful and energetic, Gary Hoover, OSB or someone else.

Near the very end there came nostalgic celebrants. Fr. Louis Papes, a 1953 Saint Lawrence school graduate and a missionary priest from the Jonestown, Guyana diocese came back. Unfortunately, he propagandised from the pulpit in defense of Lennon, the same day, 16th of May, signatures were collected refusing to accept surrender to the bishop. There was an open house, the same day, and everything was available for touring.

Before this came a former associate pastor, the titular bishop of Mercia, Edward Pevec. He celebrated his 60th year Jubilee as a priest with Masses at St. Vitus and St. Lawrence. Fr. Papes had been an altar boy for Bishop Gregorij Rožman. At one time all three were at Saint Lawrence with the long serving pastor, John Oman.

The last May crowning of Mary was on May 9th. On the 23rd of May, the last procession to the Fatima shrine during the rosary took place. Father Dominic Mondzelewski, OSB had a homecoming visit, and a diocesan priest Ralph Hudak, from neighboring Immaculate Heart of Mary, con-celebrated. Father Dominic has said Masses there for over thirty years. A parish dinner at the nearby Slovenian Hall (NASH) was held afterwards. This was the final parish celebration.

The week after, at the back of the nave souvenirs came. First a foto card of Fr. John Oman (pastor 1915-62) by the high altar. In the fifty years since a couple additional slabs of marble covered some of the flanking brick. Displays of fotos, documents, books were placed on tables.

The above holy card and medal of St. Laurentius (Lovrenc, Lawrence) was handed out by ushers on the 30th of May. St. Laurentius was the holy deacon of Rome, who when ordered to turn over the riches of the church, brought the aged, the crippled and the poor. He sent the Holy Grail to his native Spain, and dispersed the other valuables elsewhere. For this loyalty and defiance, he was grilled alive, and the gridiron is his iconic symbol.

The last Corpus Christi procession will take place this week. The Last Mass for the Faithful will be on St. Anthony of Padua and Lisbon (June 13). The Mass of Eviction will be in front of visitors and strangers on the 20th.

In 1901 seven slovenes petitioned the bishop for a parish. Days later St. Lawrence was authorised, and held its first masses in the basement of Holy Name. Now a century past, many more slovenes want the parish to endure, and this bishop says, "No."

Still there are stalwarts who will not surrender. One gave defiant speeches to crowds outside at Casimir's, Peter's, the cathedral, and City Hall on why St. Lawrence and other parishes should stay open. Letters are still being sent to Rome.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, our Bishop said.... Mourn your parish loss like the loss of a loved one. It's like a funeral, the last mass, you will feel better soon...

    Missing from the metaphor -- these words come from the executioner himself!

    We typically lose our loved ones to natural causes -- not the greed and avarice of our "shepherds."