St. Emeric’s Church in Cleveland has become the 50th parish to close in a massive downsizing program announced last year.
As reasons for the program the Diocese of Cleveland has cited falling attendance, a priest shortage and financial problems. Many of the parishes were operating in the red. Some were closed and others were merged, with 174 parishes remaining in the diocese.
The closed parishes tended to be older and ethnic in character.
St. Emeric’s has served Hungarian Catholics in the city. Its parishioners have picketed outside the bishop’s office and have held Mass on the sidewalk in the rain in protest.
The parish was planned to have its final Mass on Wednesday but parish administrator Fr. Sandor Siklodi, parish leaders and parishioners told Bishop of Cleveland Richard Lennon that they would not be participating in the closing Mass.
The Diocese of Cleveland said in a news release that because of this “it does not seem appropriate that a closing Mass be celebrated in such a manner, thus there will be no closing Mass celebrated by Bishop Richard Lennon.”
The diocese said that those who wish to worship and receive the sacraments in the Hungarian language are encouraged to do so at St. Elizabeth of Hungary Parish.
“The Church is about people and their faith, not about buildings, and we will always be here to serve the people,” said Bishop Lennon in a March 2009 statement announcing the closures. “The task for the Church is to be faithful to what God asks of us, which is to bring the message of Jesus Christ to all people, to reach out and serve the poor and marginalized among us, and to become holy and bring people closer to God.”
The diocese has said population shifts in the region and movement away from urban areas have meant that about two-thirds of the diocese’s Catholics are served by one-third of the diocese’s parishes.