Ohio churches spared by Rome look to revival
St. Barbara Church, founded in 1905, and 11 other parishes closed by the Roman Catholic bishop of Cleveland begin reopening this summer after an unusual intervention by Rome. But they still face an uncertain future: Will parishioners locked out two years ago return?
If they do, can the parishes survive amid often shrinking congregations in aging urban neighborhoods? Will they warrant a priest as clergy numbers dwindle?
“Definitely,” said a hopeful Tom Klypchak, 57, a member of St. Barbara for most of his life, who’s been worshipping at St. Augustine Church several miles away since St. Barbara closed.
“I’ll be back. It’s my family church, I’ve been there for 44 years and I love it,” said Klypchak, whose children were baptized at St. Barbara.
He said his mostly well-kept blue-collar neighborhood, overlooking an industrial steel valley and a highway leading commuters out to the suburbs, would welcome the parish’s reopening.
It’s one 50 of the more than 225 parishes in the eight-county diocese closed or merged by Bishop Richard Lennon because of shrinking congregations, finances and priest numbers. Most were urban parishes that had served generations of immigrants: Poles, Hungarians, Irish and others who kept the mills and assembly lines going.
The cutbacks were prompted in part by the drop in the city’s population — down 17 percent since 2000 to less than 400,000 — as people moved to the suburbs. The phenomenon also led to church closings in Detroit, Philadelphia, Boston and elsewhere. [More]