When a Church Dies My Story

| 13 Jul 2015 | 04:09

“A picture is worth a thousand words” and visuals abound like never before. But not the ones we need to see most, like what happens when the woman shown here using St. Stephen of Hungary’s automatic wheel chair lift must attend a church without this lift or elevator and outdoor ramp?

As some of you know (too few really) over 60 city Catholic churches are required to close and merge with another parish come August 1. St. Stephen will merge with St. Monica’s Church, which has lots of steps (see photo), and unlike St. Stephen, no ramps, lifts or elevator. Nor does it have public meeting rooms, or a kitchen to serve church and community dinners. I’m told there isn’t air conditioned either.

And forgive me for again writing about this particular merger, when each and every one of the targeted ones so achingly needs to be saved. But when it comes to closing a church which serves the public good in so many ways, and with disability access, it seems especially destructive. While it’s rumored St. Stephen church will become part of the adjacent Catholic school, the rectory which houses all those rooms for public meetings will also be shuttered. I don’t know the specifics, but more important is a look at the Sunday Church bulletin calendar where we see the listings of two weekly A.A. meetings, one for Alanon and one for Overeaters Anonymous. Plus several exercise groups and a computer class. All are held in the very accessible air conditioned church rectory rooms.

Looking at St. Monica’s weekly Sunday bulletin, I wonder why the A.A. meetings aren’t listed when these self-help groups do incalculable good for society at large, Indeed, I’ve often wished they were not so anonymous about the supportive community they provide, with an ensuing outstanding success rate which does more to reduce conflict on every level, and anti-social destructive and yes criminal actions more than just about anything else. And let’s not forget just very regrettable words and actions not to mention wasted hangover time. Etcetera.

And these and other groups which meet on church premises will find it harder and harder to find space. Indeed we are losing public places everywhere, including small neighborhood businesses killed off by luxury high rise homes, an inequity maybe Pope Francis will address during his September visit. Oh yes, and doesn’t his recent warning against neglecting elderly persons apply to being uprooted from a longtime church home which be too far away or inaccessible.

Ah, but now also listed on St Stephen’s Sunday bulletin is something called a Moving On Celebration dinner for the parishioners. Moving On, indeed, when parishioners haven’t even begun to mourn the loss of their beloved church home and now are expected to put on a happy face, even when they can’t access that new church they’re supposed to call home. Moving is said to be one of life’s most traumatic experiences and surely that also applies to moving from a deeply-loved church home.

Oh, there is so much to say, to protest, indeed the loss of each and every parish, but especially closing those best equipped and inclined to serve the community at large (and those with limited mobility) like, for one notable example, St. Stephen of Hungary.