Diocese’s action finalizes closure
by luke eggleston
Sun staff writer
JAMESVILLE — Last week, the long vigil of parishioners who were occupying St. Mary’s mission in Jamesville may have come to a close.
St. Mary’s was closed July 1, 2007, but several former parishioners remained on the premises until Jan. 30. Officials from the Syracuse Diocese had previously informed the parishioners through their attorney that they must vacate the premises.
According to a release issued by the Syracuse Diocese Office of Communications, Bishop James Moynihan recently learned that the Eucharist had been brought into the church, which is a violation of church liturgical guidelines.
Before St. Mary’s was closed, its parish community was linked with that of Holy Cross in DeWitt. Upon the building’s closure, it was merged with the community at Holy Cross. According to church guidelines as written in Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest, communion services may not be held if the members are cared for by another church.
Msgr. J. Robert Yeazel, the pastor of Holy Cross, is sympathetic toward the former St. Mary’s parishioners who were occupying the building, but he stressed that it is time for the church to move forward.
Msgr. Yeazel notified the people occupying St. Mary’s that they must vacate the premises. He was accompanied by police officers at the time. According to Msgr. Yeazel, there is no acrimony between himself and the former St. Mary’s parishioners.
Although the merger process has been long and drawn out, Msgr. Yeazel noted that he has had little personal difficulty throughout it.
“It isn’t terrible. I just think the people are grieving,” he said. “I think we need to be kind to them. But they started bringing in the Eucharist and doing things that were just inappropriate. We have to move on as a church and therefore, as a united church, we have to make the best use of our resources and that means our priests and our buildings.”
Msgr. Yeazel is unaware of who had been providing the Eucharist at St. Mary’s.
The Catholic SUN was able to acquire the contact information for one of the former St. Mary’s parishioners who was participating in the vigil. However, calls to the individual’s home were not returned.
According to Msgr. Yeazel, the occupiers consisted of 24 people from the closed mission. He said that over 300 families have made the transition to join the parish community at Holy Cross and many of them are daily communicants.
Before the mission was closed, its parish council had voted that the last Mass at the parish would be held June 30 whether or not the diocese decided to close the building. In the meantime, 24 people signed a petition that was sent to the Vatican asking the pope to intercede on behalf of St. Mary’s in order to keep it open.
In the release issued by the diocese, Bishop James Moynihan said, “I understand that a few individuals occupying the church had hoped the Vatican may intercede on their behalf and change the local decision. Historically, the Vatican does not intercede in the local ordinary’s decision unless there was fault in the process. In my conversation with the Papal Nuncio and his staff, I have kept them fully informed. It is my prayer that those who love the now-closed St. Mary Mission will find strength and comfort in their neighboring parish communities.”
St. Mary’s and Holy Cross are approximately four miles from one another and their respective municipalities share a common school district.
It is worth noting that St. Mary’s is just one parish among 40 that are being closed as part of the diocese’s reconfiguration process. Brother Ed Falsey, OFM Conv., moved from Binghamton to Syracuse in August and was appointed to the new position of associate director of pastoral planning. The position was created so that Brother Ed could help facilitate the diocese’s reconfiguration process. He is familiar with each of the parish linkages and mergers. He said that the resistance to the merger by an element within the St. Mary’s parish community is unique among the parishes facing similar situations. Last year, while he was still based in Binghamton, Brother Ed facilitated a day of reflection and prayer shared by the parish councils from St. Mary’s and Holy Cross.
“Last year I did a process with them and they were struggling but most of the people were on board,” he said.
Because of the priest shortage in the U.S., other dioceses are undergoing similar processes.
Brother Ed echoed Msgr. Yeazel’s assessment when he compared losing one’s home parish to the grieving process.
“They don’t want to accept what’s going on. We’ve gone through this process of denial and acceptance to get to this point,” he said.