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Church days are numbered

By DON HOHLER • Jan 3, 2019 at 5:00 PM

BISMARK — It would appear that in a matter of days the razing of St. Sebastian Church on Bismark Road will commence. If that occurs, it would bring to an end what has been a near 14-year fight by the parishioners to save their church.

Word came down in 2005, using the term “clustering” from the Diocese of Toledo, that a number of small churches such as St. Sebastian’s and Reed Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, would be closed due to low attendance. Members were asked to attend near-by St. Gasper del Buffalo Catholic Church.

Kelly Donaghy, the Senior Director of Communications of the Diocese, said Thursday a contractor has been hired and the church is due to be razed at any time.

“Once the demolition starts, the contractor believes it will take something like 20 days to finish the project,” Donaghy said.

Parishioners have asked that because the bell tower is believed to be “free standing,” that it be saved.

“We have heard of that request,” Donaghy said. “And the crew was advised of this and will take that into consideration and see if the razing “works that way. They will do what they can in working with the parish to save it. That is still in conversation, however. No one is sure just what will happen once the crew gets in there and sees what will happen.”

Deb Bumb was one of parishioners who have battled over the years to save the church.

“A lot of our parishioner-dollars have been spent in an effort to save the church,” she said.

“Our last appeal was to Rome and that apparently has also failed. The parishioners are pretty much resolved to the fact that they have no parish church. There is not much traffic around there as far as the church lot. No one wants to talk about it. As far as where they go to worship, I don’t think there is one church that heads that list. The sad part, however, is that some no longer attend church.”

Statistics as late as 2003, show there were 441 registered parishioners at St. Sebastian’s from 159 households. The church has a seating capacity of 250 on the ground level (330 using the balcony). A total of 225 attended weekend masses. There were five funerals and three marriages at the church in 2003 compared to two baptisms, eight fewer than in the previous year.

In 2005, the total church receipts amounted to $123,089.06 including a beginning (carry-over) cash total of $75,921.72.

Parishioners have taken any number of steps over the years to try and save the church, the last one evoking the Pope and Canon Law 1932-39 — a law that puts on hold the razing of a church pending all appeals. That last appeal was made to Archbishop Christopher Pierre, the ambassador of the Vatican. The first step in that appeal, made to present Bishop Daniel Thomas, kept the demolition team away for another four months but that appeal also failed.

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