South Florida parishioners pray to save Catholic churches

August 3rd, 2009 by

miamiherald.com

Thousands of South Florida Catholics are anxiously awaiting a final decision on the fate of 13 churches under consideration for closure as they turn to prayer and protests in hopes of a miracle.

On Saturday, members of a handful of those churches gathered at the Torch of Friendship in downtown Miami for a two-hour candlelight vigil.

“We’re asking God not to take the away the light that shines on these churches,” said Carolyn Fetscher of Catholic Leaders for Christ, an informal group that organized the event that included prayers and hymns.

Archdiocese spokeswoman Mary Ross Agosta said that the closure list, first announced in May, will be finalized in “early August” but there’s no specific date. Closing churches will operate through the end of September.

The Archdiocese of Miami has targeted the churches to save money in a recession that has caused the institution to lose tens of millions of dollars in investments while subsidizing struggling parishes.

It has already closed seven Catholic schools this year and is making additional cuts.

Gone is its central youth ministry office.

Funding for its pro-life office, five pregnancy care centers and its Madonna retreat center in Hollywood has been cut, leaving the facilities to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to support themselves.

Up for sale: its MorningStar retreat center in Pinecrest.

“The Archdiocese of Miami cannot spend more than it can afford, and what we once thought were needs in actuality were wants,” Archbishop John C. Favalora recently wrote to church members. “We wanted to have a school on every parish site and we wanted to have a parish in every neighborhood, but that is not the financial reality.”

Many church members feel in limbo.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen,” said pastor Gerard Bolduc of St. Philip Neri in Bunche Park, a historically black church where he has hosted Wednesday evening services for the past month to pray for the church’s future.

“This is an uncomfortable feeling.”

MERGING AN OPTION

The archdiocese is asking members of endangered churches to join nearby Catholic congregations that will stay open. Bolduc’s congregation would merge with that of St. Monica’s in Miami Gardens, but many Catholics are resisting the idea.

“This church is my home,” said Katrenia Reeves, 60, who attended St. Philip Neri as a child and now drives to services in Northwest Miami-Dade County from Kendall. “It’s heartbreaking.”

At Divine Mercy Haitian Mission in Fort Lauderdale, churchgoers recently completed 40 days of prayer for the 1,667-member house of worship.

“People have been going around the neighborhood praying, the last seven days there were four or five-hour long prayers inside,” said pastor Robes Charles. “Whatever way things will turn out it will be according to God’s will.”

At St. Francis Xavier in Overtown, members of Miami’s first black Catholic church have also had weekly prayers and some are declining the archdiocese’s suggestion to join nearby Gesu, Miami’s oldest Catholic church.

“People are thinking that they would try experience going to different religions. Some say they will not going to go to church at all,” said Reginald Munnings, 52.

PRAYING, HOPING

At St. Cecilia church in Hialeah, Catholics have protested and prayed with rosaries. “We plan to fight to keep our church open as long as we can,” said Tricia Bolanos, 24.

Many Catholic dioceses around the country have cut back in recent years, closing churches and schools and eliminating other services. In one of the biggest cutbacks, the Diocese of Cleveland announced in March that it would close 52 of its 224 churches next year.

The archdiocese “is not immune to the ongoing economic crisis facing this country,” Agosta said. Closed churches could be rented to generate revenue for the archdiocese, which serves 800,000 members in Miami-Dade, Broward and Monroe counties, with 128 parishes, missions and apostolates.

That’s the case with seven recently closed Catholic schools that will reopen in the fall as secular, publicly funded charters. In addition, St. Monica Catholic School, which closed in 2008, will reopen as a charter.


One Response

  1. Judge Truth

    They need to pray to save their asses from burning in hell….wait a minute, there’s no such place. They better pray they don’t touch any of my kids.

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