Re: Re: reorganisation and destruction of irish catholic churches
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Monday, June 07, 2010
One woman’s fight to save a Syracuse church
â€œIf this werenâ€™t the 21st century, Iâ€™d be burned at the stake,â€ Anna Giannantonio is saying.
Anna might have reason to worry.
Sheâ€™s fighting the Roman Catholic Diocese of Syracuse over Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church, at 503 Park St.
The diocese closed Holy Trinity Feb.14 after 119 years.
The congregation was urged to attend Mass at St. John the Baptist Church, several blocks to the north.
Anna, and a handful of former Holy Trinity parishioners, are campaigning to have the church declared a protected site by the city of Syracuse. The city Planning Commission takes up the issue at 6 p.m. Monday.
Sheâ€™s also put in the paperwork to have Holy Trinity made a national landmark. And thereâ€™s are papers in the channel to ask the Vatican to reverse the Syracuse diocese because the closing is contrary to church law.
â€œShe has a lot of support,â€ according to Katie Walker Scott, of Holy Trinityâ€™s organization of Concerned Parishioners. Katie had been a church member 55 years. Her mother was there before her.
â€œThis has kept us together,â€ she explained.
Anna is a petite, white-haired North Side neighbor of Holy Trinity who had been a member there 30 years. Sheâ€™s 81 and works as a page at the Onondaga County Library downtown. She was in the accounting department of Dey Bros. Department store downtown when it closed.
She came to Syracuse from Italy in 1949.
â€œI was born in Italy,â€ she tells me. â€œIâ€™m an American by choice and a citizen of the universe.â€
Still, Anna explains that it troubles her to stand up to the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. She says she took on the fight â€œfor the neighborhood, for the people. That church belongs to the congregation. The diocese is assuming itâ€™s theirs. Theyâ€™ve taken away a stable place. The diocese has disassembled us. We are dispersed souls.â€
The Catholic diocese opposes Annaâ€™s petition. Theyâ€™ve filed an objection with the Planning Commission.
Kate Elliot Auwaerter, of the Landmark Preservation Board, said there is nothing in the local preservation ordinance to stop Annaâ€™s application from moving ahead. However, that issue may prove tricky if the application moves to the Common Council.
Federal law kills such an application if the owner does not approve, according to Tony Opalka, of the state Historic Preservation office in Albany.
â€œThis is a universal problem,â€ with church closings all over, he explained. â€œSyracuse is but one example.â€
He said Annaâ€™s application for state and national recognition is on hold until the issue is resolved. The state has not moved on other applications for Catholic churches, Tony said.
Ownership was not an issue for the Roman Catholic cathedral downtown, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, but thatâ€™s because itâ€™s part of a historic district.
Designation as a Syracuse protected site has been approved by the Landmark Preservation Board. Its next stop is the Syracuse Planning Commission Monday. If that board approves, it will be sent to the Common Council.
Protected status has been granted other Catholic churches in the past, including Assumption, Sacred Heart and St. John the Baptist. Other churches with city protected status include United Baptist on Beech Street, 2nd A.M.E. Zion on East Fayette Street, Plymouth Congregational and St. Paulâ€™s Cathedral.
Anna explains her main concern at the moment is preserving the Holy Trinity building, with its murals and stained-glass windows she says are worth at least a million dollars.
The church was put up by a group of German families who were attending Assumption Church on North Salina Street.
Early Masses were in German and the church minutes were kept in the German language.
The church, designed by architect Charles William Eldridge, was built to hold 950 worshippers.
The former school building next door is rented to the Syracuse City School District as an immigrant education center.
Anna lives in a house on Woodruff Avenue sheâ€™s had about 57 years. Her sister lives across the street.
She carries a cloth bag stuffed with the papers of her campaign, including a copy of a deed she found at the county courthouse. It deeds the church from the â€œHoly Trinity Societyâ€ to â€œHoly Trinity Church.â€
There are also a sheath of plastic-covered pictures of Holy Trinityâ€™s stained-glass windows and its murals.
Anna argues with the Catholic dioceseâ€™s contention it owns the church, saying it belongs to the people who worshipped there. â€œWe were not consulted about closing it,â€ she says.
The diocese cited costs and shortages of priests in closing several Catholic parishes in Syracuse, including St. John the Evangelist on North State Street, the original cathedral of the diocese, which shuts down at the end of this month.
Danielle Cummings, spokesperson for the diocese, said she was unable to obtain a copy of the letter written to the city on a historic designation for the church.
In general, she explained diocesan leaders have opposed historic designation of its churches. Any sale of a church must be approved by the bishop.
I ask Anna where she goes to Mass. â€œSometimes, I go with my sister to Our Lady of Pompeii (also on the North Side). But just now, I donâ€™t want to join.â€
She said she has joined a small Sedgwick Rosary Group that meets in a back room at Holy Trinity, â€œjust to keep up,â€ she explains.
Anna worries about the spiritual damage closing does to a church.
â€œSpiritually,â€ she says, â€œthis has knocked a lot of people out.â€