Catholic parishioners ask diocese to keep church building open

News-DemocratFebruary 20, 2014 

Bishop Edward K. Braxton in a BND file photo from May, 2013.

DERIK HOLTMANN — dholtmann@bnd.com

Parishioners from a Catholic church in Southern Illinois are asking the Diocese of Belleville to preserve their church building after the closing Mass scheduled for Saturday suppresses the parish.

Church members and other residents formed the St. Catherine of Alexandria Church Preservation Society in an attempt to save the church building in Grand Chain to be used for future prayer services, funerals, weddings and occasional Masses.

The society hopes to work with the diocese "to ensure that the historic church is a sacred worship space for generations to come," stated Ila Ulrich in a news release from the preservation society.

Monsignor John Myler, spokesman for the diocese and the rector at the Cathedral of St. Peter in Belleville, said no decision has been made about the future of the church building.

"It's understandable that the church building is important to the parishioners," Myler said in an email Thursday. "Yet the primary concern is not the building, not the brick and mortar, roof and walls, but the real 'Church' itself: the continued faith life -- of men and women, young and old, families and singles -- being welcomed into the life of their newly-restructured parish."

After Saturday, St. Catherine parish will merge with St. Patrick in Cairo, St. Rose of Lima in Metropolis and St. Mary in Mound City; the four parishes have been partnered and sharing resources since the Pastoral Plan for Parish Renewal and Restructuring plan was announced in April.

When Bishop Edward K. Braxton took leadership of the diocese in 2005, Pulaski County had three Catholic parishes. After St. Catherine's closes, there will be none, Ulrich said. That will create a more than 40-mile gap between Catholic parishes in Cairo and Metropolis.

Myler said the merger "is never easy, but it is an opportunity for the genuine renewal of the parishes and the people themselves. The Pastoral Plan is not only about restructuring but also about renewal."

Contact reporter Maria Hasenstab at mhasenstab@bnd.com or 618-239-2460.

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