Monday, July 20, 2009

Dubuque church closing puzzles parishioners

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Now that officials with St. Mary's Catholic Church have recommended the church be closed after 142 years of service, parishioners are puzzled about what will happen next.

No timeline exists for the closing, and members of a church council expected to vote on the matter left without doing so after a meeting last week.

"We know the fate. They made that much clear," church member Teresa Ruzicka said. "What they didn't make clear was what's next."

Church committee member Travis King said the council expects to make its decision official within 30 days. A subcommittee will be formed to begin the closing process once the council votes and submits the official recommendation to the archdiocese, according to Monsignor Thomas Toale, vicar general with the Dubuque Archdiocese.

A special Mass will be held before the church closes.

Church officials said declining membership and increasing debt contributed to the recommendation to close the church. But parishioners have suggested other factors played a role.

Several speakers at a meeting Wednesday criticized the Archdiocese of Dubuque, saying it plotted to close the church and kept St. Mary's from holding fundraisers that would have helped.

The fate of the church itself is not yet clear. A committee of church, community and historic preservation leaders will determine what to do with the property, which includes the Maria House and the Old St. Mary's Catholic School.

The church's closing will leave some 600 families looking elsewhere to worship.

"Without this church, I just don't know what I'll do," Ruzicka said. "I just don't know where I'll go. This was like home to me."
Chicago Tribune
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