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Monday, March 09, 2009

Members of old, ethnic parishes

in Cleveland Catholic Diocese fear the worst

The 10:30 a.m. Polish Mass at St. Casimir Church two Sundays ago had the feel of something precious in peril.

The sun beamed through stained-glass windows to bathe a sanctuary as big and as beautiful as any church in Poznan, the old-world city for which the neighborhood was once known.

Immigrant families joined first- and second-generation Polish-Americans in song and prayer in the mother tongue. But there were too few of them -- no more than 50 in a church that could hold a thousand.

St. Casimir, one of the last vestiges of an old Polish neighborhood off East 79th Street in Cleveland, typifies many of the 51 nationality parishes of the Cleveland Catholic Diocese. It is old, beloved and no longer surrounded by the ethnic culture that built it.

The faithful fear the worst this weekend, when Bishop Richard Lennon is to decree which churches must close so others can thrive.

Greater Cleveland's nationality parishes -- seen by many as part of a bygone era -- loom especially vulnerable in the coming downsizing. As they pray for deliverance, members of historic parishes are trying to explain themselves to a region that has mostly moved on. They insist that their churches offer more than polka Masses (Cathcon- I should hope so!) and bilingual confessions -- that they enrich a multicultural region and still bolster the neighborhoods they helped build
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