Monday, October 5, 2009


A number of years ago some friends and I went on what we termed an architectural safari to see some of the inner city churches that the Diocese of Detroit had closed. The neighborhoods were scary. And it seemed every few blocks had some sort of fire controlled or otherwise going on. Helicopters circled overhead though they may have just happened to be there they added to the drama. The churches were pretty much abandoned. The doors were chained shut from the outside. One man had simply cut the chains, declared himself a bishop, and started holding services. Inside the windows were still pretty much intact and the pipe organ still sat in the choir loft.

At another parish rocks were being thrown through the windows. We had a desire to see if we could find a way in and rescue anything left behind before it was destroyed (that’s called breaking and entering) and some nice gentleman started calling at us from across the street, “Do you want in? Will get you in! We can find a way!” We respectfully declined and left for our own beloved diocese.

I tell you this in order to let you know that our diocese is doing a good job at a difficult task when it needs to decommission and shutter a building that is no longer used as a parish. Everything is taken. All religious goods and art are inventoried and made available to other churches (albeit at a charge at times.) Even the school supplies and rectory furniture is found a place to go rather than just abandoning them in the building.

The other day I had an occasion to be part of this process. A local parish celebrated their final Mass about a week ago. As they prepared to close the doors, there were a couple of details that needed special attention – details that I had not considered before. The Eucharist left in the tabernacle and the holy oils needed to find a proper home. A phone call was made to St. Sebastian and the Monday following the final Mass tracks were made for the parish to meet with the priest and the persons helping him give a respectful shuttering of the buildings. The holy oils were retrieved from the ambry and a ciborium with the Blessed Sacrament was removed from the tabernacle and with that the Sanctuary Lamp was extinguished not to be lit again. They were transported to St. Sebastian and given home once again.

In one way it was kind of sad. In another way it re-emphasized to me again the uniqueness of the Catholic Church – and of Catholic churches in general. They are more than just buildings set aside for worship. We cannot have prayer and then rearrange the furniture and have a dinner. It is the house of the Lord, Jesus truly present in the Blessed Sacrament, holy ground that makes a parish church special whether a human person be present there to pray at any given time or no.

1 comment:

Writer said...

I loved the part about Catholic churches not just being buildings where we pray, then rearrange the furniture and have dinner.....

This is Fr. V. at his best!!!