Sacred Heart Church closing not accepted by all
February 14. 2013 4:19PM
WILKES-BARRE – Sacred Heart Church celebrated its closing Mass on Sunday despite ongoing appeals by a group of parishioners to stay the diocesan order.
Members of the clergy enter Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Wilkes-Barre for the closing Mass on Sunday afternoon.
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“I don’t like what they’re doing here today,” said church member Andrew Hvozdovic, as he stood outside Wilkes-Barre’s North End Slovak Club. “It seems Bishop (Joseph C.) Bambera is closing all the Slovak churches in the area and leaving the other churches alone.”
Hvozdovic’s son Andrew, pastor of the Church of the Epiphany in Sayre, celebrated the closing Mass along with a number of area clergy.
“They assure us it’s not politics,” the elder Hvozdovic added, “but it certainly seems that way to me.”
According to Dioceses of Scranton officials, “Sacred Heart is being closed under the Called to Holiness and Mission restructuring process” and its members will consolidate with other area parishes to form St. Andre Bessette Parish on North Main Street.
“Christianity is about unity; not division,” said one member. “People feel what they feel, and we’re not here to judge their motives. I personally welcome the move.”
In answer to the diocesan order, a group of more than 900 people joined together to form The Sacred Heart Foundation, which filed a motion to formally protest the church’s closing to the Vatican.
“This is a sad day,” said Noreen Foti, president of The Sacred Heart Foundation. “We welcome consolidation with other parishes, but we feel they’re closing the wrong church.”
According to foundation members, before the announcement of closing, Sacred Heart was the most financially sound parish slated to be closed in the Scranton Diocese.
“This church has generated income of over $500,000 a year for the last seven years,” said Anthony Foti, chairman of the Sacred Heart Foundation. “If it’s not about money, then I honestly don’t know what it’s about. There’s a long way to go until our appeal runs its course.”
Foti, a licensed engineer and MIT graduate, said the church conducted an informal facilities study in 2003 that identified several potential areas of concern with the aging structure. However, no formal engineering or architectural study was completed on the property.
“The diocese claims it will take millions to repair the church,” he said. “I inspected this building from top to bottom last year and I can assure you that that figure is way overstated. It’s more like half a million.”
Members of the foundation had planned a 24-7 vigil to safeguard Sacred Heart’s blessed sacraments and artwork, but received assurance from the Vatican that no action would be taken to remove the historical articles until the appeals process has been completed.