Thursday, June 30, 2011
Youngstown Diocese Makes It Tough To Be Catholic In Wellsville
Someone remarked that they were surprised we haven't mentioned anything about the possible closing of Wellsville's Immaculate Conception Church. Frankly we have been closely following this for nearly two months now. We had a post dated March 4, 2010, which was shortly after learning of Bishop Murry's message stating he intended to merge the Immaculate Conception parish with East Liverpool's St. Als & St. Anns into one parish. At that time he asked that any concerned parishioners send letters to the Diocese expressing their recommendations or objections. At that time, we have been told, the Immaculate Conception Parish was financially solvent, paying the bills and saving funds for the inevitable rainy day. In addition, a fund raising effort was going on to replace the church's air conditioning system and was built up to an additional $13,000. It was kept separately. A former bank employee said the Wellsville parish had well over $100,000 in cash and certificates of deposit on the books.
Two or three years ago a priest by the name of Father Peter Haladej, pictured above with Bishop Murry following, was reassigned from the St. Rose Parish in Girard, given the title of Administrator and sent down our way to minister the good folks of East Liverpool and Wellsville. A Slovakian native, he had previously interned in East Liverpool/Wellsville. At the age of 26 he was ordained a priest, in 2002, in his hometown diocese in Kosice, Slovakia. Here we thought he was Serbian. After coming back stateside he was assigned to St. Rose. According to a Diocese of Youngstown announcement he was suppose to return to his hometown after five years. Obviously that didn't happen.
Upon taking the post covering St. Aloysius and Immaculate Conception we were told Fr. Peter found the rectory at St. Al's in a deplorable and unlivable condition. The parish paid for an apartment in the Youngstown area for a couple of months while expensive remodeling was done to Fr. Peter's new home in East Liverpool. That remodeling job was allegedly over $100,000 in cost.
In that same amount of time Immaculate Conception went from being solvent to operating at a deficit. That alone raised a lot of questions from the Wellsville parishioners. When the above picture was taken, on the occasion of Bishop George Murry's visit May 28, it was announced at the Saturday Mass that Immaculate Conception would be closed “as soon as the parking problem at St. Als was resolved”. That was expected to happen by the end of summer.
After Mass the Bishop stayed and talked one-on-one to many of the concerned Immaculate Conception parishioners. We've talked to several of those people and listened to their comments at the weekly meetings about what the Bishop had to say. Eyebrows were raised when the Bishop allegedly told some individuals he receive no letters from Wellsville objecting the closure of Immaculate Conception. Even more concern was expressed when the Bishop was said the required decrees per Canon Law were not needed. We're no expert on Canon Law but have been told that two decrees are needed, to be issued by the Bishop, to close a parish church – a Decree of Suppression and a Decree of Relegation to Profane Use. Both have to be in writing and signed by the Bishop. Canon Law are rules that dictate how things are done in the Catholic religion, sort of like a constitution. Murry supposedly told one parishioner that he only needed to issue a Decree of Merger. As of this past Monday there has not been any decrees of any sort received. Officials in Youngstown told someone that they are ready to be signed but they were waiting for Fr. Peter to get back from Florida.
All in all it seemed to boil down to a common theme that “the left hand did not know what the right hand was doing”. What the Bishop was telling the Wellsville parishioners was far different from what the elusive Fr. Peter had been telling us. There was a grave feeling of deceit amongst the members of Immaculate Conception. As a result it solidified the resolve of the Wellsville members to strongly oppose the closing of their church. A week ago it was agreed to pay a go between to represent the Immaculate Conception parishioners and if necessary to retain Canon lawyers to appeal the Bishops decision, all the way to the Vatican if necessary. At Monday's meeting it was announced that an appeal will be made to the Congregation for the Clergy in Rome, Italy. That committee has the power to reverse the Bishop's decision to close the parish. Also, since there were so many uncertainties about finances, a request for an Investigative Forensic Audit will be submitted. We've been told that once requested an audit can not be denied.
In the meantime it came out that a Peter Haladej purchased a nearly 2,200 square foot house for $264,200 in Fort Myers, Florida, on December 21, 2010. The house is in a gated, new development at 10133 Silver Court. Public records for the deed do not show a lien on the house that sits on a 7,000 square foot plus lot. It is a three bedroom, three bath house. No liens on the property would indicate that the mortgage was paid in full. That house is pictured above. The picture was sent to us by a Wellsville native that now lives in Ft. Myers. We're not saying the Peter Haladej that bought this house is the same as Fr. Peter, but when you do a Google search on the name only two people come up. Only one has lived in Girard, Youngstown, East Liverpool and Ft. Myers.
We once had a kindly priest tell us there is no such thing as coincidence. God has a reason for everything that happens. The tough part is to sometimes to figure out what that reason is. We were born and raised in the Catholic faith, terrorized into unquestioning faith by some of the nuns that taught us in the primary grades and believe in the tenets of the church's doctrine. We were taught that all priests take a vow of poverty, chastity and humility. In our way of thinking we believe that the hierarchy of the Youngstown Diocese should be working with the parishioners for a solution to the problem. We don't think any religion thinks they can arrogantly shove a decision down the throats of their members, believing their faith demands they swallow it.
Consolidating parishes has been going on nationwide for years now. With congregation numbers falling off and vocations declining it's bound to happen. The members of the Immaculate Conception fully realize that and are willing to compromise with the Bishop's decision. They are willing to sacrifice their rich history that dates back to 1834. All they ask is that the church building itself be used as a worship site for the merged parish with only one Mass a week offered here, especially for the more senior members.
We hope a way will be found...
Posted by ************* at 7:09 PM