|Wellsville's Immaculate Conception Church|
This past week members of the former Immaculate Conception Church in Wellsville celebrated exciting news that renewed their optimism. They received word that the Roman Catholic’s Congregation of the Clergy had ruled against Bishop George Murry’s decision to abandon their much beloved church. A little over a year ago the humble Bishop Murry advised the Wellsville congregation that the Immaculate Conception Church in this village would be closed. They were advised that they would be merged with two congregations in East Liverpool to make up one-third of the newly named Holy Trinity Parish. The other portions of Holy Trinity would be the parishes of St. Als & St. Ann’s. ICC was one of 26 parishes in the Youngstown Diocese to be closed by the Bishop.
According to an article in last Friday’s Youngstown Vindicator the decree issued by the Congregation of the Clergy “does not order the reopening of the church”. The article goes on to say the decree states “that the reasons given by Bishop George V. Murry for the closure of ICC ‘are not sufficient and grave’ as required by Canon Law”. One of the reasons given by the Youngstown Bishop for closing the church is that the Wellsville parish is not financially solvent. That reason was strongly disputed by the Wellsville parishioners. It was one of a long list of reasons filed by the Committee to Save Immaculate Conception when they protested the closing, through a paid Church Advocate, to the Congregation of the Clergy in the Vatican. A request for a forensic audit of the Immaculate Conception financial records was requested but never acted on by Diocese officials according to informed sources. All the reasons filed in their protest was for failure by Diocese officials to follow stipulations put forth by Canon Law which is the Church’s official guide lines. An article in our local print media says the plan to overturn the merger was denied by the decree “judging the Diocese’s merger plan as justified”.
What this all means for Wellsville’s Catholics is not completely known. The Bishop has 60 days to appeal the decree to the Vatican Supreme Court, also known as the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura. The Youngstown newspaper stated “The Bishop plans to appeal”. The question that has to be in everyone’s mind is: does he really mean it? The Wellsville Catholics have been adamant in what they consider is right and fair. They have worked diligently to keep a Catholic presence in our Village. Does the Bishop really desire to continue earning the ire of good and faithful members? It’s been over a year now. They haven’t relented.
Since the locking of the Immaculate Conception doors, members of the Wellsville parish found an agreeable source of Catholic clergy members willing to offer one Mass a week in town. If the Bishop agrees to the arrangement the church can be kept as a worship site for the Wellsville Catholics. The Immaculate Conception parishioners say utilities, maintenance and upkeep of the building was always paid through their collections and fund raising efforts. It could be a win-win situation for the Bishop. According to the local parishioners it wouldn’t be a drain on Diocese finances or his dwindling manpower. Members of his Catholic flock would be tended to with a nearby source of clergy. It’s something that can be worked out with practical and logical cooperation by all concerned. It could be a humane and dignified way to save face with the Catholic hierarchy. It would be the answer to many prayers and petitions offered this past year. It could be cause for a real celebration…