OSWEGO — Roman Catholics in Oswego who want to continue worshipping and attending Mass at their beloved St. Mary’s Church are using two different tactics to try to keep the church open.
More than 250 people attended a meeting June 17 at the Ancient Order of Hibernians in Oswego to discuss Bishop Robert Cunningham’s recent decision to use St. Paul’s Catholic Church building as the spiritual center for Catholics in Oswego.
This decision came at the end of a year-long consolidation process in which four parishes would be combined into one.
Cunningham announced his decision May 15 to close St. Joseph on West First Street, St. Mary of the Assumption on West Seventh Street and St. Stephen the King on Niagara Street and merge the parishes into the St. Paul’s building on East Mohawk Street.
The decision has not sat well with many Catholics in the Oswego-Scriba areas. Some have posted their feelings on social media, wondering why the bishop chose St. Paul’s.
Former Oswego Mayor John T. Sullivan Jr. is spearheading one of the two groups trying to keep St. Mary’s open. His group has sent a letter to incoming bishop Douglas J. Lucia, who will take over for the retiring Bishop Cunningham in the coming weeks.
“Our steering committee decided to send a letter to Bishop Lucia and it was sent out today (June 20),” Sullivan said. “We are concerned about the way in which the process (to merge parishes) was handled. We have a lot of whys. We want to try to get the new bishop to understand how significant this building and church is. It appears transparency (in the process) was not there along the way.”
The other group that came out of the June 17 meeting in Oswego has decided to petition the diocese or the Vatican using Canon Law to try to get the decision to use St. Paul’s changed.
Danielle Cummings, speaking for the diocese, said the diocese has not yet received a petition so no comment can be made at this time.
The new combined parish in the St. Paul’s building will be called Christ the Good Shepherd Roman Catholic Church and it begins as the combined Oswego parish July 1.
Sullivan calls St. Mary’s an “apostolic gem,” a unique structure that was built out of stone from Lake Ontario by its parishioners. He said financially St. Mary’s is in good shape, having an endowment of more than $300,000.
He said parishioners have tried to get a hold of the architectural study done on the church buildings to see if it had anything to do with Cunningham’s decision. “But no one can get a hold of it,” Sullivan said.
“What’s driving this?” he said. “St. Mary’s is more than just a church — it’s virtually a shrine.”
Sullivan also said it isn’t just St. Mary’s parishioners who want the church to remain open. He said this is a community issue and residents want openness on how the decision was made.
“We are going through the concerns of the community that something is not right,” he said of Cunningham’s decision. “It was a less than wise decision. I believe in the old holy Catholic apostolic church. I believe in the infallibility of the pope. But I do not believe in the infallibility of the bishop of Syracuse.”