Fighting For Their Church

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JESSUP -- Dozens of parishioners gathered for another meeting to save their church at the American Legion in Jessup Tuesday night.

They said they will do whatever they can to keep the doors open at St. Mary's Assumption Catholic Church in Jessup.

The church is scheduled to close August 15 as part of the Scranton Diocese restructuring plan.

"We've had an unbelievable outpouring of monetary support, we've had an unbelievable response from the legal community, we've also enlisted a canon lawyer, so we're not going without a fight," said David Valvano, a parishioner.

St. Mary's Assumption is a mostly Italian church of about 900 families.

The parishioners have written a letter to Bishop Joseph Bambera, asking him to reconsider the August 15 closure date and instead keep St. Mary's open. They have also been fundraising, plan to launch a website and Facebook page, and even discussed writing a letter to the Vatican.

"This fight is personal, it's personal. The church is their community. There are members that I have met over this process, over this past few weeks that I have met, members of 70 years, 60 years. This is so personal to them and they do feel that they've been cast aside," said Janine Pavalone, an attorney who donated her services to the fight to keep the church open.

The diocese plan was released:

  • St. Mary's Assumption and St. James in Jessup would close.
  • St. Michael's was to remain open and the consolidated parish was to be renamed Queen of Angels.

Members of St. Mary's said their church is in the best shape and should be kept open.

"We were never given reasons why St. Mary's Parish was going to be the one that would close. The only two reasons that were given were that there were shortages of priests and it's in close proximity to the other churches in town," said parishioner Carole Scmanision.

"We've filed that letter. We're waiting for a response from Bishop Bambera. We have not had a response yet. Hopefully we hear something to at least give the respect to the parishioners in the community that they require," said Pavalone.

The diocese responded with the following statement Tuesday evening:

"The recommendation to close the St. Mary’s and St. James worship sites was presented to the Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, D. D. , J. C. L. , Bishop of Scranton, by the Queen of Angels parish implementation team, which was comprised of representative parishioners from the former St. Mary’s, St. James’ and St. Michael’s parishes.

During the Called to Holiness and Mission process, recommendations made by parish implementation teams to the diocesan bishop have customarily been accepted as presented, as was the case with Queen of Angels parish.

Understanding that some members of the parish are requesting that the directive be reconsidered, the Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, D. D. , J. C. L. , Bishop of Scranton, commented, “The disappointment that some are experiencing as a result of certain decisions is understood as many hold deep, emotional ties to a particular church building. Change is rarely easy, and while we respect the process of an appeal, we do so with a continued commitment to strengthen the future of our parishes and our Catholic life together. ”