Prayer service held inside St. Mary’s Catholic Church

The St. Mary’s and surrounding Jamesville community gathered together inside St. Mary’s Church for a one-hour prayer service on Wednesday, May 15. Although the Syracuse Diocese only gave a three days’ notice that the prayer service would be held, a large group of people attended the service.

The St. Mary’s community is grateful that the Syracuse Diocese opened the St. Mary’s Church for this prayer service.  However, both the timing of the service – at 1:00 pm on a Wednesday afternoon – and the sporadic nature of the services held at St. Mary’s seem inconsistent with the intents of the Vatican ruling issued in 2011.  Here are some of our specific concerns and questions:

The odd timing, late notification, and overall infrequency of services at St. Mary’s

1. An early afternoon prayer service in the middle of a work week seems designed to encourage a low turnout.

  • Why didn’t the Syracuse Diocese choose to hold the St. Mary’s prayer service at a better time – a Saturday, Sunday, or in the evening – so more people and school children could attend?

2. Only giving three days’ notice that a prayer service would be held at St. Mary’s again seems like a deliberate strategy to reduce the number of people who could come to the service.

  • Is the lowest possible turn-out the desired outcome and possible goal of the Syracuse Diocese?
  • How does the Syracuse Diocese possibly benefit from the fewest number of possible attending a service at St. Mary’s?
  • Why didn’t the Syracuse Diocese notify the St. Mary’s community earlier, so more people who wanted to come could rearrange their schedules to make that possible?
  • Furthermore, why didn’t the Syracuse Diocese talk with the St. Mary’s community to plan and schedule this prayer service?

3. The historic Vatican ruling St. Mary’s received in 2011 maintained that St. Mary’s Church must remain open as a place of worship.  However, in the two years since that ruling, the Syracuse Diocese has only opened St. Mary’s Church for worship four times.

4. The Syracuse Diocese’s decision to keep St. Mary’s doors consistently locked seems at odds with the intents of both the 2011 ruling and the subsequent directives issued from the Vatican.

5. The Syracuse Diocese has denied requests to hold baptisms, weddings, and funerals at St. Mary’s.

  • Why is the Syracuse Diocese choosing to keep St. Mary’s Church closed, except for the occassional, infrequent prayer service?
  • How is keeping St. Mary’s Church closed the vast majority of the time faithful to the rulings of the Vatican?

Success stories at Catholic churches in other dioceses

1. Other Catholic churches in the U.S. that were closed by their dioceses received rulings similiar to the Vatican ruling St. Mary’s received, and these churches have re-opened with regular, weekly Masses.

2. St. Mary’s Church was never in financial trouble and is home to a vibrant, multigenerational community.

3. The Vatican says there is no shortage of priests and that a decline in priests is not a good enough reason to close a Catholic church. Also, many priests in the Syracuse Diocese have offered to celebrate Mass at St. Mary’s.

  • What are the reasons behind the Syracuse Diocese’s strategy for handling St. Mary’s Church?
  • Why is the Syracuse Diocese handling St. Mary’s so differently than other U.S. dioceses?
  • Why is St. Mary’s still not open for regular worship?
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