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Declaring that “It’s time for peace and unity in the Diocese of Cleveland,” Bishop Lennon announced Tuesday that he will reopen 12 area parishes that were closed in 2009 and 2010 as part of a comprehensive reconfiguration plan.

Lennon said during a news conference at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist that he will not pursue a process provided under Canon (church) law that would have allowed him to appeal recent decrees by the Congregation for the Clergy that reversed the closing of the parishes.

“I will not appeal the decrees to the Apostolic Signatura,” he said. “Doing so would prolong the process a number of years and would create more uncertainty and continue to divide our Catholic family.”

The Bishop added, “During these Easter days, I often think of Jesus’ first words as he appeared to the Apostles after rising from the dead: ‘Peace be with you.’ “I now say, it’s time for peace and unity in the Diocese of Cleveland. More than ever, this is a time for all Catholics to come together with God’s help and strive to strengthen our diocesan church’s serving the pastoral and spiritual needs of all the Faithful.”

While major decisions on staffing and other matters have yet to be made, Lennon said he will prepare to carry out the directives from the Congregation for the Clergy regarding these parishes:

Akron: St. Mary and St. John the Baptist Parishes

Bedford: St. Mary Parish

Cleveland: St. Adalbert, St. Barbara, St. Casimir, St. Emeric, St. Patrick, St. Peter and St. Wendelin Parishes

Lakewood: St. James Parish

Lorain: St. Mary Parish

The reconfiguration plan, which Lennon announced in March 2009, followed a nearly decade long strategic planning process and a two-year clustering and collaboration process. The plan reflected a proactive strategy to address three major challenges the Diocese and its parishes face as they work to create a more vibrant church – population shifts in the region, financial hardship for many parishes, and fewer priests available for ministry.

Closings and mergers resulted in a net reduction of 50 parishes in the Diocese of Cleveland. As allowed by church law, parishioners of some parishes chose to appeal Lennon’s decisions to the Congregation for the Clergy.

On March 14, the Diocese officially received decrees from the Congregation reversing several of the decisions.

“Our present situation is a very complex matter with no easy or perfect solution,” said Lennon. “With the help of a number of advisors – including the members of the Presbyteral Council, the members of the Diocesan Pastoral Council and a number of clergy, laity, and experts in church law – I have engaged in a prayerful and thoughtful process over the past few weeks to understand the decrees and to decide on an appropriate course of action.”

Lennon said that while there are many unique issues to be addressed in each situation, staffing will be a significant challenge for the Diocese. “With fewer active priests available to serve the entire eight-county Diocese, we will be forced to spread our clerical resources thinner,” he noted.

The Bishop said he will assign and work closely with clergy leaders to coordinate planning for the restoration of parish operations, the return of sacred objects that were removed for safekeeping and any cleanup or minor maintenance that may be required. “We will work with the priests and parishioners as they re-establish their parishes,” he said.

Lennon also emphasized that while specifics vary, the parishes that are reopening will face many of the challenges that led to their being closed.

“As is true for all parishes, it will be essential for each of these parishes to demonstrate on an ongoing basis that they have the active membership and the financial wherewithal to sustain themselves,” he said.

Article Courtesy of WOIO 19 Action News