As bad as parish closings in the Boston archdiocese, they haven’t been handled nearly as badly as this one in the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Passaic.
But worshipers at what is believed to be the oldest Hungarian Byzantine parish on the East Coast said they were devastated by the announcement last Sunday that the church was closing. But what happened next, they said, was unconscionable. Moments after the announcement was made, armed guards emerged from the sacristies to escort worshipers from their spiritual home. When she saw the guards, “I felt like I was in a Communist country,” said JoAnn Manzo, one of the startled parishioners.
It’s one thing to try to remove people who have been illegally occupying a building for months, but it’s another to surprise them at the end of the liturgy and send in armed guards to remove them as if they were penniless rabble being evicted by a cruel landlord.
Parishioners said they had heard of financial troubles for two years or more. But they said fund-raising went into high gear last March, when Malitz announced there were thousands of dollars worth of bills and insufficient funds to meet them.
Boucher said one congregant promptly wrote out a $5,000 check to cover the bills, but the parishioners were not allowed to see those or any subsequent ones. Parishioners said their wishes to rein in costs, such as by keeping the heat at 55 degrees, were ignored, and that the eparchy and Malitz rebuffed their efforts to review the financial situation. “This didn’t have to happen,” Christopher Gombos of Fairfield, another lifelong parishioner, said of the closing. “It happened because they wanted it to occur, like a show of power.”
At least Archbishop Sean O’Malley explained his reasoning for parish closings several times. However, I have to say that a couple of the closings in Boston seemed nearly as arbitrary. If you’re going to close a parish, you have to delineate the reasons why that particular one was closed. You owe the people at least that much.