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DeWitt: St. Mary members appeal to Vatican

St. Mary's Church in Jamesville is set to celebrate its last mass this Saturday June 30 as a result of Bishop James Moynihan's April 28 announcement to close the parish. The scheduled date remains firm, even though a small group of parishioners are appealing the decision that stems from the reconfiguration process currently taking place throughout the Roman Catholic Diocese of Syracuse. More than 40 churches are aligned to close within the seven-county spread due to the changing conditions -- such as priest shortages and population shifts -- within the Catholic denomination.

"We started [the appeal process] when we first realized our mission status with Holy Cross was only going to be for eight or nine months," said Bob Hopkins, a St. Mary's parishioner and member of the group "Save St. Mary's Parish."

"We thought we were all set," he said.

St. Mary became an outreach, or mission, of Holy Cross Church in October 2006. Becoming a mission means a parish is no longer recognized as independent; instead, it becomes a community under the administration of another parish.

Those opposed to the final decision believe the merger will hurt the active worshipping community St. Mary's enjoys. Furthermore, they are questioning the bishop's handling of Canon Law, or church law, in the restructuring process.

Reverend James P. Lang, however, wrote in a letter dated June 12 to the 19 members who signed the appeal that Moynihan has acted appropriately canonically and pastorally. Lang is the vicar of parishes who oversees the reconfiguration process.

"[Bishop Moynihan] espouses the canonical principals that a pastor should have one parish, and is striving, in this diocesan wide process, to assure long-term pastoral stability throughout the entire diocese," he said in the letter.

Monsignor Robert Yeazel, pastor of Holy Cross Church in DeWitt, said that keeping St. Mary's open is not the best use of resources, which is why the diocese agreed to its closing.

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