A seven-month around-the-clock vigil came to an abrupt end last week at St. Mary Church in Jamesville. Syracuse diocesen officials along with members of the sheriff's department showed up to stop the vigil being held inside the beloved building since June 28 -- three days before it officially closed. Syracuse Bishop James Moynihan and Monsignor Robert Yeazel, former pastor of St. Mary and current pastor of Holy Cross Church in DeWitt, were among those present.
"The bishop said this is enough and it's over," Yeazel said in a phone interview, referring to the unauthorized Communion services that were taking place without a priest. He said that's what precipitated the move by Moynihan.
Diocesen officials said that St. Mary does not fit the requirements for a Communion service without a priest because members are under the care of Holy Cross. St. Mary became a mission of the neighboring church in 2006, placing it under that specific parish's administration. When St. Mary closed July 1 as part of the reconfiguration process, Holy Cross Church became responsibility for its liturgical care, including the distribution of Communion.
While some dioceses do allow lay administrators to run parishes or authorize Communion services, Moynihan requires priests to lead all churches. Additionally, St. Mary was closed, meaning it no longer exists as an active parish in the diocese, Yeazel said.
The Save St. Mary group countered some of the diocesen comments in a recently distributed press release that said that because of an ongoing appeal with the Vatican, the church should remain open until they hear back from Rome. The group's advisement came from two canon lawyers Michael Ritty and Sister Kate Kuenstler who specialize in church law.
"The Vatican says that we should be open and having Mass," said Ciarria (pronounced Carrie) Eaton, parish council president of the former St. Mary. "The Communion service is as close as the laity can get to having Mass. It's a prayer service in the absence of a priest with Communion. It's actually a directive by the Vatican and it's been approved by the American Council of Bishops."