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Closings is the strategy of choice for many churches

The former St. Peter's Catholic Church is a vacant brick building on James Street in Syracuse. Two "For Sale" signs line a walkway that leads to locked doors with dark, dirty windows. No parishioner has attended Mass there in more than a year.

St. Peter's is one of at least 15 parishes the Syracuse Roman Catholic Diocese has closed since spring 2007. It's one of 37 buildings that have shut down since the church ramped up its restructuring over the past decade, said the Rev. James Lang, vicar of parishes for the diocese.

"There's nothing magic about a parish," Lang said. "They were created to respond to a need. The need has shifted, and if you're not careful you end up with all your resources dedicated to staying around instead of doing stuff for the people."

The Syracuse Diocese is running out of priests and struggling to support churches that are seeing a dwindling number of parishioners. Closing facilities to cut costs is the best solution, Lang said.

Salvatore Teobaldo and his family immigrated to Syracuse from Italy in 1952 when Teobaldo was 12 years old. In 1955 his family moved to Syracuse's Eastside and became parishioners at St. Peter's, where the mostly Italian congregation celebrated a Mass each week in Italian.

St. Peter's held its last Mass on June 29, 2008 -- about 53 years after Teobaldo attended his first service there.

"I felt broken hearted about it because I loved our church," said Teobaldo, now of Manlius. "I was so used to going after 50 years. It was like our home, and all of a sudden, you don't have your home anymore. It wasn't right what they did."

The Syracuse Diocese told St. Peter's in 2007 that it would have to close and merge with Our Lady of Pompei Church, another parish made up mostly of Italian-Americans less than a mile away on Ash Street in Syracuse.

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