Closings is the strategy of choice for many churches

About 175 families from the former St. Peter's, including Teobaldo, now attend Mass at Our Lady of Pompei, the Rev. Paul Angelicchio, the former priest at St. Peter's and current pastor at Our Lady of Pompei, estimates.

Angelicchio said the merger was tough on St. Peter's parishioners.

"It was a whole process of dealing with people's emotions, feelings, hurts," he said. "They felt neglected, they felt unwanted. We had to sort through all of that."

Several more churches are slated to shut down after their priests retire, Lang said. The diocese posts all plans for restructuring on its Web site, including a list of all parishes that have merged or might merge.

The changes have upset some members of defunct parishes and driven them to protest against future closures.

John Murray, of Syracuse, is a member of the St. Andrew the Apostle Action Committee. The group started after learning that their church, St. Andrew the Apostle, was slated to merge with St. Lucy's Church.

The group talked to the bishop and asked him to reconsider the decision. When that didn't work, they wrote a letter to the Vatican, which said it couldn't do anything to help, Murray said.

St. Andrew closed Jan. 18.

The first two Sundays of each month, about two dozen members of the congregation meet outside their former church to hold a vigil service in memory of their parish. The group also meets outside the Syracuse Diocese's office once a month to protest the restructuring methods and closings.

The group had also submitted 596 petition signatures to the bishop as of July 22.

The petition asks that the diocese stop parish reconfigurations until congregation members are allowed to become more involved in the decision making process. It also calls for an end to the "one priest, one roof" policy.

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