Opinion: Closing user-friendly church makes no sense, Canton resident says
Friday, April 6, 2018 - 10:38 am

To the Editor:

In 2013 the calculated process to dismantle St. Joseph’s Church in Malone began step by step. Consolidating the Malone Catholic Parishes into St. Andre Bessette Parish was deemed essential as the pastor was spending too much time signing checks for multiple parishes.

To better utilize his time, the parishes should merge. The suggestion that a business manager should be hired to free the pastor up so that he could perform his priestly duties was deemed impossible due to financial constraints. St. Joseph’s had approximately $625,000 while the other parishes each had less than $20,000 in the bank.

After merging in 2014, we suddenly had the financial means to hire a business manager and proceed to spend over $200,000 to purchase and demolish the Malone Adult Center for a potential chapel/church hall near Notre Dame Church, though it would be a great site for piling snow until that happened.

Since St. Joseph’s was costly to heat it was “closed” from Christmas to Easter to save money, though the thermostat was only turned down to 50 degrees and could easily have been raised for Saturday evening masses.

In 2016 it was proposed that we permanently close St. Joseph’s Church even though it was a perfect example of what worship sites should be; plenty of unobstructed views of the altar, handicap accessibility and a large covered entryway. Notre Dame and St. Joseph’s need new roofs, while St. Joseph’s also needed insulation and new windows. Being 45 rather than 145 years old seemed to make it less desirable for some reason.

Despite opposition to the closure, the Pastoral Plan was forwarded to Bishop Terry LaValley in Ogdensburg. He said he would make his decision after the Living Stones Planning Committee made its recommendation. The Committee’s membership includes religious and lay people from across the diocese including the past and current Deans of Franklin Deanery. On January 17th they met and unanimously voted against the proposed closure of St. Joseph’s Church. They saw the benefits of a large, centrally located, accessible church in this time of shrinking numbers of priests.

Bishop LaValley ignored their vote and it seems that St. Joseph’s Church’s bank account and its value on the real estate market trump its value as an architectural testament to what a user-friendly, gathering place for an aging congregation should be. There will not be another opportunity for a new church building in the North Country in our lifetimes. Why are we selling the church with the most potential to be the best worship site for us now and in the future?

Tony Beane