East Chicago church to close

March 30, 2009 4:22:21 PM PDT
In these difficult economic times, many people turn to their church, synagogue or mosque for help and support.But for some people in East Chicago, Indiana that won't be possible for much longer. Their church is closing.

St. John Cantius Parish has served the East Chicago community for over 100 years. But this coming Father's Day the church will celebrate its last Mass.

The decision from the Gary diocese has devastated its members.

"My great-grandparents were among the founding members. So I'm fourth generation. It's sad. I haven't decided if I'm going to stay in the church. I feel this is my parish," said Jeanette Starykowicz, long-time parish member.

St. John Cantius currently has just 157 member families. It's not the smallest parish in northwest Indiana, but after its pastor died and the school closed, the parish was saddled with a $50,000 debt. It was around this time the diocese asked for a meeting to determine their viability.

"A lot of issues came to light that they were not prepared for and soon after that we heard that the bishop was adamant in closing our parish," said Maggie Flores, President of the Parish Council.

The deacon as St. John Cantius says that while the decision to close is a sad and regrettable one, it came down, not to current membership or debts, but to long-term viability.

Among the main things the diocese looked at was the proportion of older members relative to young ones. And while those at St. John Cantius can choose from two other nearby parishes, church secretary Janet Lugo says, this parish provides a lot of services that cannot be easily replaced.

"We provide food baskets and money vouchers for the families. We run a thrift shop. Right now we're collecting prom dresses for the needy," said Janet Lugo, St. John Cantius Parish secretary.

It is expected that after St. John Cantius closes, the charter school that leases one of their buildings, will buy the entire property.

The congregation did manage to lower the church debt to $7,000. But that wasn't enough to save the church.