Diocese discusses church closings, future plans

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – The Vatican ruled to uphold the Springfield’s Diocese decision to close two churches.   That ruling basically completes a 2009 Diocese-wide report that recommended several closings or mergers.

22News discovered whether the Diocese plans to close any more churches.

Parishioners of Mater Dolorosa in Holyoke and St. Mary’s in Northampton fought to keep their churches open.
The Vatican denied those appeals. 22News found out how much church attendance and donations play a role in closing churches.

“We had far too many buildings and far too much property to maintain going forward as a diocese,” said Monsignor John Bonzagni of the Springfield Diocese.

Monsignor Bonzagni is in charge of pastoral planning for the Diocese.  The Springfield Diocese has closed 60 churches since 2000.

“Now going forward things will be done on a case by case or town by town basis, nothing is pending right now that i know of,” said Monsignor Bonzagni.

Churches cost thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars to heat and maintain each year, but Msgr Bonzagni told 22News donations aren’t the number one factor when it comes to closing a church.

(How important is attendance at a parish and how important are donations and do those two things play a role in future decisions?)
“What we look to and what I hope we continue to look to is location, flexibility of the campus and only as a last resort finances,” said Msgr. Bonzagni.

Yet, the cost of maintaining churches continues to rise. For services, utilities and insurance alone.

According to the Diocese records it costs $216,868 a year to maintain a large urban church in the Springfield diocese, $133,673 for a large suburban church and $53,435 for a small suburban church.

Msgr. Bonzagni did say if a priest retires, the Diocese would have to look at the potential of closing a church.

Msgr. Bonzagni told 22News they have no future plans for both the Mater Dolorosa and St. Mary’s church buildings, and that would be up to their local parishes to decide how they will be used or if they will be sold.  Any profit made from renting or a sale would maintain within the parish, it would not go to the Diocese.

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