Debate continues over fate of Mater Dolorosa church in Holyoke

Church was closed in 2011

HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – The fate of the 116-year-old Mater Dolorosa Church in Holyoke has yet to be determined.

An engineer recommended in January that the church be demolished for structural reasons. Since then, the closed Catholic church has been at the center of an ongoing controversy between its former parishioners and the Diocese of Springfield.

Some former parishioners want to save the church, and are even looking to buy it from the diocese in efforts to preserve it.

The Diocese of Springfield closed the church in 2011 due to declining attendance and structural concerns. They’ve recently asked the Holyoke Building Department for an emergency request to demolish the church, but the request was denied.

Now, the diocese is asking the State Building Authority to overturn the decision. Diocese of Springfield spokesman Mark Dupont said the building is a safety hazard.  He said they even filed permits to fence off the area around the church, but those were denied as well.

Holyoke building inspector Damian Cote said the fence permits were denied because they weren’t properly filed or didn’t meet the regulations. Cote said he told the diocese if they fixed the issues and refiled they could get a fence up, but they never resubmitted.

The Holyoke City Council Public Safety Committee addressed health concerns regarding the church like mold and bird feces at Tuesday night’s meeting. They called on Dupont to speak, but he denied their request.

It’s possible that the Holyoke Historical Commission could grant a six month hold on demolishing the church.