HOLYOKE, (WWLP) – While the battle to save a former church deemed structurally unsafe continues in Holyoke, a second Holyoke church is facing structural concerns.
The former Mater Dolorosa Church has sat empty since 2011, when the Diocese of Springfield closed the church siting steeple structural concerns.
Friends of Mater Dolorosa Chairman Victor Anop told 22News the Diocese words don’t match their actions. He said the recent Holyoke Road Race is evidence; “Why would they allow 6,000 people to come into the area, use the church parking lot at $20 a car, and store the runners equipment at the social center, if this church were falling down?”
The Diocese now pays thousands in annual property taxes to Holyoke just to keep the church standing. Diocese Spokesman Mark Dupont told 22News conversations are ongoing on whether to sell the church to a non-profit group looking to preserve Mater Dolorosa as a historic Polish landmark.
Also in Holyoke, the Our Lady of Guadalupe Church closed their main sanctuary after plaster fell between masses on Ash Wednesday. The church, like the plaster is 140 years old. It’s brittle and it’s heavy. No one was hurt because no one was inside the sanctuary when it fell. Parishioners are temporarily worshiping in the chapel and gymnasium.
22News asked Dupont if parishioners should worry their church will be another Mater Dolorosa. He replied, “It’s still far too early to make that determination. We need to get in and take a look at it. Our initial impression is that some temporary work can be done and render the building safe but until you get the scaffolding up and realize what you are dealing with you don’t have a full understanding of the scope of the work.”
Dupont said sometimes hard decisions have to be made on the viability of a church based on expenses, safety and the size of a congregation.