Mayor and Bishop meet on potential transfer of historic church

HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – We could soon hear some big news about a former church at the center of a community and at the center of controversy.

Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse, Bishop Mitchell Rozanski and a team of lawyers met behind closed doors Tuesday to discuss the potential transfer of ownership of the Mater Dolorosa Church.

Keeping the faith. Literally. After a six year battle, former Mater Dolorosa Church parishioners are closer than ever to preserving their historic former house of worship.

Mater Dolorosa closed in 2011 and merged with Our Lady of the Cross. The church steeple is at the center of controversy. The diocese says it would cost about 5-million dollars to fix. The Friends of Mater Dolorosa say it would only cost about $100,000.

“In six years there hasn’t been any major catastrophe regarding the steeple. All that was just fluff, otherwise why wouldn’t they put it up for sale?” inquired Vic Anop, the Chairman of the Friends of Mater Dolorosa.

The dioceses says they’ve put their plans to demolish the steeple on hold while they negotiate, but reiterated that, “time is of the essence.”

“If they keep it, I would like to see them do something tasteful, because it’s a church. It’s sacred ground to a whole lot of people,” explained Holyoke resident Bob Lastowski.

The Mater Dolorosa Church was built in 1903 and represents the polish immigration into Holyoke. Its conservative outside, but opulent inside.

“When you have a church that represents an entire culture based on the ethnicity and the language and you have that as a landmark. It’s important to keep that,” said Debbie Oppermann. She is the Senior Project Manager for Holyoke’s Office of Planning & Economic Development.

For the last six years, each friday, former parishioners have gather outside to hold services. Their hope is to once again able to go inside.