Parishioners at St. Anthony's Emotional About Future
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"Our heart and soul is right here at St. Anthony’s,” said Vito Pricola, former St. Anthony’s trustee.
The center aisle of any church is an avenue of memories.
"We got married at St. Anthony’s,” Vito said. “Baptism, Confirmation, First Communion, everything took place here at St. Anthony’s.”
Which is why Pricola is heartbroken to see the future of his church, in doubt.
"The closing is just… totally disappointment. And I’m sure if you were to ask any other parishioner, they’d all feel the same."
St. Anthony's Parish Family is more than 100 years old; its Liberty Street church building built in the 1950s. The Diocese of Buffalo has been whittling down the number of churches recently to match shrinking congregations. Four years ago, St. Anthony’s merged with nearby Sacred Heart.
"When those parishes were merged in ’08, there was the understanding that that probably was not going to be the endgame,” said Kevin Keenan, spokesperson for the Diocese.
And consolidation could not save St. Anthony's.
"It’s a bigger footprint, but it’s more costly to maintain, and one of the mantras from the parish now is that there needs to be more spent on ministry, and less on maintenance," Keenan said.
The closure is not yet final. The Ascension Parish Council has recommended closing St. Anthony’s doors for good, but the final decision lies ultimately with Bishop Richard Malone.
But in Vito Pricola's mind, it's already too late; the damage to St. Anthony's proud history, already done.
"You don’t lose your faith. But your feelings, as far as them closing something that you just love… it hurts. It really hurts.”