SALINEVILLE - Former parishioners of St. Patrick's Church here can now only peer in the windows and remember what once was: the christenings, First Communions, weddings and funerals, and a parish that was the center of daily life for Salineville Catholics for more than a century.
In November it will be three years since the Youngstown Diocese ordered St. Patrick's Church here closed. Now some former parishioners and others interested in preserving history in Salineville, are hoping to save it.
Although in many communities parishioners are lobbying the Vatican to reestablish their local parish, the Friends of St. Patrick's Church have resigned themselves to the fact that the church will not reopen. They would just like to see the church building preserved rather than demolished.
St. Patrick’s Church in Salineville was closed nearly three years ago by the Youngstown Diocese. Some former parishioners would like to see the church preserved rather than being torn down. Although they are passionate in the effort, they fear they organized too late to make a difference. (Photo by Nancy Tullis)
Youngstown Diocese ordered the church closed as part of the Diocese restructuring. In November it will be three years since the last mass was held.
"It was a vibrant church with 25 or 30 people, but the Diocese said there wasn't enough money to keep it open," said Marci Hanley, a St. Patrick's parishioner.
After the last mass at the church, parishioners scattered. Some now attend mass at the Catholic churches in Lisbon and Summitville.
Since then the property was purchased from the Diocese and now has a private owner. L&S Trucking of North Lima is listed on county records as the property owner. Members of the Friends of St. Patrick's Church said they would like to see the church preserved and have some historical use, but they are worried about the structure because the talk around town is that there are plans to tear it down.
Hanley is one of the former parishioners who attended a recent village council meeting to let Mayor Mary Smith and the council know of the groups efforts. Hanley had a petition signed by more than 40 former St. Patrick's parishioners and others who want to see the church saved.
Hanley asked the council to pass a resolution in support of their efforts to save the church. The council took no action, but at the following meeting, the council was split on passing the resolution, and Smith broke the tie, voting against the resolution.
Smith and council members who voted against the resolution said they were not against preserving the church, but a resolution has no legal power, and they did not want to appear to discourage development in the village. The property owner has not made any of the plans public, but parishioners said they have heard that a restaurant is planned in the former parish hall.
Hanley and other group members said they have not been able to contact any of the owners.
She said the group is not opposed to a restaurant in the parish hall, if that is the property owner's intended use. She said the Friends also know they nor the council have any power to stop whatever plans there are for the church building and other property on the site.
"I don't have any problem with a restaurant in the parish hall," she said. "That's fine. But why does the church have to be torn down? It doesn't make any sense. It should have some historical use. As old as it is, it deserves that."
Hanley said her parents, John and Grace Hanley, were married at St. Patrick's and their funeral masses took place there. She isn't ready to quit fighting for the church because it holds so many memories for her and her family members.
Another St. Patrick's parishioner, Ed Pisarsky, feels the same way about the church. His family is from Jefferson County, and they regularly provided fresh flowers for the church services from different flower varieties grown at their farm.
He said in a brief, chance encounter with someone working at the church, he was able to retrieve a statue of the Virgin Mary.
"My family donated that statue to the church, and I wanted it back," Pisarsky said.
Regarding the possible plans for the property, Pisarsky said no one knew the property was no longer owned by the Diocese, and that now it is probably too late for anyone to have a say in preserving the church or any possible uses for it or other buildings on the property.
"There are a lot of memories there," he said. "The church is beautiful, and it breaks my heart to think about it being torn down."