HOLYOKE - Parishioners of a 115-year-old Roman Catholic parish in Holyoke began a 24-hour vigil yesterday to protest the Springfield Diocese’s decision to shut it down.
About 30 parishioners stayed after the final Mass at Mater Dolorosa Catholic Church, said Victor Anop, who was among the protesters.
He said some will stay as long as needed to get the information used to justify the closing. The diocese did not properly consult or share that information with parishioners, and they just want a chance to address the problems and save a parish that has so far “stood the ravages of time,’’ Anop said.
“We all know that there are tough times in the world, as a whole, but I think that we deserve to have dialogue with our leadership,’’ Anop said.
In closing the parish, the diocese cited $750,000 in debt and a steeple in such bad shape that it could make the building unsafe.
Diocesan spokesman Mark
“It just doesn’t pass the smell test that people are claiming they had no knowledge of this,’’ said Dupont.
The debt has accumulated since 2000, when the diocese forgave the parish’s previous debt, Dupont said.
With the diocese struggling financially, including being forced to make major layoffs last year, it could not afford to forgive the debt again.
Dupont said the protesters holding the vigil do not represent the majority at the parish, which is scheduled to merge with the crosstown Holy Cross Church starting this Sunday.
A similar vigil in Adams has continued since December 2008, and a handful of Boston-area churches have been in vigil since 2004 to protest parish closings.