WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU)— Two Catholic churches in a Luzerne County community are permanently closing.
The Diocese of Scranton blamed the decision on low attendance, a shortage of priests and financial difficulties.
Many parishioners belonging to the parishes of Saint André Bessette and Saint Dominic de Wilkes-Barre told Eyewitness News that they had already experienced this.
Even though many of them saw this coming, they said it was still heartbreaking.
A sea of parishioners sang hymns of praise during a vigil mass service at St. Andre Bessette Parish in Wilkes-Barre.
Above all, this community of faith prays for strength as the church prepares to close in the coming weeks.
“We are here for God, not for the building. But we built a community, and this community is like a family. And when your family moves, it’s a difficult thing to manage,” explained Marylin Tosh, sacristine at Saint-André bessette.
It may be difficult, but it’s not a first for many people who worship here. They came from other parishes in the diocese which either closed or consolidated.
“If you look in our church, we have a baptismal font of the Sacred Heart, we have a Mary and a Jesus of the Holy Savior, we have something of Saint Christopher, the church is of Saint Stan. It all came together,” said Géraldine Ulichney, a Saint André Bessette parishioner.
Thomas Jagoda has been playing the organ in Sainte-Bessette for seven years.
“It’s really hard to move forward knowing that every weekend after the 19th I don’t have a choir to lead,” Jagoda said.
Congregants at St. Dominic’s Church on Austin Street are experiencing similar grief. She will hold her last mass next Saturday.
As Saint Dominic closes for worship, there are plans to expand the vestment ministry and parish pantry into the church building.
For those who have loved these benches all their lives, it has become a second home.
“I was baptized here. First communion, confirmation, married, everything. So it’s a special place,” Susan Zulkowski said.
Two special places that will be remembered long after this new beginning.
“I hope it will be good for us,” added Ulichney.
The churches of Saint André Bessette and Saint Dominique will be grouped with the parish of Saints Peter and Paul in the canton of Plains.
Saint-Dominique Church will celebrate its last mass on June 11.
Saint-Andre Bessette will hold its last mass on Sunday 19.
If you want to find a parish near you, the Diocese of Scranton has a website to locate parishes in your community.