St. James Lakewood, Ohio - Reopened-Restored
On July 25, the feast day of St. James the Apostle, the doors of St. James church on the corner of Granger and Detroit reopened after a 3 year quest to save the building and the parish. The organ and the choir, joined by an overflowing crowd of 1,400 people, made a joyful noise in celebration of a beautiful homecoming to the place that had nurtured their Catholic faith over the years and in some cases generations.
In March of 2009, immediately after Bishop Lennon announced the closing of St. James, parishioners filed an appeal to the Congregation of the Clergy asking for a reversal of the bishop’s decision. This appeal process, rooted in canon law, gives parishioners a right to challenge the suppression of their parish. Back then when asked about the chances of winning the appeal, Christine LaSalvia, the author of the document, would answer, “Slim, but we have to try.”
From that time forward Friends of St. James (FOSJ) adopted the mantra, “With God all things are possible,” and we began to pray. We prayed inside the church until it was shuttered on June 25, 2010. Then we prayed outside. Every week we prayed the Rosary in the church courtyard. When the weather became inclement, we prayed the rosary with our friends from St. Patrick,another shuttered Catholic church, at the Sisters of St. Joseph on Rocky River Dr. We had many prayer services on the church steps including 2 Christmas Eve services that were attended by scores of parishioners. We prayed in solidarity with shuttered parishes throughout the diocese. Parishioners also flooded the Vatican with hundreds of letters.
Friends of St. James also took their plight to the community. We reached out through booths at the Lakewood Arts Festival, and the Madison festival, we marched in the Fourth of July and St. Patrick day parades. Lakewood officials were very supportive of our effort to save our historic church. It was the first building in Lakewood to have its interior landmarked; thanks to new legislation sponsored by Kevin Bulter, then Ward 1 councilman, and passed by Lakewood city council.
FOSJ also did fundraising to forward the cause and to keep our parish community together. We kept everyone informed through quarterly newsletters. We sold yard signs, t-shirts, mugs, calendars, DVD’s, and Christmas cards. We held Murder Mystery dinners, Breakfasts with Santa, picnics, and whatever else we could think of to keep hope alive.
With these funds FOSJ hired two Canon Lawyers in Rome and Peter Borre, an activist who works with many parishioner groups of closed parishes throughout the country. They were our guides through the unfamiliar territory of the Vatican. Their help was invaluable to moving the cause forward in Rome.
After 3 long years our miracle happened. In March of 2012 the Vatican Congregation for the Clergy upheld the appeals of 11 Parishes in the Cleveland diocese, and ordered that the churches be reopened. Our prayers had been answered. The news echoed across the country, because it was an unprecedented decision that not only reopened churches but restored the parish as well.
Now the doors are opened and the parishioners of St. James look forward to the unique opportunity of rebuilding the parish from the ground up. The new pastor, Reverend Joseph Workman, and the parochial vicar, Reverend Thomas Kowatch, will lead the community forward in the joyous task of restoring the parish to spread the good news of Jesus to the community.
The parish celebrates Mass every Saturday at 4:30 p.m., Sunday at 10:30 a.m., and on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 8:15 a.m. For the time being the offices of St. James will be located at St. Clement Church: the phone # is 216-226-5116 and email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Father hopes to have our offices up and running in the former St. James convent as early as November.
The Friends of St. James are grateful to the community who has supported us in countless ways over the last three years in our efforts to bring St. James back as a living Lakewood parish. We deeply appreciate your encouragement and suggestions, your contributions of time, special skills and resources, the many letters you have written, and of course your prayers.
Joni and Toni
Publisher, Lakewood Observer, Inc.