Parishioners volunteer to keep 100-year-old church open

Posted: Friday, September 27, 2002

CLEVELAND (AP) -- St. Lawrence Church, a Roman Catholic parish, was dying. Attendance had fallen, the Rev. Anthony Rebol was retiring and no one would be assigned to replace him.

So St. Lawrence parishioners took it upon themselves to keep their church alive. Five years later, the parish will celebrate its 100th anniversary.

About 75 of the more than 100 regular parishioners volunteer at the church, said Claudette Burke, who coordinates their work and also serves as choir director and organist. Members type bulletins, do accounting, plan special programs, complete simple repairs, plant and tend the gardens, and even take out the garbage.

''I change the light bulb if I have to,'' Burke said.

The hard work helps, but a little creativity was required to get a new leader. The Diocese of Cleveland said it wouldn't assign a pastor to the church, so members asked the Rev. Dominic Mondzelewski, a Benedictine monk, to be parish administrator.

Many urban churches have struggled as members died or moved to the suburbs. The Cleveland Diocese has closed 17 churches in the city since 1970, said Rick Krivanka, director of pastoral planning.

''I remember thinking that we have enough faith to do this,'' member Lois Sever said. ''Besides, my mother said, 'You're going to have to keep it open. I want to die in that parish.'''

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