Whatever happened to the 50 churches closed by Bishop Richard Lennon of the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland?
Bishop Lennon, beginning in 2009, closed 50 churches over a 15-month period, citing too few people in the pews, too few dollars in the collection baskets and too few priests to administer sacraments.
Eleven of the 50 appealed their closings to a Vatican panel in Rome which earlier this year upheld all the appeals.
Lennon could have appealed Rome’s decisions, but, instead allowed the 11 churches to reopen.
During the appeal process, the diocese was forbidden to sell the 11 church properties or their sacred artifacts like statues or gold chalices.
But the churches that did not appeal were put on the market and, so far, 30 of them have been sold.
Most of the parish properties have been sold to either charter schools — seven of them — or to other religious denominations — 12 of them.
Other uses for the sold churches include:
• Social services and day care center — Epiphany, Cleveland.
• Urban farm venture — St. George Lithuanian, Cleveland.
• Museum of sacred statues — St. Hedwig, Lakewood.
• Halfway house for substance abusers — St. Hedwig, Akron.
The most recent sales are St. Catherine, Cleveland, to a charter school; St. Joseph, Collinwood to a charter school; Holy Trinity, Bedford Heights, to a Protestant denomination; and St. Andrew, Cleveland to a commercial real estate developer.
St. Andrew’s was closed and torn down before Lennon announced the 50 closings. Today the site is a Dollar Store.
Before the closings, the eight-county diocese had 224 parishes, ranking it the 17th largest in the nation.
Now it has 174 and ranks the 23rd largest.