An open letter from Bishop George V. Murry of the Catholic Diocese of Youngstown outlining plans for Immaculate Conception Church in Wellsville was read aloud and distributed to churchgoers at each Mass at Holy Trinity Parish in East Liverpool on Saturday and Sunday.
The letter confirms the contents of a memorandum from diocesan representative Monsignor Michael Cariglio to the members of the Committee to Save Immaculate Conception Church following a meeting at the office of the diocese on Oct. 19. According to the letter, the church will be opened one day per week for a prayer service, and a Mass will be celebrated each Dec. 8, which is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. The policy becomes effective Jan. 1, 2013, meaning former parishioners will wait 13 months for another Mass at ICC. The church has been closed since a final Mass was celebrated there by Bishop Murry on July 23 of last year.
"With this letter, I exhort the Catholic faithful who reside within the former territorial boundaries of Immaculate Conception Church in Wellsville to register as members of Holy Trinity Parish and contribute toward the support of the parish," Murry writes. For that purpose, an additional offering will be requested from "those who support Immaculate Conception Church" during each Holy Trinity Mass.
Murry writes that this accommodation for former ICC parishioners was undertaken to conform with a July 30 ruling from the Vatican's Congregation for the Clergy ordering that the church be reopened by the diocese for what it called "occasional worship and devotional visits." But according to Thomas Brophey, a spokesman from the Committee to Save ICC, the bishop's outline doesn't reflect the letter or spirit of the Vatican ruling.
"I do not think that the bishop or the Diocese of Youngstown is following what the Congregation is asking for," Brophey said. He stated the hope of the committee is to appeal for a clarification from the Vatican Congregation regarding the ruling outlined in their July decree.
As to the second collection requested of ICC supporters at Holy Trinity Masses, Brophey asserts that Catholic Canon Law states when two parishes have merged into one, their respective assets become the collective property and responsibility of the combined parishioners in the newly-formed single parish.
Despite what is viewed by former ICC parishioners as a setback in their efforts to reopen the church, Brophey said the desire to maintain resistance is just as strong now as when they began petitioning the Vatican over a year and a half ago.
"They want us to continue fighting this, and that's what we're going to continue to do," he said.