Father Roy took to the pulpit to read the letter he received from Bishop Kmiec and his reasoning for closing St. Ann’s. A 126 page structural report was conducted by Arbour Construction Management and “revealed severe deterioration of the exterior building structure.” The overall repairs to the whole church including everything in addition to the structural issues have been estimated to be around $7 million.
Since the structural issues were only confined to the primary façade on Broadway, Father Roy asked Kmiec if they could continue services, but use the secondary side entrance on Emslie Street where there were no structural issues. Father Roy was immediately told “no”, receiving no further explanation.
“It doesn’t seem that at this particular point that we do have any choice at least immediately,” said Father Roy, “so that’s why as we leave here today, for who knows how long it may be really if ever...who knows if that will even take place. I’ve always been the eternal optimist, but I don’t know if I can say I feel that way understanding where the Diocese is coming from, not only with the building, but with St. Ann’s as a parish, even if the building were completely fixed up.” The news was met with tears, exasperated sighs, and looks of disapproval of the official decision by Bishop Kmiec.
I’ve only been to St. Ann’s for mass a handful of times before, but they are the most tightly-knit parish I have ever seen. Everyone knows each other by name, they are concerned for one another, and when they show each other signs of peace, the whole thing lasts about ten minutes rather than ten seconds. They have worked tirelessly over the years to maintain and preserve the church to the best of their ability. Some of them even trace their roots to the original German parishioners who founded the church as old as five generations ago.
I was curious to see if the Diocese had the money in their coffers to pay for the repairs in full or at least partially. Here is the fiscal report of the Diocese of Buffalo for 2011, you can see the millions of dollars they have and decide for yourself. It made me wonder where the money the parishioners have been giving during collections in recent years has been going, because it sure seems the Diocese hasn’t been putting it back into the building. Structural problems this serious certainly do not happen overnight.
The parishioners of St. Ann’s are likely to fight this and appeal the closing in hopes of getting a letter from the Pope instructing Kmiec to fix and reopen the church. Unfortunately, we all know the Bishop ignores direct orders from the Pope, like when he was told not to close St. Adalbert’s and when ahead and did it anyway.
The church was built in 1886 to serve the predominately German neighborhood which once surrounded the area. The future of St. Ann’s is not certain at this time, but hopefully the fight that will ensue produces some results and sees the building repaired and reopened. Below is a short video of the bells of St. Ann's after the final mass, they may never signal the end of mass again. To see more photos of St. Ann's click here or to view them as a slideshow click here.