St. John the Baptist Parish has a reopening date.
The Akron parish — among the 11 in the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland expected to reopen in the next two months after being closed for two years or more — will celebrate its reopening Mass at 10 a.m. July 15.
“As we start on our journey together, I want the parishioners to know that I asked for this assignment because I already have a relationship with them,” said the Rev. Jonathan Zingales, who has been appointed to serve as pastor of St. John’s. “And although I am assigned to two parishes, I’m not coming to St. John’s halfheartedly.”
Zingales, who served as administrator and resided at St. John’s for more than a year beginning in 2005, currently serves as pastor at Visitation of Mary Parish. He was among the first pastors Catholic Diocese of Cleveland Bishop Richard G. Lennon named last week to lead five of 11 parishes he has promised to reopen.
Those parishes were among 50 closed or merged between August 2009 and June 2010 as part of a diocesan reconfiguration plan to address a shortage of priests, declining attendance and dwindling financial resources.
As part of the plan, St. John’s merged with Annunciation to become Visitation of Mary Parish. The Annunciation property, at 55 Broad St., was selected as the worship site, and St. John’s, at 1034 Brown St., was closed.
At least one parishioner from St. John’s was among those from 11 of the closed parishes, including St. Mary’s in Akron, who appealed to the Vatican, asking that Lennon’s mandates to shutter their churches be overturned. In March, the Congregation for Clergy ruled in favor of parishioners. Rather than challenging the rulings, Lennon agreed to reopen the parishes by August.
Lennon took the first real step toward that goal Wednesday, when he announced the assignment of pastors to five parishes (St. John in Akron; St. James in Lakewood; and St. Adalbert, St. Barbara and St. Casimir, all in Cleveland). This weekend, the Rev. Dan Reed is informing parishioners at St. Bernard-St. Mary’s he has been assigned as pastor of both St. Bernard’s and St. Mary’s parishes, effective July 16.
The leaders of the remaining five parishes (St. Mary in Bedford and St. Emeric, St. Patrick, St. Peter and St. Wendelin, all in Cleveland) are expected to be named this week.
Meanwhile, crews have started preparing St. John’s for the reopening. Zingales and a few others spent time at the church last week doing light cleaning and assessing what needs to be done.
Zingales said he expects sacred items and artifacts that were removed from the church, including the marble altar, to be returned in the next two weeks. Representatives from the Facilities and Management Office of the diocese will oversee the return of the items and the final preparation of the church for reopening.
St. John’s was closed in October 2009. On Friday, Zingales sent a letter to parishioners whose names were on the church roll at the time of the closing to inform them of the initial steps for reopening.
Beginning Thursday and continuing through July 11, parishioners can register at the church from 10 a.m. to noon on weekdays. The initial Mass schedule at St. John’s will be limited to 10 a.m. Sundays. Weekday Mass will be offered at 8:30 a.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday in the rectory chapel at Visitation of Mary. The formal name, Annunciation Church at Visitation of Mary Parish, will remain the same.
Zingales said once he sees who is registered at St. John’s, he will appoint provisional pastoral and finance counsels to serve as a consultative group.
“We will face our future challenges together as a parish. I am reaching out to people with respect and a desire to do what is best for the parish,” Zingales said. “One of the recurring themes in the life of St. John the Baptist was that he always pointed to Jesus Christ and not himself and his desires. My hope is that we follow his example and focus our efforts on Jesus Christ and his church and not our own desires.”
Colette Jenkins can be reached at 330-996-3731 or email@example.com.