WELLSVILLE - The Sons of Italy Lodge 657 on Main Street in Wellsville hosted a petition drive by the Committee to Save Immaculate Conception Church on Saturday. Committee members are hoping to receive at least 200 signatures in support of their effort to reopen the dormant church, which has been empty since being shuttered by the Catholic Diocese of Youngstown in July 2011.
The petitions were available to signatures from all former ICC parishioners, as well as Catholics from other surrounding churches and dioceses. The petitions will also be available to sign at Air Waves of Ohio, 719 Riverside Ave., in the village until Dec. 3.
Peter Borre, who has represented other Catholic parishes fighting the closure of their churches, is serving as the group's representative to the Vatican. He is scheduled to personally deliver the signed petitions to the Vatican on Dec. 10, with hopes that they will reach the Congregation for the Clergy, which issued a decree in July ordering that the church be reopened.
Fred Baldasarre (right) signs a petition offered by (from left) Dave Tarnovich and Josephine Sgro to reopen Immaculate Conception Church on Saturday afternoon at the Sons of Italy Lodge 657 in Wellsville. (Photo by Richard Sberna)
The decree was unspecific about how the reopening should be implemented, however, and the offer made by the Youngstown Diocese in October has been deemed unacceptable by committee members. It would permit one annual Mass each Dec. 8, but not until 2013, and an hour each week for prayer services.
Nunzio Lombardozzi, a committee member, said the intent is for the petitions to add weight to the former parishioners' plea for the church to be reopened with a regular, weekly Mass schedule. "When you win, which we did, you still have to keep winning, because there are other steps and processes that can take place," he said.
Beverly Hentzell, a spokesperson for the committee, said that the commitment of former parishioners to ICC is stronger now than it ever has been. The goal of the petitions is to show the Vatican how strong that commitment is. "It's going to be known that there are people here that are not going to settle for one Mass per year," she said.