WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU)— Two Catholic churches in a Luzerne County community are closing for good.
The Diocese of Scranton blamed the decision on low attendance, priest shortages, and financial hardships.
Many parishioners who belong to Saint Andre Bessette and Saint Dominic parishes in Wilkes-Barre told Eyewitness News they’ve been through this before.
Even though many of them saw this coming, they said it’s still heartbreaking.
A sea of parishioners sang hymns of praise during a vigil mass service at St. Andre Bessette Parish in Wilkes-Barre.
Above all, this faith community is praying for strength as the church prepares to close in the coming weeks.
“We’re here for god, not the building. But we built up a community, and that community, it’s like a family. And when your family moves away, it’s a difficult thing to deal with,” explained Marrylin Tosh, a sacristan at St. Andre bessette
It may be difficult, but it’s not a first for many people who worship here. They’ve come from other parishes in the diocese that either closed or consolidated.
“If you look in our church we’ve got a baptismal font from sacred heart, we got a Mary and a Jesus from Holy Savior, we have something from Saint Christopher’s, the church is from Saint Stan’s. All of that came together,” said Geraldine Ulichney, a parishioner at Saint Andre Bessette.
Thomas Jagoda has played the organ at Saint Bessette’s for the last seven years.
“It’s just really hard going forward knowing that every weekend after the 19th I don’t have a choir to direct,” Jagoda said.
The faithful at St. Dominic Church on Austin Street are experiencing similar sorrow. It will hold its final mass next Saturday.
While Saint Dominic’s is closing for worship, there are plans to expand the parish’s clothing ministry and food pantry into the church building.
For those who worshipped their entire lives in these pews, it’s become a second home.
“I was baptized here. First communion, confirmation, married, everything. So, it’s a special place,” said Susan Zulkowski.
Two special places that will long be remembered well after this new beginning.
“Hopefully it will be good for us,” added Ulichney.
Both Saint Andre Bessette and Saint Dominic churches will consolidate with Saints Peter and Paul parish in Plains Township.
St. Dominic’s will celebrate its final mass on June 11.
St. Andre Bessette will hold its last mass on Sunday 19.
If you would like to find a parish near you, the Diocese of Scranton has a website to locate parishes in your community.