Bishop Persico issues decree concerning Holy Cross Church, Rasselas

The former Holy Cross Church, Rasselas

St. Anne Church, Wilcox

Holy Rosary Parish, Johnsonburg

Father David Wilson, pastor of Holy Rosary Parish, Johnsonburg, announced Sept. 9 that the Most Rev. Lawrence T. Persico, bishop of Erie, has signed a decree that closes Holy Cross Church in Rasselas. The parish finance and pastoral councils had voted in favor or requesting the bishop to do so.

Holy Cross is one of the parish’s two secondary churches. St. Anne in Wilcox, the parish’s other secondary church—a mission church that still has a weekly Sunday Mass—will remain open.
The decision was announced from the pulpit the weekend of Sept. 9-10, 2017. In addition to being posted on the diocesan website, the decree was available in the vestibule of both Holy Rosary Church and St. Anne Church.

When a Catholic church is closed, the official term used in the United States is that it will be “relegated to profane but not sordid use.”  This phrase refers to the canon law process by which a bishop removes the blessing or consecration of a church building. Through that process, the building ceases to be reserved for divine worship, and, therefore, the building can henceforth be used for non-religious purposes. The same process is described in England as “reducing a church to secular but not unbecoming use.” This language helps clarify that the term “profane” means secular or non-religious, while “sordid” means unbecoming or inappropriate.

The process ordinarily begins when a pastor, with the support of the parish finance council and the parish pastoral council, determines the church building can no longer be maintained for any of a variety of reasons. The parish then petitions the bishop to remove the building’s blessing and turn it over to non-sacred use.

A complete history of the church, as well as a detailed narrative of the current situation, is described in the decree announcing the bishop’s decision.