The following letter was sent to Bishop Daniel Thomas, bishop of the Diocese of Toledo, on Nov. 10, 2018. To date, there has been no response.
To Bishop Daniel Thomas,
The news of the final decision to demolish the church of St. Sebastian in Bismark is making its way throughout our community. As a transplant to this area, I have admired the graceful structure, but more importantly, the steadfastness of the folks here, as well as their appreciation for their history, their families and their faith.
So in contrast, I noted with great interest the Diocese’s decision to gift the church and rectory of St. Anthony parish in Toledo, as well as adjacent parcels of land, to the Lucas County Land Bank. And I’ve been studying the differences in these two scenarios and outcomes.
It appears we begin with two communities that wished to retain their church structures. One decidedly rural, the other urban. One that was offering a definitive plan for the future of the building as well as a significant amount of money to purchase it; the other with no ideas for development or offer of remuneration. One being destroyed, the other saved.
What are the factors that doomed St. Sebastian? In reading the press release regarding St. Anthony’s, you were quoted, “…we have found a solution to allow those who wish to preserve the building to do just that.” Why was no solution found for those who wished to preserve St. Sebastian? St. Anthony’s reprieve is deemed “…an outreach for the good of the community.” Is the Bismark community not worthy of an outreach for our good? Is Bismark too insignificant to warrant an appropriate amount of media coverage? Does our story not make good press for the Diocese?
I see politicians were heavily involved in the decision-making process at St. Anthony’s. Is that what Bismark should have done – pulled in the local politics to exert pressure on the Diocese’s decision-makers? Perhaps Bismark is too innocent of the ways of the world to engage in questionable tactics. Just straight-forward people who simply offered to purchase their former church – no strings attached.
Did the ethnic background of the settlers or the current community play a part? Old German farmers aren’t quite the flavor of the month these days, it seems. The current community surrounding St. Anthony’s doesn’t indicate any connection to its founders.
So the Diocese rewards the protests of the urban minority parish by handing over a church, rectory and land parcels, free of charge, amid cheers of local politicians and the media.
And the tiny, rural, invisible simple folk who offered their hard-earned money to just let them keep their building, built by their families, holding their history, their memories, get to watch it destroyed with no fanfare.
I’m sure you can understand how this decision is received as a heavy-handed, insensitive, punitive display of power against the people of God in our community, as well as a further divisive action between the clergy and the laity. There is more than one type of clerical abuse.
At least when the people of Bismark build their own chapel, as I believe we will, it will be ours to pray in in peace, and the gates of the Diocese will not prevail against it.
This was all so unnecessary, when we are commanded to respond in love in every circumstance we are able.
Thank you for allowing me to express by utter frustration and extreme sadness.