The Catholic Diocese of Syracuse announced recently that it would keep St. Anthony’s of Padua church, located at the corner of Midland Ave. and W. Colvin St., open for the indefinite future. According to a friend who is on St. Anthony’s parish council, the diocese acknowledged that they needed to stand behind the church in order to help stabilize a neighborhood reeling from crime, poverty and unemployment.
Unfortunately, in the Darwinian system of Catholic church consolidation, this victory also means that the days of Our Lady of Lourdes on Valley Dr. and St. James on S. Salina St. are numbered. The two churches will now have one priest and be forced to decide to close one of the church buildings. When the current priest retires, the second church building will also be closed.
I have personal and professional connections to St. Anthony’s. My wife’s family is devoutly Catholic, so the only church services I usually go to are Catholic masses. While we usually go to the Polish language services at either Transfiguration or Sacred Heart, we were married and had our reception at St. Anthony’s. St. Anthony’s was also the original home for Syracuse United Neighbors. SUN’s office was in the basement of the church hall until we bought our current building in 1985. SUN continued to use the hall’s cafeteria for public meetings for many years.
A vacant St. Anthony’s would cut a hole into the southside neighborhood. It is a beautiful church, very large and has a famous pipe organ. What other purpose could it serve? The church has its work cut out for it, it needs to do more outreach in a community that is no longer majority Catholic. It is no longer the largest parish in the city. But it lives to fight another day!