Auburn church closes due to health and safety concerns - Catholic Courier
The outside of a church building.

Holy Family Church in Auburn. (Courier file photo)

Auburn church closes due to health and safety concerns

The oldest Roman Catholic Church in Auburn has closed its doors.

Health and safety concerns related to the condition of Holy Family Church, rectory and school forced the closure of the buildings on June 16, according to a letter from the pastor, Father Stephen Karani, to parishioners.

The decision was prompted by an assessment that uncovered “multiple significant concerns,” he explained in the letter. The issues identified in that assessment were:

  • damage to the church’s roof and stone veneer, which could cause pieces to fall;
  • loose windows that could fall from the church;
  • uneven concrete sidewalks;
  • water damage to the church’s interior walls and the staircase to the choir loft;
  • missing and loose slate falling from the rectory roof;
  • water damage in the rectory kitchen and attic;
  • black mold in the rectory office, basement and large meeting room; and
  • water damage and fallen plaster inside the school building, as well as moss growing on classroom floors.

The cost to repair these issues has been estimated at $2.5 million, the letter stated.

“Based on this information, the Holy Family campus will be closed as of Sunday, June 16, 2024,” Father Karani wrote.

He encouraged Holy Family parishioners to attend Mass and other liturgies at St. Alphonsus and Sacred Heart churches in Auburn or St. Ann Church in Owasco. These three churches formed a cluster with Holy Family in 2019.

The assessment of the 163-year-old church, as well as the rectory and school, was carried out over the course of several months by an engineer with assistance from the Diocese of Rochester’s risk manager and facilities manager.

“A meeting was held with Bishop Salvatore R. Matano and several Diocesan staff to review the findings, together with the financial situation of the parish,” Father Karani wrote in his letter to parishioners.

The findings of the assessment were also reviewed with a meeting of the cluster’s pastoral and finance councils on June 13. The majority of attendees agreed with the findings of the report, Father Karani wrote.

“Please be assured that this necessary decision was reached only after careful consideration of the facts at hand, and in the primary interest of everyone’s safety, as well as with the excessive and prohibitive cost of making repairs, currently estimated at $2.5 million,” he wrote. “This has been a difficult decision and I appeal for your understanding during this challenging time.”

Holy Family church narrowly avoided closure in 2021

The church has faced uncertainty in the recent past. In 2021, it was among the four Cayuga County churches recommended for closure by a pastoral-planning committee. In June 2020, Bishop Matano had asked Cayuga County’s pastors to assemble a committee to assess the ministerial and administrative needs of the county’s parishes and plan for future declines in the number of priests available to serve the area, the Catholic Courier reported in 2021.

After studying such factors as community demographics, priest availability, parish-life trends, the physical condition of buildings on the nine church campuses, future facility needs and the geographic locations of each church, the committee recommended closing Holy Family as well as St. Alphonsus and St. Francis of Assisi churches in Auburn and St. Joseph in Weedsport.

In August 2021, Bishop Matano decided to keep the four churches open, but asked the parishes to continue to look critically at the needs of the local Catholic community and decide what changes were needed for the parishes to meet those needs. In 2022, the parishes put two rectories and two former school buildings up for sale and repurposed several other buildings on church grounds in order to better serve the needs of the local Catholic community, the Courier reported in 2022.

Tags: Cayuga County News
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