St. Joseph Church in Rush has closed after 150-plus years - Catholic Courier
The outside of a church building.

Unused since 2022 due to serious structural problems, St. Joseph Church in Rush permanently closed Feb. 1, 2024. (Courier file photo)

St. Joseph Church in Rush has closed after 150-plus years

RUSH — Unused since 2022 due to serious structural problems, St. Joseph Church permanently closed Feb. 1, 2024.

Bishop Salvatore R. Matano issued the decree of relegation for the 143-year-old edifice on Jan. 17, 2024.

The decree noted that Bishop Matano — upon consultation with the diocesan Presbyteral Council — had approved the petition for relegation made Jan. 4, 2024, by Mercy Sister Sheila Stevenson, pastoral administrator of St. Marianne Cope Parish, of which St. Joseph Church was a part. That petition, in turn, was based on recommendations from St. Marianne Cope’s finance and parish councils.

According to No. 1222 of the Code of Canon Law, “If a church cannot be used for divine worship and there is no possibility of repairing it, the diocesan bishop can relegate it for profane (non-sacred or ordinary) but not sordid use.”

“This is a difficult and sad decision to have been made,” Sister Stevenson wrote in the parish bulletin of Jan. 27-28, when the bishop’s decree was announced at weekend Masses. “But our building is telling us that it is time to move on while never forgetting the memories that God has provided us with over these years.”

Repair costs for Rush church run too high

During September 2023 town meetings about the future of St. Joseph, parish leaders presented parishioners with the results of engineering reports the parish had commissioned. The reports addressed a sagging ceiling — which had forced the discontinuation of liturgies in September 2022 due to safety concerns — as well as deterioration in several other parts of the structure.

“People kept up with (maintenance) as much as they could over the years,” Sister Stevenson told the Catholic Courier. However, repair estimates for St. Joseph — nearly $500,000 and potentially more if further structural problems were discovered — were beyond what the parish could afford, she said.

The building dates to 1881 — 17 years after St. Joseph Parish was founded — when the diocese’s first bishop, Bernard J. McQuaid, laid its cornerstone on July 17. In 1902 and 1903, the church was enlarged and significantly remodeled.

Sister Stevenson observed that St. Joseph, located at 6105 Rush Lima Road in the heart of Rush, was a longtime pillar of southern Monroe County.

“People in the Town of Rush and beyond see it as an anchor or beacon for the community,” she remarked.

Sister Stevenson said a closing service for St. Joseph will be scheduled for the spring, when people can comfortably gather outside the church. In the meantime, she added, St. Marianne Cope Parish is seeking two appraisals of St. Joseph’s building and property prior to being listed for sale.

Henrietta church now parish’s sole worship site

St. Marianne Cope Parish’s liturgies now take place at Guardian Angels Church, 2061 E. Henrietta Road, the lone remaining worship site from St. Marianne Cope’s formation as a three-church parish in 2012. Henrietta’s Church of the Good Shepherd, located at 3318 E. Henrietta Road, closed in 2019, which Sister Stevenson attributed at the time to challenging trends in priest availability, Mass attendance and finances.

The closing of St. Joseph did not come as a big surprise to the parish community, she said, explaining that St. Marianne Cope’s long-range plan always had been to consolidate worship at Guardian Angels. In anticipation of that consolidation, Guardian Angels underwent a wide-ranging renovation — affecting its worship, office, education and gathering spaces — between April 2021 and December 2022.

“The intent was always that there would be one campus eventually, but no one had a plan for how that would happen,” Sister Stevenson said. “The condition of the (St. Joseph) building has pulled us into the next step.”

Aside from the practical implications of closing Good Shepherd and now St. Joseph, Sister Stevenson said it’s important to preserve the histories of both churches. For instance, the adoration chapel from St. Joseph has been moved to a converted classroom at Guardian Angels. “Adoration is an important part of this community,” she noted.

Sister Stevenson said other St. Joseph items not needed by St. Marianne Cope Parish will be offered “to churches near and far who are in need.” She noted, for example, that the Stations of the Cross from St. Joseph might be given to a new mission church being built in Brazil where a former parishioner now resides.

Tags: Churches, Monroe County West
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