Another Slovenian-founded church in US being sold
New York, 2 February - The Diocese of Allentown in the US state of Pennsylvania has decided to sell the Slovenian-founded St Joseph's Roman Catholic Church in the nearby city of Bethlehem. The nearly 110-year-old church was closed in 2008, but it reopened for special occasions in 2011 after the parishioners took matters into their own hands.
For more than ten years now the church has been allowed to be open for mass on St Joseph's Day and for funerals, but the diocese's latest decision will put an end to this. The church will be closed again and then sold with unofficial sources saying that the deal is valued at some US$170,000.
In 2008, the Bishop of Allentown Edward Cullen decided to close many ethnic communities' churches due to priest shortages and austerity measures. The St Joseph's Roman Catholic Church was one of them, but the parishioners took the case to the Vatican and were then allowed to use the church occasionally.
Father Martin Krizolog, the parish priest of the Church of St Cyril, a Slovenian church in New York, was one of the priests saying masses in the S. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church. His own church in East Village faces the same fate in a few years as the church in Bethlehem.
The Diocese of Allentown decided to go through with the sale of the St Joseph's Roman Catholic Church because the Bethlehem parish lacks the money for the necessary renovation and maintenance works and had asked for the go-ahead to sell the building.
The closure and sale have been postponed to allow one last mass on St Joseph's Day, which will be celebrated on 18 March.
Meanwhile, the parishioners have no intention of giving up, and once more led by Stephen Antalics, a retired professor and the recipient of the Slovenian medal of merit, the community will strive to keep the church, perhaps to turn it into a museum.
The church was built by Slovenian immigrants who had gone from the region of Prekmurje to the US in search of a better life at the start of the 20th century. Funded by donations and erected on voluntary effort, the church opened its doors in 1914.
Also in the process of being sold is another church founded by Slovenians in Bethlehem - the Slovenian Protestant community's only church in the US, the St John's church. Since the relevant rules between the two Christian Churches differ, the Protestant community will be compensated for the loss of their church building, while the Catholic community will be left with nothing.