A Door is Locked in Inkerman ...

108 Years of Memories...

This past Sunday, I had the privilege of attending the last Mass at St. Mark's Church in Inkerman. St. Mark's is yet another church that is being closed by the Diocese of Scranton. Many of the parishioners will come to my parish in Laflin. Some may decide to go elsewhere. Hopefully none will walk away from the Church.

I wasn't a member of St. Mark's parish, but that little church in Inkerman holds a special place in my heart. Several years ago I started doing some annual data entry work for Father Ed Masakowski, then the pastor at St. Mark's. These are wonderful, happy memories for me. A number of evenings each year, Father and I would sit in front of his old PC and do some hard work together. Julie, his housekeeper and a wonderul woman, would keep the ginger ale flowing while we toiled. We were a heck of a team ...a well-oiled machine by the time we finished working together.

As much as I will miss working with Father Ed, I know it can't touch the pain St. Mark's parish feels right now. It must be extraordinarily hard for people to see their churches shuttered. A church is often the center of a community's life. Weddings. Baptisms. First Communions. Confirmations. Funeral Masses. Parish bazaars. Midnight Mass. Easter Sunday. So many memories built over the lifetimes of so many people. In the case of St. Mark's, 108 year's worth. And then, one day, the doors are simply locked.

It is difficult to predict how all the parish consolidations and closings will impact the Catholic Church in my neck of the woods. Right now, we're deep in the middle of all of this change. What I suspect, however, is that a decade or so from now many people will have a parish church to attend because of the hard choices that have been made now. Choices that often seem insensitive and unfair. If it was my church in Laflin being closed, I don't think I'd be able to step back and see "the big picture." I was married in St. Maria Goretti Church in Laflin. My children were Baptised there. Our family has wept at funeral masses for our loved ones in those pews in Laflin. That church is a vital part of our lives, every bit as much as St. Mark's was for the people in Inkerman.

But if St. Maria Goretti was closed, I don't think I'd walk away from the Church. In the end, I go to Church because it draws me closer to God. A priest is not the Church. A building is not the Church. The people are the Church, as I see it. And not just the members of one parish or another, but all of God's people wherever they are gathered to worship in His name.

I know that for many Catholics in my area, these are very painful times. My heart goes out to them, as it went out to the people of St. Mark's parish on Sunday who sat in the pews one last time before the doors were locked forever. But I hope they feel as I do, that God welcomes them wherever they decide to go to Mass on Sunday. He will be there, waiting for them ...and so will their new parish family.

St. Mark...

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