The pastor of a Cleveland congregation holding worship services inside a former warehouse is speaking out following a decree of excommunication by Cleveland Bishop Richard Lennon.
CLEVELAND - For the first time since Nov. 8, 2009, parishioners walked through the doors of St. Casimir Catholic Church in Cleveland. At the intersection of E. 82nd Street and Sowinski Avenue, cars were parked as far as the eye could see.
"It feels good to see the church alive and full with people," said parishioner Jane Dabrowski of Parma.
A standing room only crowd applauded as the procession entered the church at the beginning of mass. Wiping of tears and smiles were a common sight from those in attendance.
"It's just incredible to move through the church and to see so many of the things as they were for such a long time," said parishioner Joanie Lewanski of Cleveland.
Members of other Catholic churches set to reopen came to Sunday's service at St. Casimir to share in the joy and celebration.
"This is the first church really in Cleveland that's opening so it's a big deal today for everyone. We're very happy for them," said St. Wendelin Catholic Church parishioner Marilyn McCarthy.
Church members saw the reopening of their church as a reward for their faith, hope and perseverance in achieving a common goal.
"To see the smiling faces of people, to give hope to the people of Cleveland, to give hope to the people in other states who have had their churches closed," said parishioner Joseph Feckanin.
Pope Benedict XVI will be held high regard by members of Cleveland churches ordered reopened by the Vatican under his watch, a lay leader of a spared congregation said Monday.
St. Casimir parishioners celebrated their first Christmas inside parish since the Cleveland Catholic Diocese shut down 13 local dioceses.