The closing of the parish after a 96-year history is told in a poignant story by Beacon Journal religion writer Colette M. Jenkins on the Community Page front today.
It’s more than a place of worship to Elizabeth Bersesh, Jenkins reports.
The Hungarian nationality parish will be the sixth parish to close in Summit County since last March, when Bishop Lennon released a list of parishes that would close or merge as part of a diocese-wide reconfiguration plan to address declining enrollment and parish revenue, changing demographics, and fewer men in the priesthood.
Beverly Murphy said she will miss the warmth of the community and the compassion of the parish administrator, the Rev. Robert Clancy. In fact, Murphy, of Massillon, came to the parish because of Clancy, who also served as chaplain at Akron General Medical Center.
''My mother was ill for many years and Father Bob ministered to her for about 12 years before I met him. My mother always spoke very highly of him and talked about how he always took care of her,'' said Murphy, 72. ''When my mother died (in 2002), we could only think of taking her to Father Bob.
''When my sister and I attended Mass there, Father Bob always welcomed us and the parishioners were warm and welcoming. Sacred Heart just felt like home to us, so we travel there from Massillon,'' Murphy said.
Sacred Heart of Jesus, located at 734 Grant St., was founded in 1915 by Hungarian Catholics. Initially, parishioners celebrated Sunday Mass at St. Bernard Church in downtown Akron and weekday Masses at the Sacred Heart rectory. The congregation celebrated the blessing of its church cornerstone on Nov. 23, 1924, with nearly 3,000 people in attendance. The church building was dedicated on Sept. 13, 1925.
Today, the parish is made up of 185 households, according to diocesan records. When its final Hungarian Mass was celebrated last Sunday, Magda Rozsa couldn't help but be overcome with emotion. Rozsa, 74, came to Akron from Hungary during the revolution in the late 1950s.
''The Mass has always given us a chance to pray and worship in our own language. It's very sad to know that the last Hungarian Mass has been said at Sacred Heart,'' said Rozsa, of Green. ''Sunday is probably going to be even harder because our (church) family will be going in different directions. Hopefully, all of us will find a road that God gives us to follow.''
Last year, six parishes in Summit County closed — Ss. Cyril & Methodius in Barberton, and St. Hedwig, Annunciation, St. John the Baptist, Christ the King and St. Martha, all in Akron. St. Martha and Christ the King merged to form Blessed Trinity. St. John and Annunciation merged to form Visitation of Mary. St. Mary and St. Bernard in downtown Akron will merge in June.
Clancy, who has served as administrator of Sacred Heart since August 1992 and chaplain at Akron General since June 1989, said he believes his parishioners understand that the closing is a matter of good stewardship. Like many other ethnic parishes in the diocese, enrollment has decreased and the need for a culturally specific Mass has declined. Effective Friday, Clancy will become the Parochial Vicar, or associate pastor, at St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Cleveland.
The photo by Beacon Journal photographer Ed Suba Jr. shows Fr. Clancy reading the Gospel at the final weekday Mass.
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