by Bea Peterson
On Sunday, July 1 approximately 100 members of Immaculate Conception Church in Hoosick Falls met at St. Mary’s Academy for evening prayer and a meeting with Bishop Edward Scharfenberger of the Albany Diocese, Deacon Frank Berning, Paul Ehmann and John Hutchinson. Deacon Berning saw that everyone received a questionnaire about their hopes and dreams for the new church that would be built at St. Mary’s. That was as far as it got.
One person after another asked to speak and for the next two hours they implored the Bishop to reconsider closing Immaculate Conception Church. Some spoke from an historical point of view, of the work of immigrant families to build the church, of the building’s historic significance to the community. Others suggested closing and selling St. Mary’s Academy as that was a drain on the parish and would free up funds for the old church. Yet more focused on the church community and not on a building.They asked that the church not be torn down.
In response they were told there was a possibility the church could be sold. That caused a minor uproar and received more questions than answers. At the moment there is no buyer for the building. About a quarter of those attending spoke. One of the last to speak was a member of the Church’s Finance Committee, with a reality check. Necessary repairs to Immaculate Conception Church will cost more than a million dollars. To build a new church at St. Mary’s Academy will cost $700,000 or less.
With a steadily declining church population, in 10 years the old church will be unaffordable. A much smaller church will be sustainable, at half the cost. The meeting ended with those representing the Diocese saying they would take all the comments under consideration.
Meanwhile, issues with the church structure continue. Most recently more pieces of the ceiling have fallen. As a result, the church has been closed for fear someone could be injured if more were to come down. For the last several weeks Mass has been held down the street at First United Church and they will continue to be held there. To add insult to injury, about 30 feet of copper piping has been taken from the ICC basement and the water had to be shut off.
Fund Raising Immaculate Conception Church is part of the Albany Diocese. Last year the Diocese began a massive three year fund raising campaign with every church participating. Many of the churches in the area, like ICC, are having financial difficulties. Of the funds raised 70 percent will stay with each parish. The remainder will be used by the Diocese for faith based programs. While many lament the possible closure of the big beautiful church, it has not brought people back to the faith to increase participation and add finances.
Several at Immaculate Conception have seen their past churches closed and/or sold. It is happening throughout the diocese and the Northeast. However, it has not lessened their faith; they continue to find a place to belong and to pray together. Pope John XXIII reminded us that a “church is not a museum… it is a garden for life.”