St. James Saved: Parishioners’ Prayers Answered
A community rejoices following the decision by the Cleveland Diocese to reopen a dozen area churches — including Lakewood's St. James.
Julia Rutkowski grew up at St. James Catholic Church on Detroit Avenue.
It’s where she was baptized, confirmed and went to school.
She stopped going to church altogether in 2010 when Bishop Richard Lennon issued a decree to close St. James and dozens of other Cleveland-area parishes.
For the past two years, Rutkowski went from protesting to praying — hoping that the parish would reopen.
On Tuesday morning, her prayers were answered.
“It’s time to have peace and unity in the diocese of Cleveland,” Lennon announced in a press conference Tuesday morning. "We need to continue to grow as a true Catholic community."
According to a decree sent from Rome, the Cleveland Diocese failed to follow proper procedure. The decree noted that under canon law, Lennon should have consulted the Presbyteral Council before closing the parish.
“I will not appeal the decrees,” Lennon said on Tuesday.
Rutkowski’s already got her seat picked out — along the west wall, in the center of a specific pew.
“It’s the same place I’ve sat for 30 years,” she said. “It’s my spot.”
The historic parish had more 1,500 members, according to paperwork released last month by the Vatican.
Joseph Dwyer, who’s attended the church for 25 years and worked as a volunteer at the parish, said the closing never made sense.
“We had the highest mass attendance rate in Lakewood,” he said. “This really divided our community.”
Lennon didn't specify who would lead the church — or the others — but said it could be a couple months before the church actually opens.
“It could be,” he said, “I didn’t say it will be. We’re not trying to dilly-dally.”
Rutkowski said she will wait.
“We can be patient now,” she said. “There’s hope.”
Following Lennon’s Tuesday announcement, a small crowd gathered outside St. James. Showing their solidarity, dozens of motorists honked as they passed.
Some pulled over to thank the group for their efforts.
“We’re not former parishioners,” Rutkowski said. “We’ve always been here. I will die here if I can.”
“This is my home.”