Catholic Diocese Fighting Against Historic Designation for Closed Church Property

(Screenshot: YouTube/MassLive)The closed Mater Dolorosa Church in Holyoke, Massachusetts.

A Catholic diocese in Massachusetts is fighting an effort to grant an official historic designation to a closed down church property.

The Diocese of Springfield is seeking to demolish the building of the former Mater Dolorosa Church of Holyoke, a move opposed by many who want the 116-year-old church to be made a historic site.

Debbie Oppermann, senior project manager with Holyoke's Office of Planning & Economic Development, told The Christian Post on Tuesday that the building originated with a wave of Polish immigration to the area.

"Mater Dolorosa boasts extraordinary pictorial religious art reflective of churches in Poland and 16 unique stained glass windows depicting the Joys & Sorrows of Mary," explained Oppermann.

"It is a cultural landmark for the Polish Community here, is eligible for National Register listing and is the only remaining Polish ethnic church building in Holyoke. It is also one of the few remaining buildings of any type from the old Polish neighborhood."

The Christian Post reached out to the Diocese of Springfield for this story but a diocesan representative explained that their spokesman could not return comment by press time.

Built in 1901, Mater Dolorosa Church has been officially closed since June 2011 when the congregation was merged with nearby Holy Cross Parish to form Our Lady of the Cross.

On Oct. 27, the diocese received a permit to demolish the church building, arguing that the steeple was unstable and could present a safety hazard.

Others, including the group Members of the Friends of Mater Dolorosa, have argued that the church should not be demolished and that the steeple can be repaired.

On Oct. 30, Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse announced that the city and the diocese were in negotiation over the property and its future.

"The request was made as part of a good faith effort in negotiations between the Mayor and the Bishop of the Springfield Diocese to reactivate an endangered building, and ensure its long-term preservation," noted Oppermann.

"The Historical Commission was asked by the Mayor to stop all proceedings related to the creation of a local, single building historic district on the morning October 30th, the day on which the public hearing for the district was scheduled."

The Holyoke City Council received a petition last week from a lawyer representing the diocese that was signed by nearly 300 people opposing historic designation for Mater Dolorosa.

"The action the City Council took on the petition on Tuesday was merely to receive it," reported MassLive.com.

"That came over the objection of Councilor at Large Michael J. Sullivan, who said the petition filed by a lawyer 'from out of town' should be returned."

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