Parish closes church | Community Spirit
For a small neighborhood tucked into South Tucson, closing the doors of chapel which has been the centerpiece of their community for generations, hurts.
Some complain they were never notified until last week when they were told this would be the last mass.
For generations, they walked to mass, met neighbors, held fiestas, got married or celebrated anniversaries at Capilla de San Antonio on West 34th Street.
But now the front gate is locked and the chapel has gone silent.
"Everyone is very disappointed the church is closed," says Arlene Lopez, who has lived across the street for 63 years. "They're going to miss the congregation, they'll miss getting together at church."
The Capilla is in the Santa Cruz Parish, which has one of the oldest churches on the corner of 6th and 22nd.
In a statement from Bishop Gerald Kicanas, he questions the safety of the buildings.
"The building has deteriorated and needs extensive repairs," he says. "The neighborhood can't support the repairs and neither can the parish."
But some of the residents dispute that and say they've been raising money for the church for decades though fiestas, tamales sales and donations.
They say the talent they have in the neighborhood for building things could be utilized to rebuild the structure.
The parish priest, Father Thomas, is out of town and not available for comment.
The church itself has been through tough times. An old army barracks, which survived a fire, sits near an ayorro which is slowly eroding its banks. It's another reason safety is called into question.
"It was a great get together, it was a meeting place for everyone," says Melissa Santa Cruz, who is the third generation family to attend Campilla San Antonio. "They'll miss getting together here at the church."
According to some church leaders, the chapel is closing because of changing demographics.
Some take that to mean old churches, in older neighborhoods with a graying population.
"It's sad to see a lot of these institutions that are going away, inevitable changes," says Lopez.
Some of the changes are also being made because there are not enough priests to go around.
The church has also announced Capilla Guadeloupe, about a mile away, will also end mass services.
Again no priest, no mass. But it will stay open for prayers.
But for Capilla San Antonio, the prayers are over.
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