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Finding new flocks for former Catholic churches

   Pastor Kenneth R. Winfield was proud to show off the former Catholic church building his congregation, Try Jesus Ministries, purchased in December.

   And why not? The structure boasts beautiful stained-glass windows, pristine oak pews, a new boiler and roof, and a full banquet hall in the basement -- all for $100,000.

   Winfield credits the building's former occupants, SS. Rita & Patrick parish, with keeping it in good condition.

   "A lot of people tell us we got the buy of the year," he said.

   The pastor calls it a blessing from God.

   Try Jesus looked at a few other churches, but Winfield said they were too big.

   "We didn't want to bite off more than we can chew," he said.

   In the red brick church at Fillmore Avenue and Seymour Street, they found a jewel.

   "To build this church from the ground up, you're talking about a million dollars," said Winfield.

   It will no longer be a Catholic church, but Winfield said the role of the building stays the same in the East Side community.

   "It's just a continuation, moving on in the same direction. We all believe in God. It's just changing hands, changing culture, changing worship styles," he said.

   Some Catholics opposed to the closing and selling off of so many glorious churches would argue that diocesan leaders are simply giving up, especially in poor, urban areas, and should work harder to evangelize.

   What's your take on how the Catholic diocese so far has handled the restructuring of parishes, especially the sale of closed buildings?

   Will other congregations worshipping in former Catholic churches thrive in their new locations?

   And if not worship, what other uses might work well for closed church buildings?

   -- Jay Tokasz



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