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Community Leaders Fight to Stop Demolition of St. Anthony Catholic Church

Sojourner’s Truth Staff

The demolition of St. Anthony Church, at the corner of Junction and Nebraska, is scheduled for the month of June and the prospect of the loss of the historic structure has community leaders, and area residents, eager to find a way to salvage the building. The Catholic diocese, however, has turned a deaf ear to the pleas of the community and the Demolition contractor is at the gates ready to level the church that was built in 1894 and whose steeple is such a part of the neighborhood’s physical identity.

On Saturday, June 2, a number of elected officials and community activists gathered to voice their disapproval of the diocese’s plan to raze St. Anthony, pleading for a chance to save the building which was closed in 2004. They cited the history of the building and the neighborhood; offered, in some cases, personal experiences with the now closed parish and criticized the diocese for the failure to consider the community’s concerns about the proposed demolition.

“The diocese says ‘the decision has been made, there’s nothing to talk about,’” said Toledo Councilman Peter Ujvagi in his opening remarks. “We need to do everything we possibly can to preserve this building.”

The speakers included Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur, Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz, former Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, former Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson, Councilman Larry Sykes, former City Council President Louis Escobar, labor leader Sean Enright and community activist, and president of the Junction Coalition, Alicia Smith.

“I deeply wish our community can accomplish something good here,” said Kaptur. “Great cities are defined by their past … we can’t lose the appreciation of that history.” Kaptur explained in some detail the history of St. Anthony – named for the saint Anthony of Padua. The church was constructed at a time in which the neighborhood filling up with Polish immigrants. The area was called Kuschwantz, explained Kaptur, “the tale of the cow” in contrast to the more upscale Polish area of Lagrinka along Lagrange Street.
 


Congresswoman Kaptur makes the case for saving St Anthony


Former Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson (Alicia Smith to her right) speaks of the importance of the historic structure

“We will be losing an important part of our history,” said Kapszukiewicz, who spoke of his own connection to the church and parish on his mother’s side.

Now, of course, the community is primarily African-American and non-Catholic. The Junction Coalition and the Padua Center – which sits adjacent to the church – are working to revive the area. Finkbeiner called the Junction Coalition under Alicia Smith’s leadership, “the most vibrant community coalition in Toledo.”

“We are here about history, the present, and definitely, the future,” said Hicks-Hudson. “Things are happening today in this neighborhood. We have tried to have conversations about the use of this building – all has fallen on deaf ears. All we are asking for is time to evaluate the building.”

The demolition is being handled by I.J. Irving & Son’s Demolition of Napoleon, a firm that Enright disparaged during his remarks as being frequently unfair to its workers and untimely in meeting its financial obligations. The diocese is donating the land to the Padua Center. Demolition can start any day now.

Also present to support the movement to stop the demolition were Councilmen Larry Sykes, Sandy Spang, Gary Johnson and Cecelia Adams, PhD; Lucas County Treasurer Lindsay Webb and assorted clergy including Revs Cedric Brock and James Willis.

The neighbors would prefer to see the church remain as part of the community, remodeled and serving as a community center. Councilwoman Yvonne Harper, in whose district St. Anthony sits, has said the building could be converted to a farmers’ market, a place for children and a meeting place. The community’s pleas have been ignored by the diocese.

Especially irked by the diocese’s unresponsiveness was Escobar, who was a member of St. Anthony’s congregation in his youth and a student at the school. The former altar boy urged concerned citizens to contact Pope Francis directly and express their displeasure of the diocesan actions. “The bishop is not listening to the people,” said Escobar, a former Catholic priest. “The people need to be heard.”

On Sunday, the City of Toledo issued a stop work order citing a problem with the demolition permit. Once the necessary paperwork has been completed, the demolition can go forward, said a city spokesman.

 
   
   


Copyright © 2018 by [The Sojourner's Truth]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 06/07/18 14:48:42 -0700.


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