A years-long battle to save a Holyoke church ended today.
The city of Holyoke has decided to buy Mater Dolorosa Church from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield.
After years of trying to save their church, the parishioners of Mater Dolorosa finally got a victory today when they learned their church would not be torn down.
"We are proud to announce today that the city and the Diocese have reached an agreement that would preserve the former Mater Dolorosa Church building - a significant priority for many in our community," said Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse.
At a press conference Thursday morning, Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse and Bishop Mitchell Rozanski announced that the city will be acquiring Mater Dolorosa Church and the friary for $50,000.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield will retain ownership of some of the items at the building, like the stained glass windows, the painted murals, and decorative lighting. There will be a $1 per year lease for those items to stay at the building.
Other religious icons and items will be removed from the church building.
The 116 year old building has been subject of much debate since it was closed in June 2011 as part of a consolidation plan by the Diocese.
Mater Dolorosa closed in June 2011 when it merged with Holy Cross Parish to form Our Lady of the Cross Parish, which holds services at the former Holy Cross Church building on Sycamore Street.
That site was chosen over Mater Dolorosa due to concerns that that building was structurally unstable.
For years, parishioners worked to save Mater Dolorosa, including leading vigils 24 hours a day everyday for several months and filing appeals with the Vatican.
Today, they are relieved.
"Everybody is just overwhelmed with the announcement. It's a relief knowing our church isn't going to be destroyed," said John Fydenkevez, president of the Mater Dolorosa Church Preservation Society of Holyoke.
The city will finish the sale by the end of June, pending city council approval, and then they will open it up to bids for a group to come in and operate it.
That operator of the facility will be in charge of programming, operations, repairs, and fund-raising. Morse noted that it would be a similar arrangement to those in place for the Jones Ferry Boathouse, the Volleyball Hall of Fame, and the Children's Museum of Holyoke.
That group will make the estimated $150,000 in repairs it needs to open.
One group - the Mater Dolorosa Church Preservation Society of Holyoke - plans to make it a Polish community center to celebrate the community that worked so hard to save it.
"Now that everything has been done with the city, I think it's a chance for the diocese and the city to heal and move forward and make Mater Dolorosa a great place for the city," Fydenkevez added.
The preservation society said that they have the fund-raising already rolling to get the money to make the repairs and reopen this building to the public.
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