Final Mass scheduled for St. Mary of Mt. Carmel Shrine

There is a final Mass scheduled at 10 a.m. on Saturday to officially decommission St. Mary of Mt. Carmel Shrine. (News Advocate file photo)

There is a final Mass scheduled at 10 a.m. on Saturday to officially decommission St. Mary of Mt. Carmel Shrine. (News Advocate file photo)

MANISTEE — As one door opens, another closes.

The selling agreement for St. Mary of Mount Carmel Shrine is in its closing stages, and a final Mass is scheduled at 10 a.m. on Saturday at the church.

The Manistee County Council on Aging is purchasing the building and surrounding property for the price of closing costs, which is approximately $10,000, according to Sarah Howard, Council on Aging executive director.

There are 13 acres of surrounding property, and the council agreed to give the parish half of the sale of the property across the street if they ever elected to sell it, according to Howard.

Don Digna, business manager of Divine Mercy Parish, said the parish will benefit from the elimination of expenses for a building that has been minimally used.

“I think it’s a financial relief not to be supporting another church campus, with utilities, insurance, snow removal and other costs,” he said.

Rev. Zeljko Guberovic noted that there were several issues with the building that lowered the sale value.

“The assessment for what we had for the land without the building was $75,000,” he said. “My feeling is that as soon as you solve one problem, there will be another problem popping up. So I think that’s the fair price.”

Divine Mercy Parish will retain religious items and furniture of value from the building, according to Digna.

“Even if we had enough money to repair it, we would not have enough people to run it,” said Guberovic. “There is no reason to bring it back to full use because we’d never use it, currently it was only used for funerals and weddings.”

Guberovic said many options were considered, but ultimately the parish decided to sell the building.

“When I came a year ago as a pastor I didn’t come with the intention of closing a church, and I was asking people who were against it to come forward with a better solution,” he said. “There was no better solution.”

A diocesan bishop can request to relegate a church to profane use when a closed parish church will no longer be used for that purpose, and a decree for the relegation of St. Mary of Mount Carmel Shrine was issued on Nov. 10.

The decree was posted in the St. Joseph Church and on the website of the Diocese of Gaylord to provide official notice of the transition.

In January 2014, the then-Catholic Community of Manistee announced it would be ceasing services, except for weddings and funerals, at two of its three churches — St. Mary of Mount Carmel Shrine and Guardian Angel — due to financial reasons.

While St. Mary was the first Catholic church in Manistee, St. Mary of Mount Carmel Shrine is the third structure to house its congregation.

In 1958, the site for what would become St. Mary of Mount Carmel Shrine was selected at the north end of the city limits where property from an undeveloped subdivision was purchased. By 1959, more land was purchased for the parish.

In August 1962, the first Mass was celebrated at the new St. Mary’s with the official dedication (dedicating the church as Our Lady of Mount Carmel Shrine) taking place in July 1963.

The Manistee News Advocate heard from several parishioners who expressed concerns regarding the sale of the property, due to the low selling price and neglect of the building.

“A lot of them I’ve talked to are just totally disgusted with what they’ve done,” said Brian Chick, a local parishioner. “I haven’t been going to church because of this. For many others, that is also their answer.”

Chick expressed disappointment that no profit was made, adding that it could have helped with debt accrued by repair costs from other buildings under Divine Mercy Parish.

“If they got a decent amount for the church, it would make me feel a little better. If they took the money and paid off the debt, that would help,” he said.
“I have nothing against the Senior Center, but the fact is they’re getting one heck of a deal.”

Chick also felt the parish was not forthcoming during the process of closing and selling St. Mary of Mount Carmel Shrine.

“It’s sad to see that they are open about nothing,” he said. “They should have had meetings with the people before they even closed it the first time. People wanted some kind of closure or ability to save their church.”

Other parishioners felt there was a lack of transparency within Divine Mercy Parish throughout the selling process, and had concerns that St. Joseph Church is an unfit building for parishioners due to limited parking and handicap-accessible entrances.

Several also felt that Divine Mercy Parish and the Diocese of Gaylord should apologize to St. Mary parishioners for not being forthcoming regarding the status of the church, both when the decision was made to cease services and when arrangements were made to sell the property.

Once the sale is final, the Council on Aging will change the name of the building to the Wagoner Center, and the building will be developed into a senior center.

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