Polish community watches 2 Catholic churches shut down
St. Ladislaus in Hamtramck, St. Louis the King in Detroit both closing doors
HAMTRAMCK, Mich. – Parishioners at St. Ladislaus in Hamtramck have seen the writing on the wall for years now as they looked around to see empty pews.
The tears have not stopped flowing since Jolanta Cieslawska heard over the weekend that her church is closing.
"This church is special for all the people and they come to our store, and also it's very sad because the Catholic church near the area is not for them, and for me it's the nearest church," she said. "I can walk to (St. Ladislaus)."
It's one of two churches in the area that cater to Polish-Americans, and both are shutting down soon. The other is St. Louis the King in Detroit. Father Andrew Wesley delivered the sad news over the weekend during mass at both churches.
They are part of the Saint John Paul II Parish. Father Wesley knows the churches mean so much to the Polish community.
"Their children were baptized here. They were married here. Their parents died and were buried from here. They had all kinds of festivals. They had all kinds of things going on ... and now all that is really gone here. There just isn't anybody to do that kind of work anymore," he said.
There's not enough money coming in to pay utility bills, maintenance costs and salaries. Attendance is dramatically down.
"People are just kind of in shock about it, which I expected. It was the same thing over at St. Louis the King," said Fr. Wesley.
Cieslawska owns Stan's Grocery, which is home to some of the best Polish food in town. Her store is the first stop for many parishioners after mass at St Lads. When it closes she fears her customers will go elsewhere.
"The Catholic church matters to me, to my store. I got customers because I am open also on Sundays," she said.
Zachary Hordynski works at Stan's Grocery store and he also attends St. Lads. He says the church is closing because the demographics are changing in Hamtramck.
"It's really changed a lot over the last 10 years. There's nothing wrong with that. It's natural, but it's unfortunate to see the community you are used to switch over to something completely different, that you're not used to. It's odd," said Hordynski.
Hordynski said he doesn't see as many people attending mass or even consider themselves Catholic anymore.
"People just don't really go to church anymore. Most people I know don't really pray or believe in anything. That's their own opinion, but it's unfortunate," he said. "(The churches) were the staple of the community."
There's no set date for the closures just yet, but it could be sometime over the next month.
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