Cleveland’s Community of St. Peter and Bishop Lennon continue their “conversation”

In the annals of parishes who have resisted their closings, Cleveland's St. Peter Parish takes the cake. Though shut down in 2010 by Bishop Richard Lennon, more than 300 parishioners instead decided to create their own non-profit and rent space in downtown Cleveland to continue their ministry. Though Bishop Lennon has declared their pastor, Father Robert Marrone, excommunicated, and the Sunday Eucharist of the Community of St. Peter "outside the governance" of the diocese and a violation of church teaching (church law, maybe), the community continues to meet–and argue with the diocese about its continued existence, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Rather than get caught up in the back and forth between the bishop and members of the church–and I find myself squarely on the side of the St. Peter's folks here, especially given Bishop Lennon's heavy-handed and canonically problematic parish closing program–I find it to be an intriguing model of what to do when a parish no longer needs an enormous building (and can't afford it anyway) but continues to thrive as a Christian community. Why not, as St. Peter's has done, think in new ways about how to be a parish? This parish in particular seems especially equipped to continue; if they are no longer large enough to warrant a full-time pastor, why not yolk them to another parish, or allow them to hire a religious priest for their sacramental needs?

St. Peter's to me embodies what is possible when every baptized person takes seriously their call to ministry. As the conflict with the diocese shows, sticky points about authority and ownership need to be worked out. But imagine the possibilities.

About the author

Bryan Cones

Bryan Cones is a writer living in Chicago.