St. James was established in 1889 as a mission parish…..
On June 17th, 1990; St. James celbrated it’s 100th anniversary. Bishop James Hoffman was the celebrant at the Centennial Mass. He was assisted by Deacon George Miller. Parishioners, former parishioners, as well as former priests and sisters gathered together to celebrate. In his homily, the Bishop spoke about the act of remembering: remembering the establishment of the faith community, remembering our fathers and the values that they pass on to their children, and remembering the Eucharist. The basic motivation for the early families to establish a parish was the frequent celebration of the sacraments. Just as the early Christian community devoted themselves to the four tasks of apostolic instruction, communal life, the celebration of the Eucharist, and prayer; our parishioners should assess its 100 years and ask ourselves if these tasks are the most important in our parish life. Bishop Hoffman concluded his homily by saying: “and the future is, we’re going to continue to be a leavening, we’re going to be the salt of the earth here in Kansas; we’re going to be the light of the mountaintop that continues to keep Jesus Christ focused on our lives. And how can we help but do that as we remember all the blessings the Lord has given this community over 100 years. And the greatest blessing is the continuous celebration of the dying and rising of the Lord Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. May the Lord bless us and bless this community and make that a continuing reality as we look forward to these next 100 years.” We honorably accept the charge given that day. June 8th, 2005 was the 115th anniversary of the dedication of St. James. In recognition of this event, parishioners met to ring the bell 115 times at Noon. Frank Nye is pictured ringing the bell. He used to ring them every night at 6:00 when he was growing up. Fr. Hermiller paid him 5-10 cents everytime he rang them. OK Frank, your check is in the mail; but we’re not adjusting for inflation!
Our story leading up to and responding to closure:On the evening of April 21st, 2005, St. James was still what it had always been; busy, thriving, active, engaged, humble, unassuming, duty bound, cared for, and very much needed. It was everything that a parish needs to be in order to be strong, and to be an asset to the Toledo Diocese and its bishop, Leonard Paul Blair. But it was much more than that. It was also everything that a community needs a parish to be, in order to live. And it had just been given a death sentence. The community knew what a mistake it would be to close this vibrant and thriving parish. On this evening, parishioners determined to be a church community, 24 hrs a day, 7 days a week. For every hour of every day, someone would be in the parish, praying to Mary with a rosary made from the lumber of the old cross atop the bell tower to spare our church from closure. What began that evening was a journey together that has deepened our faith, enriched our community, and broadened our view of the body of Christ, and the role that we all play in it. The final Mass took place on June 26th, 2005. The following Sunday, a weekly tradition that is upheld to this day began when the St. James community gathered for a prayer service.
Fast forward to January, 2006. Since May 1stof the previous year, a parishioner had been inside St. James praying for the church to be saved. A group of St. James parishioners were sitting in a conference room in the diocesan offices on Spielbusch Ave in Toledo, to make our case to Bishop Blair. Both parties wanted a resolution to this matter, but our attempts to foster the dialogue so desperately needed were met with talking points. “Bishop, if you want us to move on, would you mind telling us which locations will be closed in the near future; because we don’t care to go through this ever again.” “Neither do I” he replied. “This has been very difficult for me,” he continued and went on to chastise us for “clinging to something that doesn’t exist.” Needless to say, this meeting ended in a stalemate.
On Monday, March 6th, 2006; the gloves came off…literally. The bishop was out of town that week, and the diocese hired a new employee that morning. A woman who was quietly engaged in prayer didn’t think much of it when she heard the doors to the sanctuary open behind her. People did come and go periodically throughout the day. But this person wasn’t here to relieve her at the end of her shift, he was here to relieve us all for good.“YOU HAVE TO LEAVE, NOW” he said. “I’m not going anywhere,” she replied. He regarded her dismissively while he stomped over to where the votive candles were lit by fellow vigil participants, and obnoxiously blew them out. Now she knew something was definitely wrong. “You are NOT supposed to do that in a church!” She went to a stand up front where there was a phone. He proceeded toward her quickly, and pulled the plug from the wall. Now she was frightened for her safety. What kind of a person comes in to a church and does this? She wasn’t going to find out what he would do next. With that, the doors were barred, and “Private Property” signs were placed intermittently around the church and parish house exterior.
After 10 months and 5 days, the prayer vigil had ended.
Bishop Blair thought the St. James community would roll over and go away quietly when faced with bully tactics like this. He doesn’t know this parish very well, and the community resolved that we should help him to become better acquainted. With some legal assistance, the parish discovered that there was a strong argument to be made in court that the St. James community still owned the parish property. One of the legal briefs filed on behalf of St. James reads as follows:
In the case at bar, the parish of Kansas St. James held the beneficial interest in the property until it was abolished by Defendants. Then, the beneficial interests went to the Plaintiffs. Plaintiffs have not and do not challenge the Bishop’s right to create and abolish parishes. But to suggest that the Bishop holds property in trust – but for a body of beneficiaries that he can create or abolish at will – flies in the face of Ohio law. Defendants’ argument is no different than suggesting that a large bank trustee serving many different trusts can allocate assets from one beneficiary to another at any time. The beneficial interest in the trust holding the property of Kansas St. James belongs to the Plaintiffs and those who would associate with them in worship, not to the Defendants. Plaintiffs seek nothing more than a trustee who will afford them the beneficial interest in the church property that they are entitled to.
On December 15th, 2008 the Ohio 3rd District Court of Appeals upheld the decision made in the Seneca County Common Pleas Court. The decision upholds that the bishop only holds the deed in trust for the parishioners, but makes an exception in our case as we would have to be Catholics in good standing in order to still have the rights and priveleges associated with ownership of the church building.
What this means, is that it has been solidified that active parishes do own their parish assets, and the bishop is a trustee who must act in the best interests of the beneficiaries of this trust relationship. The beneficiaries are the parishioners.
While we feel that an unfortunate error was made when ruling that St James was no longer the beneficiary once the diocese closed the church, it is now history, and we must continue to focus on doing God’s work in our community.
The church sat vacant until it was permanently demolished. The St. James community continued to worship together in Kansas every week until we moved to our new home located at the intersection of CR 28 and 25, 7 miles west of Kansas. Our first service was held there on Sunday, October 28, 2012.