Leaders rally to save St. Anthony Church from the wrecking ball

Leaders rally to save St. Anthony Church from the wrecking ball

TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) - The days of St. Anthony Catholic Church are numbered.

A wrecking ball is about to knock down the historic building at the corner of Junction and Nebraska Avenues in central Toledo.

But the Kapszukiewicz Administration has a last minute plan to save the historic church.

Folks rallied Saturday outside St. Anthony pleading with Bishop Daniel Thomas and the Diocese of Toledo about what a mistake it would be to level the building.

A crane is standing in place ready to do the damage.

"This was my church everyday so kind of sad to see what's going on and going to try to save it," said former parishioner Bill Peneff.

Mass was first said here in 1894, a house of worship for Toledo's growing Polish population.

But the building was closed in 2005 because of declining membership and has stood empty since.

"If we could save this sacred building we could preserve it as an artifact. Keep art pieces in there that used to be in the building. Polish pieces and use that as an education piece to our community," said Alicia Smith from the group Junction Coalition.

Last December Bishop Thomas announced the building would be razed because it was unsafe and it's land donated to the Padua Center, a neighboring community center.

Folks say they're angry Bishop Thomas has ignored their repeated request for meetings to discuss re-purposing the building.

"Start writing letters to the pope on how his bishop here is not listening to the people," said former St. Anthony member Louis Escobar.

The Diocese said in a statement, it still believes demolition remains the most 'prudent' option.

"And I'm going to give the thousands of dollars that I give every decade to the diocese's development fund and put it here," said Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur.

Bishop Thomas may listen now.

The Kapszukiewicz Administration is working with ABLE—Advocates For Basic Legal Equality—about the possibility of freezing permits that have been issued for church demolition.

The city law department is being consulted.

"I know it's late in the process and I know this is somewhat of a Hail Mary pass. But if there was ever a time to do a Hail Mary, it would be on the steps of St. Anthony Church," said Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz.

A decision could come as early as 8 a.m. on Monday.

Statement of the Diocese of Toledo

Concerning the Former Saint Anthony Church Building:

In January 2017 the Diocese of Toledo was contacted by the Padua Center that bricks and windows of the former Saint Anthony Church were beginning to fall from the building. Immediately, the Diocese took steps to secure the building, which is adjacent to the Padua Center.

Throughout 2017 the Diocese worked closely with the Board of Directors of the Padua Center and the leadership of Saint Martin de Porres Parish, former sponsor of the Padua Center, to discuss the situation and how best to proceed. Those affiliated with the Padua Center stressed the absolute need to keep the Center in its present location, and the fact that the Center neither needed nor wanted to accept ownership of the former church building.

After being vacant and unused for more than 12 years, and having received no offers of support or interest in the building, as well as realizing the dangers the deteriorating building posed to those around it—particularly those whom the Padua Center serves—the decision to raze the structure and donate the land to the Center was made together with its Board and endorsed by consultative groups of the Diocese. This was publicly announced on December 6, 2017.

Now, nearly 13 years since the church's closure and only a short time before its demolition is the Diocese made aware of some interest in the building by a few individuals, none of whom have offered any concrete plans for repurposing the structure. With the fear of further deterioration, and the obligation to ensure the safety of those in its proximity, it seems unreasonable to preserve a building for its own sake.

While Diocesan officials have not had the opportunity to review the content communicated at the press conference held by the civic leaders, we respect the feelings of those who would like to see the building remain, but believe strongly that demolition remains the most prudent option, and are hopeful of the opportunities for the community that can be realized through the donation of the land to the Padua Center.

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