Bishop to talk with mayor, Kaptur about future of St. Anthony Church

Historic marker outside St. Anthony's (Source: WTOL)
Historic marker outside St. Anthony's (Source: WTOL)
(Source: City of Toledo)
(Source: City of Toledo)

TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) - After an 11th-hour reprieve for St. Anthony Catholic Church in Central Toledo that involved a stop work order, Bishop Daniel Thomas has agreed to meet Tuesday with Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz, Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur and Lucas County Land Bank President David Mann to discuss the future of the building.

Kapszukiewicz and Mann both sent letters to the bishop asking him to reconsider the decision to raze the building that dates to 1891, citing its potential for redevelopment for the neighborhood.

Demolition work on the Toledo Diocese-owned building was scheduled to begin as early as Monday.

On Sunday afternoon, however, the city of Toledo issued a stop work order, citing two reasons: the city's building inspections department does not have documentation that water and sewer caps have been installed and an out-of-compliance fence. As of Monday, some of those issues had been resolved.

On Saturday, local politicians, community leaders and former church leaders rallied outside St. Anthony calling for the Diocese of Toledo to save the building, which closed in 2005 because of declining membership.

Meanwhile, Doug Berger of the group Secular Humanists of Western Lake Erie said the diocese should do anything it wants with the church.

"Because we believe in separation of church and state. And don't believe city officials should force the diocese to keep a building that it doesn't want," said Berger.

The group believes that "government demanding the Toledo Diocese to keep a building that needs massive costly renovations, with no actual plan for reuse, is an impermissible burden on the Church and crosses the line between church and state."

However, Councilman Ujvagi doesn't believe it crosses this line.

"The notion of preserving historic buildings in our community, re-purposing them so they continue to be a symbol in our community is not a question of church and state. It is to me the question of the right thing to do. The discussion at this point is not about bringing back the parish," Ujvagi said.

The Secular Humanists of Western Lake Erie say these comments by Ujvagi are misleading at best.

"The church is decrepit and a potential safety hazard especially with the 200 foot plus steeple," the group said in a statement. "Who is going to pay for any renovation? The city can't because the property is owned by the church and the 1st amendment prohibits direct funding of religious groups. The church has no parishioners so they can't fund any renovations."

Below is the group's full statement:

The Secular Humanists of Western Lake Erie (SHoWLE) believe that the comments of Councilman Peter Ujvagi in a news report yesterday about the city's effort to stop the Diocese of Toledo from tearing down St. Anthony's Church on Nebraska Ave. are at least misinformed and not helpful.

Erin Claussen, of the group Preserve Toledo, said options include an arts and community center or even apartments.

"It just towers over the neighborhood. It's a huge asset, beautiful historical building. That neighborhood is full of empty lots. Doesn't need another one," said Claussen.

The diocese planned to raze the church because it was unsafe, then donate the land to a neighboring community center.

Freezing the demolition permits was a last-ditch effort to stop the wrecking ball.

"I'm happy to see the stop work order has been issued and posted," said Toledo City Councilman Peter Ujvagi.

On Sunday afternoon, the diocese issued a statement that said, "It is our understanding that all required permits and permissions for the proposed demolition were duly requested of and granted by the City of Toledo."

The diocese also said it had not gotten a copy of the stop work order but will comply with legal requirements.

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