Greg Cosimini made his first communion at the Church of St. John of St. Paul. He received the sacrament of confirmation there. Both his parents’ funeral services were also held at the church.
In about a week, the 62-year-old will be saying goodbye to the parish he has attended most of his life. After nearly 127 years in the Dayton’s Bluff neighborhood on St. Paul’s East Side, St. John’s will be closing on June 30 and merging with St. Pascal Baylon.
“It’s like a death in the family,” said Cosimini, who serves as a trustee at the church. “My dad died earlier this year, and it’s the same kind of feeling. Women have been crying in church. It’s extremely sad, because some of us like me went to grade school there. There’s others [at the church] like that, too.”
The merger is part of an effort by the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis to respond to tighter budgets, shifting demographics and a projected shortage of priests. As part of the reorganization, 21 parishes were slated to merge into 14 “receiving” parishes — leaving a total of nearly 190 parishes when it’s all projected to be done this year.
At one time, St. John’s had more than 1,000 members. These days, it’s closer to 400. Shortly after its merger with St. Pascal Baylon was announced, St. John’s appealed the move but lost.
The congregation has been in its modern Gothic-style building since 1923, and not much has changed since then. Most of the interior furnishings — altars, altar rails, statues — were designed by Daprato statuary company of Chicago, Cosimini said.
St. John’s is among the last of the church closures in the archdiocese. And even though parishioners have known for almost three years now that they would be merging with St. Pascal Baylon, closing the doors and saying goodbye to retiring pastor the Rev. George Welzbacher, 85, haven’t been easy, Cosimini said.
After the church’s final mass, it will recognize its new parish life with a party in the parking lot. Parishioners of St. John’s and St. Pascal Baylon are invited to attend.