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Cleveland's St. Emeric's Church / Szent Imre Római Katolikus Magyar Templom

Help Save St. Emeric's Church!AHF Action Alert!Attention Cleveland-area Hungarians! Demonstration planned on June 30th, Meet at 3 pm!

UPDATE: 6/29 - Bishop Lennon announced he will not attend! DEMONSTRATION STILL ON!

6/26/2010 - Bob Kloos writes: Bishop Richard "Moving Forward" Lennon will preside at the closing liturgy at Saint Emeric Church on Wednesday, June 30 at 4pm. This will be the last of more than 50 churches he has closed. That's quite a legacy for someone who has been here just four years and a couple of weeks. He has managed to have his way, not because he has the support of the people, but because he has managed to bully his way through procedures and intimidate his subordinates. He should never have gotten this far.

The good people of Saint Emeric have asked us to stand with them on Wednesday. Most of the membership will be outside the church. If you have never been able to attend one of these opportunities for witness, please join us beginning at 3pm. Park in the Muny lot behind the West Side Market off Lorain Avenue. If you have witnessed at a church closing in the past year, you know how important your presence will be.

It is important that we show Cleveland and many others who will be looking on that Lennon does not enjoy the support of the people. His leadership has been anything BUT pastoral. In the Akron Beacon Journal recently, he said the "dissenters can be counted on one hand." He knows that is not true. Next Wednesday, it will be quite obvious to him.

Please block out this time and bring a carload of friends with you. If it is hot, bring water and a hat. Signs are welcome. Please keep in mind that media will be looking for the harshest words and language that is inappropriate. Let us not stoop to the same lack of charity that has been +Lennon's trademark. Please keep the signs focused on themes of MEDIATION, FREEDOM TO WORSHIP, RESPECT FOR HERITAGE, WE ARE ALL IMMIGRANTS, WE ARE VIBRANT, PASTORAL LEADERSHIP IS SORELY LACKING, etc.

Help Save St. Emeric's Church!
MEETING scheduled for 4/25/09 at 10:00am at Trinity Cathedral (across from Cleveland State). This is a grass roots effort aimed at reversing a decision to close the over 100-year-old Hungarian landmark by the Cleveland Diocese.

The decision to close the church and sell the property came as a complete surprise to parishioners since St. Emeric's has been self-sufficient and a net donor to the Diocese. A community gathering place for many generations and faiths, it was host to former Prime Minister Viktor Orban's visit to Cleveland for 1956 Commemorations in 2004.Following his speech, Orbán presented St. Emeric's church with a flag commemorating Hungary's 1000 years of nationhood. One side bore the Hungarian Coat of Arms with tFollowing his speech, Orbán presented St. Emeric's church with a flag commemorating Hungary's 1000 years of nationhood. One side bore the Hungarian Coat of Arms with the Holy Crown of St, St. Stephen and the words "Magyar Millenium." The flag's reverse side was blank. Orbán commented that while one side commemorated Hungary's last 1000 years, the blank side was waiting for the next generations to make their own mark.he Holy Crown of St, St. Stephen and the words "Magyar Millenium." The flag's reverse side was blank. Orbán commented that while one side commemorated Hungary's last 1000 years, the blank side was waiting for the next generations to make their own mark. Helping to save this historic property is their chance!


Suppression of the Hungarian Community in Cleveland
by Closing St. Emeric Church

Viktor Orbán opened his speech saying "Two Hungarians are talking to each other, and they both apologize. One is sorry because he is leaving Hungary, the other, because he is staying." He said that such dialogue expresses the passion of the Hungarians in the 20th century. According to Orbán, the traditions of commemorating the 1956 uprising are richer in the United States than in Hungary because Hungarians in communist- ruled Hungary were taught to forget the past.Whenever a Hungarian is harassed anywhere in the world, the whole nation must stand up for him.In the Bishop’s letter to us, a number of terms are used that we believe were not taken into proper consideration as part of the decision made by Bishop Lennon for deciding to close St. Emeric Parish. He calls our parishioners Hungarian people and says the three parishes serve the Hungarian community. He states that he thinks we should come together into one parish in the spirit of unity as one Hungarian people to create a more vibrant parish with more vitality in worship, religious education, community outreach and other parish activities. He concludes that he is not asking the Hungarian people to do anything different from parishes of similar size across the diocese.

Yet, the "Hungarian Cluster" that the Diocese of Cleveland put together is radically different than any of the other clusters. It is not territorially based, with the parishes in close physical proximity, as are the other clusters, and it is singled out as the cluster for the Hungarian community, the “Hungarian People,” whereas all the other clusters are for Americans. We find that the end result of this special grouping is discriminatory, because rather than recognizing the unique needs and mission the grouping implies, it creates a situation no other parishioner in the diocese is faced with. There is a segregation implied by putting us into a unique category of a Hungarian cluster, calling us the “Hungarian People" and treating us differently as a Hungarian community than others. This was not done with any other ethnic or racial group. The Diocese is implying that we do not belong and we are not the same kind of Americans, or Catholics, with the same rights as others.

And as a consequence of this grouping, the decision to leave a “centrally” located parish, has the effect of segregating us further, and in fact bringing about an untenable situation for the majority of the widely dispersed Hungarian Americans who have supported a Hungarian parish much more local to them than the remaining parish. In effect, the diocese is conducting a campaign of decimating a specific ethnic group’s ability to maintain its cultural and language identity by creating a situation where it cannot survive realistically with the one church left remaining, in an area that parishioners from the other two closed parishes will not go to.

It was standing room only as almost a thousand filled the meeting hall of St. Emeric's (Imre) Catholic Church in Cleveland to commemorate the 1956 Hungarian Revolution in a patriotic flair that showed so clearly the profound love these immigrants have for not only their motherland Hungary, but for their adopted home in the United States.Just as racial discrimination is now recognized as much broader than just the outward appearances of denying access or participation to certain individuals, extending now to implied or negative characterizations or imputed attributes, so too this action on the part of the Diocese is much worse than just shutting down churches. Consciously, or unconsciously, on the part of the Diocese, but none the less in actuality, there is an anti-ethnic effect of the actions. We are experiencing a type of ethnic-cleansing, not the murderous type but the more insidious melting-pot, longer term forced conformance type. (According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, “Ethnic cleansing sometimes involves the removal of all physical vestiges of the targeted group through the destruction of monuments, cemeteries, and houses of worship.”) In other countries, ethnic cleansing has been recognized for what it is, whether done by the military, the government, or a fundamentalist or orthodox religious group, or individuals and their organizations. Sadly, here, it is conveniently couched in other terms, often financially oriented or free-market justified, but with the same or worse eventual societal results.

And if this is not the case, is Bishop Lennon truly sensitive to the needs of the Hungarian community and does he recognize the uniqueness of the Hungarian culture in the diocese? If it is his intention to allow it to continue its work in the Catholic church to serve both the youth and elderly, those who have the greatest need for the work of the Church, then why did he decree to close down the two parishes that are closer to physical community of believers on the east and west side of the city and only leave the parish located in the most difficult to reach intercity area of the city, that is located in the most dangerous area?

Did he not realize that young families (who are not committed to St. Elizabeth by long family histories) will not send take their children into dangerous neighborhoods, through areas of the city that are as crime ridden as where St. Elizabeth is located, and that the elderly (many of who were forced to leave the Buckeye Hungarian area many decades ago during a horrible time of social unrest) are mentally scarred and fearful, and physically unable to make the much more challenging trip to a location that is both difficult to reach and not inviting for those acclimated to more suburban and urban circumstances?

Members of St. Margaret and St. Emeric will not become active, attending members of St. Elizabeth. They will be driven away and may not even continue their affiliation with Catholic churches in their own home neighborhoods due to the bitterness engendered by the closing decisions.

Did Bishop Lennon fail to observe then, also, that St. Emeric is at the center of Hungarian community in terms of its support for the Hungarian School (of 100+ or so students every Monday evening) and for Hungarian Boy and Girl Scouts (of 150+ every Friday evening, and many dozens on other evenings like Wednesday and during the day on Saturday)? Did he not note that by closing St. Emeric you rob the city, and more specifically, the Hungarian community (Catholic and non-Catholic) of its cultural center?

We strongly believe that all three parishes have the vibrancy, financial strength and stability, and spiritual vitality to remain open, working as a group to serve the diverse population of Hungarian Americans that are separately by significant distances. That is why we very carefully considered our response to Bishop Lennon, and recommended that all three parishes remain open.

For if we do have a special ranking as the Hungarian people of the Hungarian cluster representing the Hungarian community, which implies a cultural bond and values beyond the purely religious, then closing 2 out of 3 Cleveland area based Hungarian community supported Catholic parishes (or more precisely, 5 out of 6 in the region), is horribly destructive of the life and soul of the community of the Hungarian people in this region.

We also strongly believe that closing St. Emeric is not a logical decision on the part of Bishop Lennon because of the great harm it does the work of outreach to the community (in this case, primarily Hungarian speaking and Hungarian culture oriented) of youth and elderly, and the irreparable harm it does to the future sustainability of the Hungarian community, not just Catholic, but all of it as an integral part of the greater American community of diversity.

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About St. Emeric's Church
Szent Imre Római Katolikus Magyar Templom
(courtesy of www.clevelandmemory.com)

Hungarians on the west side grew weary of travelling nearly 1½ hours to St. Elizabeth Church on Buckeye Road and decided that the time had come to build a Roman Catholic Church on the west side of Cleveland. With the support of Monsignor Boehm, St. Emeric Parish was established and placed under the guidance of Reverend Joseph Hirling in 1904. Reverend Stephen Soltész, who became pastor in 1905, gathered and registered the widely scattered parishioners on the near west side.

On January 22nd of that year, a wood frame church, located at Bridge Avenue and West 24th Street was dedicated. Reverend Soltész directed the purchase of the property surrounding the church, including homes, and renovated them to serve as a school. The Ursuline Sisters taught in the school where more than 150 children attended. Reverend Soltész conducted classes in Hungarian language instruction, history and geography. In 1909, he founded a Catholic Hungarian newspaper, Haladás (Progress).

In 1911, Reverend Soltész was appointed to a church in Lorain, and was replaced by Reverend József Szabó. Two other pastors, Reverend József Péter and Reverend John M. Rácz, served the parish until 1920. Fire destroyed the wooden church in 1915. A few years later fire again ravaged Annunciation Church a few blocks away where the congregation had relocated. In 1924, St. Emeric Church was purchased by the Union Terminal Company, which was completing the construction of the Terminal Tower in downtown Cleveland. The Company required the land for railway tracks which led to the Tower's train depot.

In 1925, the present church and school building were built under the direction of Reverend Joseph Hartel. The Daughters of the Divine Redeemer Sisters taught in the new school. Reverend Hartel was succeeded by Reverend John B. Mundweil, who served as pastor of St. Emeric Church for over thirty years. Reverend Mundweil became a pioneer among the priests of the diocese in caring for and educating the mentally retarded and handicapped.

In 1965, Reverend Francis Kárpi served as pastor of the parish. In 1983, Father Richard Orley, a third generation Hungarian-American assists at both St. Emeric and St. Elizabeth Roman Catholic Churches. Reverend Orley learned the native tongue of his grandparents to be able to work more effectively within his ethnic community. In 1988, Father Sándor Siklodi became pastor.. an office he continues to hold.
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