Burlington Catholics to discuss possibility of church merger

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BURLINGTON, Vt. There is now only one cathedral in Burlington.

With approval from the Vatican, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington has reduced Immaculate Conception Cathedral to a "parish."

Saint Joseph's Co-Cathedral has been designated the Cathedral of Saint Joseph's.

The demotion to a "parish" could be a first step to selling the Immaculate Conception property.

"I really miss this place as there are fewer and fewer opportunities to come," Parishioner Cindy Palmer.

Many parishioners have attended masses at the Immaculate Conception for years.

But there's a chance it could be sold, if the church merges with Saint Joseph's Cathedral, which is so close you can see it from the Immaculate Conception grounds.

"The problem has been we just can't afford to maintain two buildings anymore," Bishop Christopher Coyne said.

He said the possibility of having one downtown church is not a new idea. It was a hot topic after the original church burned in an arson fire back in the 1970s.

"At the time, people weren't ready to say goodbye to Immaculate Conception, Saint Patrick's Cathedral, so they decided to rebuild it," Bishop Coyne said.

But the current church only seats about three-hundred people. Saint Joseph's--on the other hand-- can hold more than a thousand people.

The Immaculate Conception parish also shrunk. With fewer people, the church had a $75-85,000 dollar deficit each year.

"So we sold off properties. We've used up our savings. We've basically got about 16 months of funds available to maintain the building," Bishop Coyne said.

Bishop Coyne said Saint Joseph's finances are very secure since the sale of the school to the Champlain Housing Trust. And it's a beautiful, historic, well- maintained building.

A final decision on merging the churches hasn't been made. At least one loyal parishioner hopes there is still a future for the Immaculate Conception.

"I pray that it stays," Palmer said.

There will be a meeting Tuesday to discuss the possibility of merging the two churches.

From there-- it will be up to the parishioners whether to sell the Immaculate Conception church.