Another sign of the times, from Pittsburgh: warehouses for used tabernacles, statues and religious items:
As a seminarian, the Rev. Joseph McCaffrey knelt before a tabernacle in the chapel at Mercy Hospital, where his mother was being treated for a brain tumor, and prayed for her recovery.
Later, when he was named pastor of Ss. John and Paul Church in Marshall, he noticed that same tabernacle — an ornamental cabinet used to store the Blessed Sacrament — at his new church.
And when it came time to build a new Sts. John and Paul Church building, he “knew that was going to be in there.”
The practice of reusing religious items is a common one among Catholics. The Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh has two warehouses — one an old church — that house aging, unused religious articles and statuary. The buying and selling of sacred items, called simony, is forbidden by the First Commandment, the Catholic church says.
“We’ve found some creative ways to reuse things,” said former Pittsburgh priest Daniel DiNardo, now a cardinal who heads the archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. In the past two decades, the number of Catholics in the archdiocese doubled to 1.4 million. DiNardo, who arrived there in 2004, has dedicated 11 new church buildings.
As Western Pennsylvania‘s population declines, so have the number of Catholics, from 815,719 in 2004 to 673,201 in 2008, the latest year for which figures are available.
The Pittsburgh Diocese has closed 17 parishes and established seven new ones over the past decade. Unused items from those churches are stored in hopes that other churches will use them.
“We have moved quite a bit of items, some to new churches — Sts. John and Paul, St. Francis of Assisi in Finleyville and St. Joseph in O’Hara,” said Joseph M. Kubiak, facilities coordinator/inspector, who maintains the inventory for the Pittsburgh diocese’s property planning department.
One diocesan warehouse holds smaller items, such as chalices and candles; the other contains larger items such as pews, altars and statues. One wall holds nothing but candlesticks and chalices. Some of the inventory is damaged, such as a statue of Jesus missing its hands.