The fight to keep churches open

Julian Guthrie, The Grace of Everyday Saints:  How a Band of Believers Lost Their Church and Found Their Faith

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 Bishops have struggled with the impact of declining church attendance, shrinking numbers of priests and the financial costs of settling priest sexual abuse cases. One solution is to close some churches.

One such church is St Brigid’s in San Francisco. The Grace of Everyday Saints is the riveting story of St Brigid’s.

When Archbishop John Quinn shut the church in 1994, shocked parishioners banded together to fight the decision - marking the start of a long-running saga that continues to this day.

The author, Julian Guthrie, is a San Francisco Chronicle journalist who first wrote about the parishioners’ struggle in a series of newspaper articles, which she has now expanded into this compelling book. Guthrie’s narrative brims with drama, tension, surprise and loss. Her descriptions of the faith and lives of the people involved bring the story to life.

Parishioners met with the archbishop, but he was adamant that the church would not reopen, citing declining Mass attendance and the anticipated high cost of strengthening the church to protect it from earthquakes.

The new archbishop, William Levada, initially seemed more open to compromise, but when the committee offered to raise US$1.5 million to upgrade the church, it got no response. Parishioners, however, did succeed in having the church declared a historic landmark so it could not be torn down.

One dramatic sub-theme of the story involves the impact of the nationwide sexual abuse scandal involving priests. The San Francisco Archdiocese alone spent $67 million to settle such cases. As Guthrie notes, parishioners believed the archdiocese wanted to sell St Brigid to raise money to help pay for the settlements, but the archdiocese maintained none of the sale proceeds were used for that purpose.

FULL STORY: A Fight for St Brigid (America) 


Committee to Save St Brigid Church

Julian Guthrie

Click here for a 20% discount on this and other books from Church Resources and John Garrett Publishing