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Nine members of an East Side community group have set up a meeting next month with a Franciscan official in an effort to keep Corpus Christi Catholic Church at 189 Clark St. open.

They will propose that the St. Anthony of Padua Province of the Order of Friars Minor Conventual, which has operated the parish for 105 years, keep it running at least for two more.

During that time, the group, East Side Pride, will intensify its efforts to revitalize the neighborhood and the congregation, which has been shrinking for decades.

"We can't lose that church," said Kim Harman, an organizer with the group. "It's a centerpiece of the neighborhood. It's one of the few safe spaces where anyone can go at any time."

Some of the members of the community group also are members of the church.

The friars, based in Ellicott City, Md., plan to pull their two priests out of the parish in late June. They say they no longer have enough manpower to staff a parish that draws fewer than 100 people to weekend Masses.

The Buffalo delegation will visit Ellicott City on June 2 to meet with the Rev. Donald Grzymski, vicar provincial, to request that the friars delay their departure.

The neighborhood group also is working on other fronts, including trying to:

Get the sandstone Romanesque Revival church, which was built in 1905, added to a tour of significant architectural structures in Buffalo.

Have Masses at the church broadcast on a cable access channel to increase awareness of the church's ornate sanctuary.

Analyze efforts in other cities to preserve old churches.

Harman said parishioners will return to the church if they know the neighborhood is improving and safe.

Grzymski, however, has said the friars are unlikely to reverse their decision.

Bishop Henry J. Mansell is consulting with priests and others about whether the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo, which is struggling with its own priest shortage, can keep the parish going.


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