The parishioners of St. Adalbert Church won a small concession from Bishop Edward U. Kmiec as a result of their appeal to the Vatican to keep the doors open.
While the parish will be merged with St. John Kanty in March, Kmiec has agreed to designate St. Adalbert, in the city's Broadway-Fillmore neighborhood, as an oratory -- meaning it can continue to be used for occasional worship, such as baptisms, weddings and funerals.
Regular Masses, however, will cease Sept. 18 at the end of a yearlong observance of the parish's 125th anniversary.
The Catholic Diocese of Buffalo issued a statement Saturday to clarify the status of the parish after appealing parishioners maintained Friday that the Vatican had ruled in their favor.
Diocesan officials cited a Dec. 16 letter from Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, prefect for Vatican Congregation for the Clergy, who wrote, "No obstacle exists for the merger of the parish."
Kmiec wrote in a letter read to parishioners on Saturday that "this decision will be disappointing for you, but I have every confidence that the depth of your faith will give you the strength to accept this decision and enter fully into the life of St. John Kanty parish, or another parish of choice."
Ronald Suchocki, one of the leaders of the appeal effort, which began 3 1/2 years ago, said he was disappointed. Parishioners, he said, read the Vatican correspondence differently and figured the decision allowed for more regular Masses.
"We were elated when we received this letter because all we were fighting for was to remain open," said Suchocki.
In its statement, the diocese said the liturgy schedule at St. Adalbert between March 7 and Sept. 18 will be reduced to one Sunday Mass, although the church's Lenten soup suppers and other special events during Lent and Easter will continue.
St. Adalbert was one of four parishes to appeal a church closing following the diocese's eight-county restructuring of parishes, which resulted in the closure of more than 70 worship sites. Appeals for St. George in Niagara Falls and Transfiguration in Olean were unsuccessful. An appeal at St. Mary Church in Lockport is still pending.