“The entire city is standing with you.”
That was Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards’ message to community members and parishioners last week fighting to save Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Catholic church.
Last month, the Archdiocese of Seattle announced the nearly 100-year-old church on S. 30th St. would be torn down due to safety issues and $18 million worth of repairs needed.
Parishioners and community members formed Save Tacoma’s Landmark Church to try to save the church. The group said they had been working with the Archdiocese on a fix for six months.
“We were really shocked when the decision came down that they wanted to demolish the church,” said board member Joy Donohue.
The nonprofit held an emergency meeting last week to discuss their efforts to appeal the decree with a canon attorney. The group has until September 9 to formalize their appeal.
“Hopefully we have a stay on this destruction, and we can carry on and fix this church and allow it to be part of this community and the City of Tacoma,” Donohue said.
Mayor Woodards attended the meeting and spoke to attendants.
“I’m standing with you to figure out what we can do to make sure that this church goes absolutely nowhere,” she said, receiving a standing ovation.
Historic Preservation Officer for the City of Tacoma Reuben McKnight said the Holy Rosary was the city’s 14th landmark designated back in 1975 when the city began the landmark process.
Woodard and McKnight said the Archdiocese will have a long road ahead of them with the city if they plan to demolish the church.
“(All) kinds of things have to happen before they can move one shovel of dirt -- which we don’t plan to let them do,” Woodard said.
Donohue said the nonprofit is moving forward with their fundraising efforts. Board members are asking for donations of all kinds – money, volunteer hours, labor and materials.
The Archdiocese said it spent more than 800 hours with contractors analyzing and examining Holy Rosary before an advisory committee recommended demolition.
According to Canon Law, it is the responsibility of the church and its parishes to maintain and take care of the building. The Archdioceses said it does not have the funds to pay for the significant repairs, leaving the burden of costs onto the church members.
“It is clear that the costs to fully repair, restore, and maintain Holy Rosary Church are simply unaffordable. Therefore, after a great deal of prayer and wide consultation, I have decided to issue a decree to close and raze the church building,” Archbishop J. Peter Sartain said in a letter to parishioners.