BUTTE — It’s a sad day for some parishioners in Butte where the doors are about to close for good on one of two Catholic churches that are shuttering their doors due to financial reasons.
" I have come to this church since I’ve been a child, every single Sunday with my family and all of our relatives," says St. Joesph's Catholic Church parishioner Melissa Burt.
Burt married her husband at the church almost 30 years ago and she saw her children baptized there, so she says it is a painful day.
"I absolutely love it and I'm very heartbroken that it’s closing."
She was one of around 75 parishioners who attended the final Mass at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church located on Utah Avenue that has served the central Butte neighborhood for 121 years.
"Usually, we try to suspend the Masses and see if we can in the future open it back up if we have enough priests, but the decision was made with these two because of the shape of the building and the number of other parishes in town," says Bishop Austin Vetter of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Helena.
While addressing parishioners at the end of Mass, Bishop Vetter said a November 2022 letter from church council said that fiscal and personnel realities make the continuance of the parishes unfeasible.
"Factors include the financial situation of both parishes is clearly unworkable, the Butte area can easily accommodate a reduction from six to four parishes, and rural Catholics in the dioceses should not suffer disproportionately," says Bishop Vetter.
He says the parishes of St. Joe’s and St. John’s will merge with St. Ann’s Catholic Church and at least two pieces of religious artwork will follow parishioners while other artwork and church buildings and property will be sold to pay off debts.
"The parish building closes but not the parish. It’s 121 years old. I mean, there’s a lot of emotions and it should be. It should be, right? Because of all the prayers that were uttered here and it was a place dedicated to God," says Bishop Vetter.