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One of Tupper Lake’s two Catholic churches is up for sale

TUPPER LAKE — The Holy Name of Jesus Church building on Main Street (state Route 3) is being sold by Tupper Lake’s Catholic parish after it stopped holding regular services there last year.

The Rev. Douglas Decker from the St. Alphonsus Holy Name of Jesus Parish said that Holy Name, one of the parish’s two worship sites, held its last service in October 2018 and that it is on the market now with LaValley Real Estate.

This is part of a eight-year transition the local parishes of the Diocese of Ogdensburg have been going through. Decker said when he started in Tupper Lake around 2011, the two existing parishes, St. Alphonsus and Holy Name, merged into one, combining their names but keeping two church locations.

Then, a couple of years ago, he said the parishes in Newcomb, Long Lake and Tupper Lake took part together in the diocese’s Living Stones program, which meant to consolidate churches at a time when populations and parishioner numbers are low.

“People kept asking, ‘Why do we continue to maintain a big church like Holy Name?'” Decker said. “Because there’s less and less parishioners and less income.”

The program closed Holy Name in Tupper Lake, keeping St. Alphonsus in Tupper Lake open. (Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly said St. Therese’s church in Newcomb was also closed.)

“Basically, the two structures were looked at,” Decker said. “We had an evaluation, and we went with the one with less problems.”

St. Alphonsus is the older of the two original parishes, started in 1890. Holy Name of Jesus was started in 1904.

Attendees at Holy Name could still go to St. Alphonsus, and attendees at St.Therese’s could still go to St. Henry’s.

“We’ve only had one priest (for both churches) for probably 17 to 18 years,” Tupper Lake parish secretary Lisa Reed said. “We have two big church buildings within a mile or two of each other, and pews aren’t full.”

Holy Name held its last Sunday Mass Oct. 28, 2018, and the parish moved the building to an oratory status, meaning it could still be used for special events, like weddings and funerals, but not regular services.

“It’s a big adjustment for families. It’s like, you know, your home,” Decker said. “You’re leaving beautiful old memories. It hasn’t been easy.”

Then by the end of June, they prepared the building to be put up on the market.

“This is going to sound very strange, but these are canonical law terms,” Decker said. “They ‘profaned’ the building — doesn’t that sound nice? — for ‘non-sordid’ use.”

A church building designated for non-sordid use can be used for a secular purpose, but not for a sacrilegious, immoral or scandalous purpose.

“You’re supposed to maintain the dignity of the building somehow when you sell it,” Decker explained.

Decker said the building could be purchased for something like a museum, library or events hall, but not for use as something like a bar. He said it is listed for $175,000 by LaValley Real Estate.

Decker said the average Sunday morning attendance at St. Alphonsus is close to 500 right now in this town of around 6,000 people, during the busy summer season.

Other local parishes have consolidated in the past. The Saranac Lake Parish turned its Lake Clear and Bloomingdale locations into oratories, and profaned the Paul Smiths building, which it wants to sell. There is dispute over who owns the building, the church or Paul Smith’s College, which has held up any sale.

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