Diocese to appeal Vatican decree on St. Ann Church

Tue, Jan 21st 2014 04:00 pm

In a decree dated Jan. 7, 2014, the Vatican Congregation for the Clergy has upheld the appeal of former St. Ann parishioners, who argued against the reduction of St. Ann Church in Buffalo to profane (non-religious) use. The decree also prohibits any potential developer from repurposing the property.  Bishop Richard J. Malone is reviewing the decree, and said the diocese will file an appeal before the Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican's highest juridical body.  It will also be up to the bishop to decide what will happen with the use of St. Ann Church in the interim.

Demolition has never been our driving force or our goal, which is to preserve the space by development for other than religious purposes.  A successful appeal of the decree would allow the diocese to pursue its priority for St. Ann:  to find a suitable buyer for the church, with the goal of stabilizing the structure and ensuring that it is a community asset.  The diocese remains in conversation with Preservation Buffalo Niagara regarding possible future uses for the entire St. Ann complex, which includes the church, former school and convent.

All activities at the church were suspended on April 30, 2012, due to the deteriorating condition of the Gothic Revival architectural style church which opened in 1886.  Subsequently, on Aug. 18, 2013, the Diocese of Buffalo announced the church would be razed due to severe interior and exterior deterioration, with re-construction costs estimated at between $8 million and $12 million.

An extensive engineering study found myriad problems with the aging structure.  Water intrusion into the exterior masonry walls has caused damage to interior walls and windows.  The cupola between the two transepts needs refurbishing or complete removal before a dangerous condition occurs.  There is a rotted wooden roof in the clock room of the East Tower, and finials have shifted outward resulting in cracks in each of the arches.  Walkway railings have become unattached due to shifting stone and extensive cracking in four corner buttresses.

On the West Tower, problems are general and widespread and the extremely poor condition presents a hazard to the area surrounding the church. Most of the top 80 feet is beyond repair.  Bonding of the exterior face stone on the tower walls has failed with approximately 200 square feet of the south wall of the tower having separated from the rubble infill.

An attempt to discover the condition of the infill beyond this section of the wall was deemed too dangerous because the infill has disintegrated into very damp soft sand and stone powder due to water infiltration. Corner buttresses are badly cracked and there is real possibility that large portions of face stone and corner buttresses could fall onto the lower roof, shattering enough of the wood roof to allow stones to fall into the interior seating area.

Excessive water intrusion to the Belfry on the West Tower has badly rotted the wood in many areas; wood and louvers are badly deteriorated and surrounding masonry is badly cracked and displaced; exterior corners exhibit active movement of facing stone and completely ineffective mortar joints.

St. Ann Parish merged into SS. Columba-Brigid on September 1, 2007 with the intention of using only the SS. Columba-Brigid site.   

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