For many Catholics in Western New York, the next few weeks will be marked with goodbyes to their home places of worship. For Our lady of Lebanon, that goodbye was on Sunday.

Our Lady of Lebanon celebrated an emotional Mass of Remembrance, letting parishioners and clergy alike commemorate 94 years of worship at the church coming to an end this month.

“It’s just tearing my heart out. Words can’t describe the sadness,” said parishioner Geri Mondi.

Mondi is one of hundreds who will have to find another place to worship after Our Lady of Lebanon holds its final Mass on Easter.

Under the Buffalo Catholic Diocese’s “Journey of Faith and Grace,” Our Lady of Lebanon will merge with St. Stanislaus, St. George, Holy Trinity and Our Lady of the Rosary to form a new parish at St. Stan’s facilities called Divine Mercy.

For Mondi, it’s not so simple, though. Our Lady of Lebanon is right around the corner from her house and she has been coming to Mass at the church for more than 30 years. She and her husband Anthony met at the elementary school and were married at the church. Her children were baptized there and her daughter was also married there.

Our Lady of Lebanon isn’t just a building; it’s a part of her life and her community, she said.

“We’re going to be losing a bit of our neighborhood and that’s sad in the city because little by little, we’re losing our neighborhoods,” she said. “I’m really afraid of losing our neighborhood church.”

It’s a fear many parishioners share, but it will become a reality in two weeks. Members of Our Lady of Lebanon’s congregation will be forced to find a new home parish.

“We’re supposed to go to St. Stan’s but, I don’t know,” said Marie Yarussi. “I think I’m going to try different parishes and see which one I like.”

The Rev. William Allegretto, pastor at Our Lady of Lebanon, knows ultimately people will spread out and worship where they decide they feel comfortable, despite recommendations from the diocese to make St. Stan’s their new parish.

“People right now are certainly looking for a place that they can worship,” he said. “They’re looking and saying, ‘How do some of us stay together?’ Some people are looking and saying, ‘Are there other opportunities we can go to?’ Some might not, right now, join any parish. They might be wandering a little bit.”

One of those wanderers could be James Fadel. Fadel has served as an usher at Our Lady of Lebanon for 30 years but says he isn’t sure where he will start worshipping after his church closes its doors.

It’s not entirely surprising to see his parish’s final days arrive, though. Attendance and donations have declined over the years, he said.

“They live in the suburbs now and they don’t bother coming into the city,” he said of the church’s past parishioners. “You see the same thing in Buffalo. ... They move to the suburbs and they leave these gorgeous cathedrals and then they’re empty and no one knows what to do with them.”

What happens to the unused church on Niagara Street will be up to the diocese, Allegretto said, but it’s likely the diocese is seeking bids from interested buyers.

Rocco LaRocca has been a member of Our Lady of Lebanon for 62 years and hopes that as the parishioners move on, the spirit of his home church will not be forgotten.

“We will plant our seeds elsewhere and show them what we’ve learned at Our Lady of Lebanon — faith, hope and love,” he said. “... We’re going to make it because we have God’s love with us.”

Contact reporter Caitlin Murray282-2311, ext. 2251

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