November 21, 2013-The unique “marketplace ministry” of the Roman Catholic Chapel at the Millcreek Mall is ending, at least for now. Word was received this week that a new retailer is interested in renting the Bon-Ton Concourse storefront that has been used by the Diocese of Erie at a discounted rate since Feb. 2008.
“The Cafaro Management Company has been generous in renting the space to us, but we understand their need to take advantage of this opportunity,” said Father Christopher Singer, chancellor of the Diocese of Erie. “While this is disappointing news for us, we are heartened that another retailer will provide work for many and a fresh choice for shoppers.”
For nearly six years, the diocese enjoyed the privilege of sponsoring the chapel; each year some 6,000 people found an oasis of peace, quiet and healing in this most unexpected location.
Bishop Emeritus Donald Trautman took a personal interest in establishing this evangelization effort which he hoped would make it easier for people to go to confession.
“My idea is to go where the people are and see if we can, by presenting this opportunity, bring them back to the sacrament and meet them where they are,” he said at the time. The objective was achieved: Bishop Emeritus Trautman, Bishop Lawrence Persico and many priests of the Diocese of Erie who heard confessions at the mall over the years were often moved by Catholics who partook of the sacrament after having been away from it for years.
“It’s been a very successful outreach,” Bishop Persico said. “I do want to continue the ministry in the future.”
To that end, the diocese plans to store the confessionals, furniture and equipment until another suitable mall location becomes available.
Msgr. Robert Smith, vicar general of the Diocese of Erie, will lead a brief Prayer of Thanksgiving at 3:30 pm on Fri., Nov. 22 at the mall chapel, after which the chapel will be closed, allowing the diocese to comply with its contract.
“We are grateful for the fine relationship we have had with the Cafaro Management Company, and in particular with the Millcreek Mall Property Manager, Tom Jares,” Father Singer said in a letter addressed to the priests and volunteers who had supported the endeavor. “We are also grateful to the Knights of Columbus who generously donated the confessionals. Most especially, we thank you for your ministry at the chapel as a hospitality volunteer or confessor. You have made it possible for many to find forgiveness, peace and welcome. For others, you helped provide a quiet place to be refreshed in God’s presence. God bless you for your generosity.”
The Roman Catholic Chapel at the Millcreek Mall was made possible by ongoing support from the Evangelization Endowment at The Catholic Foundation.
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