Crucial presence in Saint Thomas Aquinas throughout the month of October


ZANESVILLE – Muskingum County’s first Catholic church is at risk of closing if attendance does not increase next month.

Last week, Father JCP Sullivan of St. Thomas Aquinas Church in downtown Zanesville appealed to his congregation to attend as many services as possible in October.

This is the month the diocese does a physical count of attendance at Mass each week, explained Mike Morris, director of facilities and finance.

“It really helps them determine, you know, the vitality of the church,” he said. “We try to stress everyone to come to mass, you can come more than once, in October, so we have very good numbers while the diocese studies our roof repair project. “

In February 2020, the 179-year-old church was condemned by the Mid-East Ohio Building Department because of the structural weakness of the roof.

Services had to be moved across the street to the activity center attached to the church school.

Since 2020, St. Thomas has been working with engineers to develop a repair plan which is now awaiting approval from the diocese.

If attendance does not meet the standards of the Catholic Diocese of Columbus, these plans may be permanently suspended.

“This is essential. You have to show that you are a vital ward and that people care and people attend,” Morris said.

The COVID-19 pandemic almost coincided with the condemnation of the church’s building code, exacerbating attendance problems.

“Attendance has really gone down due to the coronavirus pandemic,” Morris said. “We had about 600 people a week coming to mass before the coronavirus, and now we’re in the range of 3-400 a week.”

The church also offers a live streaming option for those who are uncomfortable or cannot attend in person.

For those who attend services in the gymnasium, sanitation and social distancing measures are taken.

Morris said masks are also available on request.

Mass takes place on Saturday at 4.30 p.m. and Sunday at 7.45 a.m. and 11 a.m.

After Mass this Saturday is an Oktoberfest celebration open to the public, regardless of their faith.

A live German band will perform and burgers, kids and beer will be served from 5.30 p.m.

“We are just trying to point out to everyone in Muskingum County that we hope you will continue to attend Mass in St. Thomas, especially in October,” Morris said.

St. Thomas has served the community of Zanesville since its cornerstone was laid on St. Patrick’s Day in 1842.

“Being the first Catholic church built in town, it really encouraged the early settlement of Catholics here in Zanesville and really led to the development of Zanesville as a town,” Morris said.

According to Morris, the property was donated to the church by a local tavern owner, John Dugan.

Instead of payment, he only requested that he be buried inside the church upon his death.

This request was honored when he was killed in a stagecoach accident bringing the Bishop back to St. Thomas from Baltimore.

Morris said Dugan died in the bishop’s arms and was laid to rest in the basement of the church where his grave still stands.

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Twitter: @cmholmesgannett


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