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Published: Friday, 6/30/2006

St. Joseph parishioners file suit

UPPER SANDUSKY, Ohio Parishioners who belonged to the now-closed St. Joseph Church in Salem Township have filed a lawsuit in Wyandot County Common Pleas Court to gain title to the church property from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Toledo.

The lawsuit filed on behalf of the St. Joseph-Salem Save Our Parish Society names Bishop Leonard Blair as the primary defendant.

The parish, founded in 1849, had about 180 members when the diocese closed it a year ago, the society said in a statement.

The closing was part of a realignment across the diocese. The society does not ask that the bishop reopen the parish, said Marc Rall, its vice president, but it would like control of the church and grounds, especially to maintain the 112-year-old building.

We maintained it. Our ancestors built it. As far as we re concerned, we own it, Mr. Rall said. He said former parishioners have tried unsuccessfully to arrange meetings with the bishop.

We ve been stonewalled, he said. We have to force him to talk to us or give up the property. We can t wait any longer to keep this church up.

The diocese has not seen the lawsuit and had no comment last night, said Sally Oberski, director of communications.

The diocese and Bishop Blair are defendants in a lawsuit filed earlier by members of the former St. James Church, Kansas, Ohio, who seek control of the former parish s property and assets.

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