CLEVELAND - The past 10 years have been a true test of faith for Catholics in Northeast Ohio.
In 2009, 50 churches in 15 months were forced to close or merge due to a shortage of money and priests.
It was a trying time for a resilient people.
“It's a wakeup call to the rest of the Dioceses to understand the strength, the beauty and the vibrant spiritual life that was in these churches."
Years later, the congregation itself is going through its own resurrection.
"Cleveland is the comeback city,” Father Michael McCandless, Catholic priest, said. “We've seen it."
It’s clear, from the leadership down, members of the Catholic faith have passion for the communities they serve.
"I love the church more today because I've walked with her,” Father McCandless said. "I've grown up in the Cleveland Diocese and this is where I want to be."
But is love alone enough to fill the church pews?
The truth is, the population is dwindling. In 2012, the population was at 27 percent in the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland, in 2017 that has dropped to 24 percent.
"God's brought us out of darker moments,” Father McCandless said. “God will keep acting."
Over the years, a strong faith-based Catholic community has made all the difference but a mission still has to be fulfilled and work still has to be done, which is why looking to the future with new Bishop Nelson Perez will be so important.
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