Church Artifacts Finding Unusual Homes
By CARA ANNA, Associated Press Writer
ALBANY, N.Y.. June 11, 2006 (www.localnewsleader.com) - The altar was old. It was ornate. And it was on the gambling floor of the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
James Lang was startled when he saw it there. Lang, vicar of parishes for the Roman Catholic diocese in Syracuse, had a chat with the manager about desecration. The altar eventually was removed.
"They thought it looked cool,' Lang remembers.
It also looked like part of a growing phenomenon: Religious artifacts are migrating as America's shifting population leaves empty churches across the Midwest and Northeast. This March, New York City's archdiocese recommended shutting 31 metro parishes, and Boston has closed almost 60 in three years.
So, chalices appear in antique shop windows. A confessional turns up in an Italian cafe. A stained-glass window of St. Patrick lands in a pub. And don't even start with eBay.
People who deal in such artifacts say interest in them is growing.
And while some are troubled by secular re-uses of religious items, they're encouraged about a different set of collectors: New churches in booming suburbs and in the South and West that are reaching for the relics of an older generation.
From 1952 to 2000, hundreds of thousands of Catholics left the inner cities, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University. Philadelphia, for example, lost 198,000, but nearby Bucks County picked up 234,000. Detroit, Baltimore and Boston saw similar urban-suburban shifts.