St. Joseph Church parishioners in Kankakee County fight to save church

Cheryl Weaver was baptized in St. Joseph Church 58 years ago. Five generations of her family have gone here. So when the Joliet diocese closed it six years ago, she immediately began looking for ways to keep it open.

Video Transcript

JOHN GARCIA: Cheryl Weaver was baptized in St. Joseph Church 58 years ago. Five generations of her family have gone here. So when the Joliet Diocese closed it six years ago, she immediately began looking for ways to keep it open.

CHERYL WEAVER: It's very emotional. It's, it's not just a building. It's senseless what they're trying to do.

JOHN GARCIA: The small church is in the middle of a cornfield in a town with a population of about 300 people. But the story got the attention of an attorney in Massachusetts, who has worked to save dozens of churches across the country. Brody Hale says he even has an investor willing to pay market value to buy St. Joseph's and fix it up, making it a chapel. But the diocese has refused.

BRODY HALE: This is so patently unjust, the only comparison I can make is that this is akin to beating a caged dog.

JOHN GARCIA: Hale says the diocese is violating church law. He appealed to the Vatican, but ultimately came up short. In a statement, a spokesperson for the diocese says, St. Joseph Parish in Cabery was closed in 2015 because the building was in severe disrepair and attendance had decreased to fewer than 40 people. The Vatican tribunal in late 2020 issued its ruling, affirming the diocese's decision to close the parish. Cheryl Weaver has gotten estimates for repairs she says her group would gladly pay.

CHERYL WEAVER: It's nothing that can't be fixed. It's, it's not that big of an issue.

BRODY HALE: What these people have been put through is just enough to make my blood boil. I just cannot overstate how truly outraged I am.

JOHN GARCIA: Those working to save the church say they've been told the diocese plans to demolish this building in 30 to 60 days. But they're not giving up, though they admit their best hope at this point is a miracle.