(02/26/13) - It's an uncertain time for Catholics around Mid-Michigan.
Churches and parishes are slated to close, and in just a couple of days, Pope Benedict the 16th will step down.
But Tuesday was a day of celebration. It was 75 years ago that the Diocese of Saginaw was created.
The decision was made at the Vatican. It took more than a week for the news to arrive here, but when it did, it was a big deal.
A special mass was held at the Cathedral of Mary the Assumption, lead by Bishop Joseph Cistone. The mass started with a very special walk in. Dozens of priests from around the 11 counties the Diocese serves were part of it.
Among the faithful at this special celebratory mass was 89-year-old Charles Torongo. Seventy-five years ago, he was also a parishioner.
"We were in school, we were in the ninth grade at that time," he said.
That is when news came that the Diocese of Saginaw had been formed. His home church, now named 'Cathedral of Mary of the Assumption', would play an important role.
"We we all thrilled about it because we were the greatest church in the diocese," said Bill Hendrick, parishioner.
Decades later, neither Torongo nor his buddy Hendrick could miss another important milestone for the diocese. They were greeted by Bishop Joseph Cistone.
"To some diocese and archdiocese, 75 [years] isn't all that long, but for us, it really is monumental," Bishop Cistone said.
During that time, there have been six bishops. The first was Bishop William Murphy. Torongo was there, and played an important role. He held the crosier - also known as a staff - during the installation.
"One of the priests took it from me and gave it over to the bishop then," he said. That very same staff was used by Bishop Cistone for the 75th anniversary mass.
Bishop Cistone says, over the years, much has changed in the diocese. That includes the recent decision to close and merge churches and parishes within the diocese in the coming years.
"When we began with the 'Planning for Tomorrow's Parishes', we thought, 'Gee, during a jubilee year, do we really want to do it?' But I think it makes our jubilee celebration genuine. We are celebrating our history, and yet we know that our present and our future are going to be quite different," he said. "You know, our parishes in the next two to three years will be undergoing a great deal of change, but it's only a change in the structure. The people are the same."
Torongo has remained faithful through all of the change, and says it wasn't until adulthood that his moment 75 years ago really sunk in.
"I think I realize it more after the years go by than at the time," he said. "Of course, we were still young kids more or less."
Tuesday's mass is just one of several events planned to celebrate 75 years. Other celebrations are planned for this summer, when the weather is better.
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