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Issue Date: July 2010 Issue

Faithfully Preserved

Jessica Roblin

Our churches have become part of us, and we have become part of them. Walter Grossman and Barry Herman understand that. It's why they've been working to preserve the memory of 10 recently shuttered Cleveland-area Catholic churches, including St. Procop on West 41st Street (pictured). "In a generation, no one will know [these churches] existed," says Grossman, the photographer who documented the places of worship featured in Cleveland's Vanishing Sacred Architecture (Arcadia Publishing, $21.99). The book, which includes a forward by U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, was released June 28, around the same time as the Cleveland Catholic Diocese's last scheduled church closing.

While working on the book during the past 18 months, longtime friends Grossman and Herman met with pastors and staff members of the churches and saw firsthand the emotional turmoil the closings have caused.

"I could see, not all, but in many cases, it was almost like part of themselves was taken away," Grossman recalls. "They essentially lost their lives' work."

He and Herman also uncovered interesting stories along the way. One century-old tale claims that the artists who painted a pair of angels in one particular church modeled them after two children who stopped by every day to watch them work.

Herman says he and Grossman tried to sidestep the political aspect of the controversial church closings and instead let their passion for historic preservation serve as their guide.

"It's a factual book ... a keepsake for members," Herman says. "[It's] to remember this incredible history of these religious places."

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