CLEVELAND -- Holly Nixon used to need only 10 minutes before the 9 a.m. Mass to pick up her elderly, disabled mother and find a parking spot close to the sanctuary door.
That was before St. William Catholic Church in Euclid merged with nearby St. Robert Bellarmine, which then closed, shifting hundreds of people into St. William's pews.
"Now I have to pick her up at 8:30," said Nixon, noting that the parking lot, expanded since the January merger, fills up pretty quickly on Sunday mornings.
Nixon's mother, Loretta Valencic, has been attending Mass for more than 50 years at St. William. The church is now Ss. Robert & William Catholic Church, the result of an extensive downsizing by the Cleveland Catholic Diocese.
Seventeen new parishes, involving 39 churches, have been created as a result of mergers since last year.
Ss. Robert & William stands as an example of how the consolidation -- however painful for the parishioners losing their churches -- can lead to growth and good will.