SALEM -- Faithful across the archdiocese waited last week to hear which parishes would enter the pilot phase of the new pastoral plan to organize the archdiocese's 288 parishes into 135 collaboratives. Within a collaborative, each parish will retain its separate identity but share a pastor and pastoral team.
Then, on Jan. 10, it was announced that 28 parishes in Belmont, Beverly, Billerica, Brookline, Jamaica Plain, Lakeville, Lynn, Lynnfield, Methuen, Middleboro, Newton, Roxbury, Salem, and Weymouth received news that they would constitute the first 12 collaboratives to start the first phase of the plan.
In Salem, St. James Parish, St. John the Baptist Parish, Immaculate Conception Parish, and St. Anne Parish will form a collaborative of four parishes. The new pastor of the four parishes will be named by early April.
Father John Sheridan, the pastor of St. James, said he felt encouraged that the plan is underway.
"I am delighted because we have a plan, we have a schedule, and I look forward to walking through the stages of it," Father Sheridan said.
"The whole process has been --and I believe in a very special way here in Salem -- organic. It has come up from the community and a series of meetings, a series of discussions, and that atmosphere of trust and openness that has been fostered by this entire process really gives us a sense of confidence that we can move ahead," he said.
He said he saw the pieces of the plan coming together, with clear goals.
"I have appreciated from the very beginning the goals of this entire process," he said.
"I think we have already begun to take advantage of many of those opportunities here, particularly in Salem. The parishes in Salem have worked together for quite a while," Father Sheridan also said.
He cited the example of the Salem Pro Life Committee, which brings together parishioners from St. James Parish, Immaculate Conception Parish and St. Anne Parish in Salem at monthly meetings to set an agenda for promoting pro-life ministries.
"This is giving us the impetus to just take it to the next step," he said.
He said he feels the plan will not corrode the identity of any one parish as part of the collaborative, even though St. John the Baptist offers ministries in Polish, St. Ann upholds a French Catholic tradition, St. James has transitioned from an Irish parish to a more diverse faith community, and Immaculate Conception currently houses a "vibrant Hispanic community."
"Each parish has its own gifts, talents, abilities, milieus, languages, circumstances, and then we bring them together," he said.
He said he envisions music as a way by which each parish can assert its unique identity as a distinct community.