Lawrence and Lowell reconfiguration announced

This week the Archdiocese of Boston officially announced the names of the parishes to be closed in the cities of Lawrence and Lowell, the last two areas to complete their reconfiguration process. As a result of reconfiguration, six of Lowell’s 13 parishes will close, and Lawrence will lose four of its seven parishes.

Parishes in Lawrence received notification letters two weeks ago and Lowell parishes received their letters last week.

The reconfiguration of these areas began several months before the rest of the archdiocese at the direction of then-Apostolic Administrator Bishop Richard G. Lennon.

Lowell, the largest cluster in the archdiocese was the last to complete the process. Many had expected seven of the city’s 13 parishes to close. In the end, only six will be suppressed.

Though no official statement has been released by the archdiocese explaining the basis of the archbishop’s decisions, simple geography seems to have played a large part in the determination of closures in Lowell. Parishes in close proximity seem to have been paired, with one being suppressed and one remaining open.

In the north side of the city, St. Louis de France will close and the welcoming parish will be St. Michael. In the west, St. Jeanne D’Arc will be suppressed and the welcoming parish will be St. Rita.

In the center, St. Patrick will welcome parishioners from Nuestra Senora del Carmen, and Immaculate Conception will welcome parishioners from Holy Trinity.

In the south, Notre Dame de Lourdes will close and St. Margaret will welcome its parishioners.

On the west side of the city, St. Anthony will remain open. Sacred Heart will close and parishioners will be welcomed by St. Marie Parish.

The closings in Lawrence are more complex with four suppressions, the creation of a new parish as well as one of only two parish mergers to result from the reconfiguration process.

In the northeast section of Lawrence, Holy Rosary, Holy Trinity and Sts. Peter and Paul Parishes will all be suppressed, and a new parish will be formed with Holy Rosary Church as the primary worship site. The Holy Trinity Church building will remain an additional worship site to serve the needs of Holy Trinity School, which remains open. According to Kathleen Heck, special assistant to the Moderator of the Curia, though regular Sunday Masses will not be held in the church, it is expected to be used for Masses associated with religious education, school Masses and appropriate school events.

St. Patrick will remain as the only Lawrence parish south of the Merrimack River and will welcome parishioners from Sacred Heart.

Meanwhile, in the northwest section of Lawrence, St. Mary/Immaculate Conception Parish will merge with Asuncion de la Virgen Maria. In almost all other cases in the reconfiguration process parishes have been suppressed — or dissolved under church law. In the case of suppression, the archdiocese assumes all the assets and debts of the parish. It also provides the archbishop with greater flexibility in the timing, location and method for forming a new parish if one is needed. In the case of merger, the combined parish retains control of its property and assets to the same extent as any other parish but also retains responsibility for any outstanding debts.

The only other parish merger to come out of the reconfiguration process is in Brockton — between Sacred Heart and St. Coleman of Cloyne Parishes. At the time the reconfiguration process began, that merger was already in process and was allowed to continue.

Many ethnic groups in Lawrence and Lowell areas will be affected by the church closings. In Lowell, two of three French parishes will close. St. Louis de France and St. Jeanne D’Arc will be suppressed while St. Marie will stay open. St. Patrick, the welcoming parish for Nuestra Senora del Carmen, a Hispanic parish, offers Mass in Vietnamese and Cambodian already and will offer Masses in Spanish for incoming parishioners. Holy Trinity, a Polish parish, will close. Another French parish, Sacred Heart, will close in Lawrence. Holy Trinity, a Polish parish, Holy Rosary, an Italian parish and Sts. Peter and Paul, a Portuguese parish will all be suppressed with a new parish opening to serve all three communities.

With the Lawrence and Lowell suppressions and merger, in total the archdiocese will lose 82 parishes, seven new parishes will be created and seven church buildings will remain open as worship sites.

At the start of the reconfiguration process in late 2003, there were 357 parishes in the Archdiocese of Boston.

At least 19 churches in the archdiocese are expected to close before Sept. 1. Two parishes in the archdiocese — Sacred Heart, Medford and St. Mary, Marlborough — have already shut their doors.

As of press time only five parishes in Lawrence and Lowell had received effective dates for closure. St. Louis de France in Lowell will close Aug. 26, Nuestra Senora del Carmen in Lowell will close Aug. 31 and Holy Rosary, Holy Trinity and Sts. Peter and Paul in Lawrence will all close on Nov. 1.

Last January the clusters completed their recommendation on the closure of Catholic schools. At the time it was announced that two Lowell schools — St. Stanislaus and Sacred Heart— would close due to decreasing enrollment. No additional schools were affected by the latest parish closure announcement.