Archdiocese revokes Plymouth closure

WEST PLYMOUTH — “Santa Claus has come early to West Plymouth,” began Father James E. Braley, the pastor of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha Parish at a Dec. 14 meeting in his parish. “The archbishop has reversed his decision!”

In an impromptu meeting of the Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha parish council, finance committee and appeal subcommittee, 15 parishioners listened attentively as Father Edwin D. Condon, Interim Regional Vicar for the South Region, read a statement issued by the Archdiocese of Boston.

“The decision to keep Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha Parish open follows from a better understanding of the dramatic residential development and corresponding population growth in Plymouth, geographically the largest town in Massachusetts and one of the fastest growing,” the statement read. “The facilities at Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha Parish have the capacity to grow to provide for the needs of the Catholics of West Plymouth in the years ahead,” the statement continued.

Putting aside the statement, Father Condon added, “This is unconditional, which means that the issue will not be looked at again in the next year. This is the only place in the archdiocese in which the decision has been reversed and it’s a final decision.”

Smiling, Father Braley then told the group, “So it’s your mission, should you choose to accept it, to get on the horn and call everyone.”

Amid claps and hugs and a flurry of cellular phone calls, the parishioners scrambled to tell everyone they could that Blessed Kateri would remain open. One parishioner sought out a parish directory to find phone numbers while another ran to the nearby parish hall to tell the St. Vincent de Paul society “that our parish has been spared.”

In the midst of the activity, a parishioner hastened to a nearby store to buy a bottle of champagne. When he returned, the overjoyed parishioners made a toast.

“Here’s to the wonderful news,” toasted Charles Blaisdell, vice chairperson of the parish council. “It was far greater than I ever expected.”

“To say that we’re thrilled is an understatement,” declared Father Braley. “We are certainly grateful to God and to the archbishop for answering our prayers.”

“I know we’re all looking forward to being a very strong parish in West Plymouth for many years to come,” he continued.

Father Braley also praised the work of the appeal subcommittee for presenting their arguments to the archdiocese’s External Reconfiguration Review Committee in a “clear, concise and correct manner.”

“Everybody loves their parish,” said Mary Maddan, who headed the appeal subcommittee, “but in our parish, it was more than that.”

Maddan, working together with several parishioners, “put together what we thought was new information” regarding the size of West Plymouth, the expected population growth in the area in the coming years, as well as the “uniqueness” of the church’s ability to “renew and revitalize” Catholics in the West Plymouth area.

Paul Souza, a parishioner since the parish’s inception in 1982 who served on the appeal subcommittee, praised the faith of his fellow parishioners. “It’s amazing to me how the parishioners held steadfast. We never took the low road to make the Church look bad.”

“Blessed Kateri would not let us down,” he sighed.  “This is an enjoyable night.”

For parishioner Dorothy Esser, the decision comes as an answer to the parish’s prayers. The parish had originally been scheduled to close on Nov. 21, although the archdiocese never issued an official decree. Esser, together with many other parishioners, prayed continuously that the archdiocese would allow the parish to remain open.

“We’re overwhelmed right now because we’ve been praying for this for so long,” she uttered.

Although the parish had begun the appeal process, she said, “we weren’t going to try [our case] in the paper like other parishes have done. We were just going to present our appeal and accept the decision made by the archdiocese.”

 “We got our Christmas miracle,” smiled Esser.