South shore parish takes major step towards building a new church

BRAINTREE -- The growth in Catholic families participating in parish life in communities in the South Shore region has increased substantially in recent years. Active and engaged parishes providing diverse programs and initiatives focused on evangelization have been at the center of this growth. The newly merged St. Mary's - St. Helen's - St. Thecla's Parish with churches in Hanover, Norwell, and Pembroke has reached a point where its current footprint no longer meets the overall parish needs given the anticipated growth based on current trends.

A substantial initiative has been underway to develop a long-range plan to meet the continued growth and to enhance the common pastoral needs of St. Mary's in Hanover, St. Helen's in Norwell, and St. Thecla's in Pembroke.

A decision has been reached by the parish to close all three churches, sell two of the three properties, and build a larger and more diverse campus that will bring the entire worshipping community under one roof. The Hanover property has been selected as the location for this new church and will remain open during construction of the new church.

In support of this endeavor, the Archdiocese of Boston has engaged a broker for the potential sale of St. Helen's in Norwell and St. Thecla's in Pembroke. The sale of any Church property follows established protocols that are conducted by the Real Estate Division in cooperation with the parish. Great care is given to proposals that meet the needs of the parish, do not conflict with Catholic teaching, and are good for the community.

"Our communities are at a crossroads given the incredible growth we are experiencing," said pastor Father Chris Hickey. "Parish life is at the center of our evangelization efforts. Seeing we are one parish community, it makes sense to bring us all under one roof while investing in our future with a new church."

A brief overview of the sacramental life of the three churches shows substantial growth.

In 2005 there were 128 baptisms; this year that number is expected to exceed 200. In 2005, there were approximately 172 first communions; that number has increased to over 240. Confirmations have seen the greatest rise, likely as a result of a very successful Life Teen program. In 2005, there were 175 confirmations; this past year there were 460. Funerals have also greatly increased. From 2005 to 2006 there were 28 funerals; last year, over 160 funerals were celebrated, and it is anticipated that over 200 funerals will be celebrated before the end of the present year.

Mass attendance in 2005 was approximately 2,000 congregants at all Masses. Pre-COVID attendance at St. Mary's and St. Helen's was about 3,200 and at St. Thecla's was about 1,000. Mass attendance has been increasing steadily this past year, and the parish is confident this fall's count will be well over 3,300. Once the parish is back to pre-COVID participation, the attendance should be approximately 4,000.

Daily Mass numbers have returned to their pre-pandemic levels, as the parish welcomes about 100 people a day with considerably more during Lent.