Spirit moves in Framingham

FRAMINGHAM — Almost 25 years ago, a small group of folks who attended daily Mass at St. Jeremiah Church in Framingham started to meet after Mass for conversation, friendship and coffee.

On June 5, that small group — now an integral part of neighboring St. George Parish since St. Jeremiah’s was closed a year ago as part of parish reconfiguration — met at a local restaurant.

There were stories and smiles, memories and tears.

This “lunch bunch” has been supported by the pastor who encouraged its founding, Father Bill O’Connor, now retired, and by Father Thomas Maguire, now pastor of St. Helen Parish, Norwell and most recently by the parish’s last pastor, Father Ron Calhoun.

The group took an informal leadership role when the decision to close the parish was announced. St. George’s pastor, Father Frank O’Brien and St. Jeremiah’s, Father Ron Calhoun took more formal steps to ensure the smooth transition for the parishioners of both parishes.

One of those steps was the merging of the religious education programs of the two parishes. Paula Dolliver, who had been the religious education director at St. Jeremiah’s and holds the same job now at St. George Parish, highly praised both priests for their foresight and vision in beginning early to bring the two programs together.

“Things are going so well now, that some people who initially had gone elsewhere are returning to St. George and enrolling their children,” she said.

Listening to the people at the final luncheon of this year, you came away with a very positive sense about what is happening in St. George Parish.

The spirit of cooperation and collaboration among and between people and priests is palpable. The parishioners see the priests as team leaders and want to help the parish — not merely survive but to grow and flourish.

Also, there is an evident willingness to roll up sleeves and get working.

Sister Ann Marie McAndrews, SND, the pastoral associate at St. George’s, readily admits that the success of the process was attributable to the efforts of the leadership of both parishes, especially the priests.

Jim and Lillian Conway were enthusiastic about the potential in the parish. While expressing sadness that their parish had to close, they realized that sacrifices have to be made for the greater good. “We’d been there since the founding of the parish in 1958, so it was difficult. But these two priests made it work,” said Lillian.

There was a twinge of sadness among some of the group about the few parishioners who could not bring themselves to leave St. Jeremiah’s and “come to St. George.” In some ways, “it’s not over for all of us until the doors are finally closed,” said one former St. Jeremiah’s parishioner.

There is tangible evidence that the priests and people of St. George Parish are confident that the guidance of the Holy Spirit will be with them on their journey. On June 4, Pentecost Sunday, the parish celebrated the first year of the joint effort at it’s weekend Masses.

The final luncheon of the Church year, the following day, was one filled with hope. When asked, “How many members are from St. Jeremiah?” the polite answer was “We’re all from St. George.”