Changes proposed to parishes of Salem Catholic Collaborative

SALEM -- Citing ongoing financial challenges, the Salem Catholic Collaborative has submitted a plan to Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley that would see two of the collaborative's parishes merged into one and a third parish converted into a shrine.

If the plan is accepted, St. James Parish and Immaculate Conception parishes would merge, according to a May 25 letter to parishioners sent by administrator Father Robert Connors, while St. John the Baptist Parish, a Polish parish, would be "shifted from a parish to a shrine of Divine Mercy," separate from the merged parish.

In his letter, Father Connors stressed that both St. James and Immaculate Conception churches will remain open as part of the new parish. However, to help pay off a "significant debt to the archdiocese" and "to have some type of endowment to move forward," some of the parishes' unused properties would be put up for lease by developers.

Input is being sought from parishioners on the new name for the merged parish.

The plan has previously been endorsed by the leadership of the three parishes of the Salem Catholic Collaborative and at an informational meeting held at St. James on June 8, over 100 parishioners also endorsed the plan, The Salem News reported.

A presentation on the proposed changes was made to the archdiocese's Presbyteral Council on May 18, and it is expected to vote on a recommendation to Cardinal O'Malley June 22. Following the vote, the plan will be submitted to Cardinal O'Malley for final approval.