Merger plans for South End, Newton parishes announced

BRIGHTON -- Archdiocesan officials have updated parishioners in Boston’s South End and Newton on the status of parish mergers which have been under consideration since archdiocesan reconfiguration took place in 2004.

Meetings in the two communities were held Nov. 26 to communicate Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley’s plans for the churches as well as continue dialogue with parishioners, according to Father Mark O’Connell, assistant for canonical affairs of the archdiocese.

Cardinal O’Malley has proposed that Holy Trinity Parish in the South End merge with the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, and that Mary Immaculate of Lourdes and St. Philip Neri Parishes in Newton merge, he said.

In the South End, Holy Trinity Church would close, and the cardinal is working on a plan for two charities, the Latin Mass community and the parishioners of German heritage that are located at the parish. The German heritage community would merge with the cathedral community and be assigned a chaplain, Father Harry Kaufman. Father Kaufman is from the Holy Trinity community and celebrates Mass in German for them on occasion. He is currently parochial vicar at Sacred Heart in Weymouth and will continue in that assignment, he said.

The Latin Mass community has been asked to relocate to Mary Immaculate of Lourdes in Newton, which would serve as a central location for the pre-Vatican II Mass in the archdiocese. The cardinal has also proposed assigning Father Charles Higgins as pastor of the new merged parish. Father Higgins, currently parochial vicar at St. Theresa of Avila Parish in West Roxbury, celebrates Latin Mass for the community once a month, he said.

It has not yet been decided where the two social service agencies hosted by Holy Trinity, the Cardinal Medeiros Center for homeless older adults and the Bridge Over Troubled Waters residence for at-risk youth, will be relocated to, he said.

In Newton, the cardinal has recommended that Mary Immaculate of Lourdes Church remain open and St. Philip Neri Church close. The Korean community, currently located at St. Philip Neri, will be allowed to worship at the church for the following year. During that time, community members will dialogue with the chancery in order to figure out the best location for the community going forward, Father O’Connell said.

The new Mass schedule at Mary Immaculate would accommodate both Newton parishes as well as the Latin Mass community, he added.

Originally in reconfiguration, the archdiocese announced that Mary Immaculate would close and St. Philip Neri would remain open. After consultation of the External Reconfiguration Review Committee, formed by the cardinal in October 2004, the cardinal appointed an administrator, Father Paul Cornell, to assist the two communities in merging and deciding which church would remain open.

The parishes in both the South End and Newton will be merged and the property and assets will be combined, Father O’Connell said.

Father O’Connell added that both meetings were meant to be consultations and that Cardinal O’Malley will continue to listen to concerns of parishioners before making a final decision.

“We’re going to consider all of the reactions of all of the people and make a recommendation to the cardinal based on that,” he said. “He very much wants to hear their reaction.”

The cardinal hopes to complete the mergers during the first two months of 2007, he added.