Archdiocese announces merge of Newton parishes

BRIGHTON -- The Archdiocese of Boston recently announced that St. Philip Neri Parish in Newton will join with Sacred Heart Parish in Newton. The community at St. Philip Neri will celebrate the final Mass at that church on June 3, and a welcoming Mass at Sacred Heart will be held the following Sunday.

The Korean Catholic community, also located at St. Philip Neri, will continue to worship at the church, and the archdiocese has given the community one year to determine which parish they will join in the future.

“This process has been a long one for the people of Newton and most especially for the people of St. Philip Neri Parish,” wrote Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley in a May 18 letter. “Dating back even before I arrived in Boston and before the process known as reconfiguration, the parishioners at St. Philip Neri have lived with the constant possibility of closing.”

Cardinal O’Malley praised St. Philip Neri parishioners for their “dignity and openness” during the process.

At the start of reconfiguration, St. Philip Neri was to remain open. In reconsidering the plan in Newton, the archdiocese looked to join St. Philip Neri with Mary Immaculate of Lourdes Parish in Newton. It was later determined that an arrangement with Mary Immaculate of Lourdes would not be best for all the people at St. Philip Neri. St. Philip Neri parishioners then met with people from each of Newton’s parishes to determine the best possible outcome.

“I am grateful to all four parishes involved in this last process, most especially the welcoming spirit shown by Mary Immaculate of Lourdes Parish, Corpus Christi-St. Bernard Parish and Sacred Heart Parish,” the cardinal continued.

Father Mark O’Connell, assistant for canonical affairs for the archdiocese, explained that St. Philip Neri parishioners chose Sacred Heart for its proximity and facilities, which can accommodate the Korean Catholic Community as well. Sacred Heart has an empty convent, parish center, upstairs and downstairs church, large parking lot and is accessible by public transportation, he said.

Father O’Connell praised the St. Philip Neri parishioners and the leadership of Jim Wilson, who helped organize the move. The entire St. Philip Neri community has come through the period of uncertainty with a positive attitude, he added.

“They chose the best place for their future,” he said.

Wilson told The Pilot that the goal of the process was to keep the St. Philip Neri family intact while also building a new community.

“We are viewing this as an opportunity,” said Wilson. “We wanted to keep the community together and build a larger, more vibrant, community by joining someone else.”

Wilson said that from the beginning parishioners understood that reconfiguration was needed in the archdiocese, although they hoped their parish would remain open. The process was difficult, especially when parishioners faced the decision to choose among the other Newton parishes, he said. “At the end of the day I must say we found something very positive in each of the three parishes, and the decision was extraordinarily difficult,” he said.

After meeting with pastors, parishioners and attending Mass at the various parishes, a consensus in the St. Philip Neri community developed in favor of Sacred Heart Parish.

The move, coming after five years of uncertainty, is a time of excitement and a time of some sadness, Wilson added. The last six months have been especially difficult as parishioners decided what was best for the community’s future. But members of the community have grown closer through the process, he said.

“As difficult as it was, it was a real opportunity and a community-building effort, and we view this opportunity with Sacred Heart as a continuation of that,” he said. “I think our prayers have been answered.”

Once the closure of St. Philip Neri Parish is complete, the assets, records and territory will become part of the combined community of Sacred Heart Parish. The parish has already agreed to allow the Korean community use of St. Philip Neri Church during their year of discernment.