Archbishop reaches out to closing parishes

In efforts to reach out to grieving parishioners who face parish closings Archbishop Seán O’Malley has visited around 10 parishes since May 25 when the parish suppressions were announced, said Father Christopher Coyne, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Boston.

Some of the visits resulted from previously scheduled events, but he visited two last week — St. Peter Parish in South Boston on Sept. 8 and Mary Immaculate of Lourdes in Newton on Sept. 10 — because of invitations sent after May 25.

The archbishop cannot visit all 82 closing parishes but plans to visit as many as he can, said Father Coyne. The archbishop wants to pray with them, listen to their concerns and help them understand reconfiguration, he added. But many parishioners remain hopeful that the archbishop will change his mind and their parishes will remain open.

Along with five priests, the archbishop concelebrated an evening Mass with the people of Mary Immaculate. Around 400 people attend Sunday Masses at the 134-year-old church, but over 550 people crowded this Mass, leaving standing room only. Although Mary Immaculate, the first church built in Newton, is on the list for closure, the official decree and closure date have not been released.

Archbishop O’Malley began his homily by thanking parishioners for inviting him and went on to talk about blindness to our own limitations.

"The path to God really begins when we begin to understand our own sinfulness and when we begin to understand how much our God loves us in spite of our sinfulness," he said.

We need “the light of faith” to know God, ourselves and what we are supposed to do. We need faith to see through God’s eyes because “appearances so often deceive us,” he said.

People of faith have a duty to share that faith with others, he added.

"We're here today celebrating the Eucharist because someone took the time to teach us about God," he said.

Archbishop O’Malley also addressed reconfiguration and stressed its importance in the mission of the Church in Boston.

"We ask God to give us that clear vision of faith that God has entrusted to us at this moment in our history as his people here in the Archdiocese of Boston. The reconfiguration of parishes is a very painful process, but it is to help us fulfill our mission in the future," he said.

God is asking sacrifice from parishioners of closing churches now in order to create a better, stronger Church for future generations, he said.

"We pray the Lord will strengthen us, strengthen our faith, so that we will be able to help each other on this journey, so that we will be in a position to pass our faith on to others," he said. "Christ needs us to be long-distance runners who persevere through every obstacle."

The archbishop illustrated his point by talking about a dog chasing a rabbit.

"When other dogs see the dog running and hear the barking, they begin to run and bark too, but only the dog that keeps his eye on the rabbit will persevere," he said.

The dogs that focus on the running and the barking will lose sight of the rabbit, he added.

Catholics in Boston must keep their eyes on Christ in order to persevere over the reconfiguration process, he said. Then they will see God’s love for them and His presence in their lives, community and church.

But many Mary Immaculate parishioners still said they hoped the archbishop would change his mind about the closing of their parish.

"We're hoping it's not closing. We're hoping there's no date," said Karen Osborn, a parishioner for all 43 years of her life. "I pray that he's [the archbishop] going to see the light."

Osborn is one of eight children who grew up in the church. She was married there and one of her sisters will be married there on Oct. 2. The church is the “heartbeat” of a strong community, she said.

Many parishioners wore green ribbons pinned to their shirts, and the ribbons were placed around the necks of statues of Mary, Joseph and Jesus. A box with the ribbons sat on a table in the front of the church with a sign that said, “Green is the color of hope. Keep hope alive. Wear a green ribbon for our parish.”

A sign on a bulletin board near the table listed ten ways to save Mary Immaculate, including attending events, keeping the church clean and praying. Number 10 read, “Go to Mass with Bishop Sean on Friday night, Sept. 10 at 7:00 p.m.”

Maryanne Mendolia, a life-long parishioner of 68 years, said she is glad Archbishop O’Malley came to Mary Immaculate.

"I wanted him to come. I wanted him to see what he decided to close," she said.

Mendolia hopes the church will stay open and says she has “good vibes.” Her grandchildren are the fifth generation of her family attending church at Mary Immaculate. Her parents moved from Ireland and did not drive, so they bought a home close enough to walk to church.

Transportation is still an issue for many parishioners at Mary Immaculate. There is no bus service on Sundays. About a dozen residents from the Stone Institute Pettee House, a rest home and nursing home across the street, sat in the church’s front row during Mass. Most use walkers or wheelchairs to get around.

Sophia Thompson, a resident of the rest home, looks out at Mary Immaculate from her window everyday and has attended Mass there for two years. She does not know where she will go when the parish closes.

"I never saw such a tremendous crowd," she said about the Mass with the archbishop. "I was wishing he'd say this place will never close. I'm still praying."

Transportation is a problem for more than just the elderly. Sheila Brady, a parishioner for 39 years, does not drive. Brady, from Ireland, said she is worried about the long walk to Mass in the winter but remains positive.

"I'll find a way," she said.

Brady is more concerned with losing Father Kenneth A. LeBlanc, Mary Immaculate’s pastor.

"We're not just losing a church. We're losing a priest," she said.

The fate of the church is in God’s hands, Father LeBlanc told parishioners after the Mass.

Father LeBlanc was born in Waltham and grew up in Natick. He has been the pastor for over four years and does not know where he will go when it closes.

"It's a heartbreaking reality for everyone concerned," he said.

Members of St. Peter Parish in South Boston are also heartbroken at the decision to close their parish. They have refused a request by the archdiocese to submit a date for a final Mass. Originally, the archbishop proposed closure on Sept. 1, but he accepted an appeal to stay open for the 100th anniversary, which was celebrated on Sept. 12.

Parishioners plan to appeal the closure to Archbishop O’Malley and then Pope John Paul II.

Many parishioners confronted the archbishop after the Mass on Sept. 8, asking him to change his mind. Archbishop O’Malley left abruptly after an exchange with a female parishioner, according to The Boston Globe.

The woman would not tell the press what she said, and the archbishop’s aides said they were not sure what had happened.

St. Peter is a parish with a prominent Lithuanian community from 40 cities and towns in eastern Massachusetts. Lithu-anian immigrants built the church in 1904, and Masses are still offered in Lithuanian.

Father Stephen Zukas, the pastor, cited low sacramental index and changing demographics in South Boston as reasons for closure.

"There is a 100-year tradition in the parish of not only building our church, but being an active community and being able to support ourselves," he said. "The people are determined to do anything they can to preserve the parish and the church."

"By closing our parish they're basically annihilating a Lithuanian ministry in Boston," said Gloria Adomkaitis, the chairwoman of both the parish council and the Friends of St. Peter Lithuanian Parish.

AP materials contributed to this report

Nation
Retired Green Bay auxiliary bishop failed to report abuse, withdraws from ministry

Green Bay, Wis., Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- Bishop Robert Morneau, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of Green Bay, has withdrawn from public ministry saying ...

Nation
Dolan 'impatient' waiting for apostolic visitation in response to McCarrick

New York City, N.Y., Sep 20, 2018 CNA.- The Archbishop of New York said Thursday that while he has confidence in the way Pope Francis is handling the ...

World
Two more Chilean bishops step down in wake of abuse crisis

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis accepted the resignations of two more Chilean bishops, bringing to seven the number of bishops who have stepped down ...

Local
Celebration of the Priesthood dinner raises over $1.8 million

BOSTON -- A record 1,700 people attended the 10th annual Celebration of the Priesthood dinner to raise funds for the Clergy Health and Retirement Trust ...

Local
Lawrence parish helps community cope with gas explosion aftermath

LAWRENCE -- Volunteers at St. Patrick Church's Cor Unum Meal Center were serving dinner when multiple natural gas explosions and fires broke out in homes ...

Local
Ceremony, Mass kick off St. Augustine Chapel bicentennial

SOUTH BOSTON -- St. Augustine Chapel and Cemetery began its year-long bicentennial celebration on the weekend of Sept. 14-16 with tours, special Masses, ...

Local
Mass. Knights install new officers

The Massachusetts State Council Knights of Columbus recently held its Installation of State Officers at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Canton with ...

Local
Deal will keep Sancta Maria Nursing Facility open

CAMBRIDGE -- Sancta Maria Nursing Facility announced Sept. 17 that it has negotiated a comprehensive operational contract with Advocate Healthcare Management ...

Local
From Cardinal Seán's blog

As I mentioned in my preface to last week's blog, this week and last, I have been in Rome for meetings related to the work of the Pontifical Commission ...

Nation
N.Y. Archdiocese names judge as independent reviewer on abuse protocols

NEW YORK (CNS) -- New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan has named a former federal judge to study archdiocesan policies and procedures with respect to sexual ...

Nation
U.S. reports poverty declines, but agencies finding needs remain great

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The good news from the U.S. Census Bureau Sept. 12 was that the poverty rate dropped for the third straight year in 2017 and median ...

Nation
Class-action lawsuit filed against eight Pennsylvania dioceses

PITTSBURGH (CNS) -- A class-action lawsuit was filed Sept. 17 against eight Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania demanding the dioceses provide proof that ...

World
Apostolic visitor outlines plans for expansion at Medjugorje shrine

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) -- The Polish archbishop tasked with overseeing Bosnia-Herzegovina's Medjugorje shrine has outlined plans for expansion, including ...

World
Pope names administrator as Indian bishop investigated for alleged rape

MUMBAI, India (CNS) -- Pope Francis has accepted the request of an Indian bishop accused of raping a nun to be relieved of his duties during the investigation. In ...

World
In letters to German cardinal, retired pope defends way he stepped down

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Retired Pope Benedict XVI expressed his displeasure with the way a German cardinal publicly criticized his stepping down as pontiff, ...

Nation
Thousands of Hispanics expected in Texas for Encuentro summit

Fort Worth, Texas, Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- As many as 3,000 Catholics of Hispanic background are expected in Texas this week for the National V Encuentro, ...

Nation
Church plans third-party abuse reporting system, code of conduct

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pledging to "heal and protect with every bit of the strength God provides us," the U.S. bishops' Administrative Committee Sept. 19 ...

World
Be grateful to parents, never insult them, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Honoring mothers and fathers means being grateful for the gift of life and Christians should never insult anyone's parents, Pope ...

World
Canadian cardinal: Women should help screen, train priest applicants

Poznan, Poland, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- Increasing the role of women in screening and training priests is among the steps that should be taken to prevent future ...

World
Vatican delegation will travel to China this month to finalize agreement, Chinese newspaper reports

Beijing, China, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- A newspaper tied to the Chinese Communist Party reported Tuesday that a delegation of Vatican officials will head to ...

World
Media reporting Vatican-China agreement could be signed in late September

HONG KONG (CNS) -- The long-awaited Sino-Vatican agreement on the nomination of bishops is expected to be signed in September, reported several media ...

World
Update: Irish singer Bono calls pope 'extraordinary man for extraordinary times'

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Bono, the lead singer of the Irish band U2, said he told Pope Francis that in Ireland "it looks as though the abusers are being ...

World
Cardinal Marx says mistakes were made, calls for change in German church

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, head of the German bishops' conference, admitted that mistakes were made in the German church's handling of sex abuse of minors ...

Nation
Church crisis response: Healing Masses, listening sessions, fasting

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In response to the sexual abuse crisis in the church, Catholics are praying for victims, talking about their frustration and anger, ...

Nation
Pope names Minnesota priest as auxiliary bishop of Hartford

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Francis has appointed Father Juan M. Betancourt, a priest in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, as auxiliary bishop ...

World
Listening church: Pope gives new vision for Synod of Bishops

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Synod of Bishops increasingly should be a structure for listening to the Catholic faithful, demonstrating a local bishop's concern ...

Nation
Director of Courage releases letter on Penn. abuse report

Washington D.C., Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Courage International, an apostolate to support people with same sex-attraction in leading chaste lives, has issued ...

Nation
Richmond bishop apologizes to victims; commits to opening, reviewing files

RICHMOND, Va. (CNS) -- In celebrating the Diocese of Richmond's first Mass of Atonement for victims of abuse Sept. 14, Bishop Barry C. Knestout apologized ...

Nation
Advocates decry historically low cap for refugee entry in 2019

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Advocates for refugee admissions into the United States decried what one statement called a historically low cap of 30,000 for fiscal ...