Local

Softening the blow

by
5/28/2004

Throughout the reconfiguration process, Boston Catholics adopted different attitudes. Some wanted a swift decision so that the pain would end as soon as possible. Others would have preferred that the process drag on for years.

Some wished for a deep, radical cut in the number of parishes to ensure that the archdiocese could live within its current, diminished level of means. Others urged that only the minimum number of parishes should close

Some thought that only the most financially troubled or structurally unsound parishes should be shuttered. Meanwhile, others worried that, as is too often the case in our society, the poor would bear a disproportionate share of the burden.

On one thing, everyone seemed to agree: The neighboring parish should close, not mine.

"D-day" has come and gone. A simple analysis of the final results of reconfiguration demonstrates that people's voices were heard.

Of the 70 parishes to be suppressed, 51 were among those recommended by the local parish clusters. In only 19 cases of the parishes to be closed did the recommendation come from the “central administration” of the archdiocese — vicars, regional bishops or the central committee. Several of these undoubtedly reflect cases in which the local cluster did not make any recommendation.

Despite what some critics of the process allege, this demonstrates that the archdiocese did not put us all through the reconfiguration process to justify their predetermined conclusions.

By some estimates, as many as 100 parishes were expected to close. Now we know the results. While 70 parishes will be suppressed, five new parishes will be created, each keeping one church open, and five of the suppressed parishes will be kept open as “places of worship” — a net loss of 60 churches for the archdiocese. As regrettable as that is, the archbishop has softened the blow we could have felt from this reconfiguration.

Although some parishes in the poorest areas of the archdiocese are to close, many have been spared. Certainly the Ethnic and the Hispanic Apostolates have suffered, but based on the data no one can doubt that special care was given to them. At the same time, financially sound parishes have also taken a share of the overall downsizing. Also, the closures of parish schools feared to be massive turned out to be minimal.

Many opinions, one outcome. After extensive participation and input by lay people, religious, priests and bishops, the final result is before us. Some will agree, others will disagree with it. There is no formula that could have been applied to obtain a clean, scientific result. No matter what each individual feels, we must move forward in unity. Our mission to be salt, light and leaven for the world is far too important.