Three Somerville parishes to merge July 1

SOMERVILLE -- Cardinal Seán O'Malley has approved the merging of the three parishes that make up the Somerville Tri-Parish Catholic Community.

St. Ann Parish, St. Joseph Parish, and St. Catherine of Genoa Parish will become a single parish, though each church building will retain its name.

"It's the next logical step of our collaboration over the past 12 years," Peter Regan told the Pilot on May 23. Regan is the business manager of the collaborative and the music director at St. Ann Parish and St. Catherine of Genoa Parish.

He said the parishes, each over 100 years old, individually have "dwindling population and resources." He said they are coming together "in order to better evangelize Somerville. A combining of resources was figured to be the best way to move forward."

Father Brian McHugh has been the pastor of St. Catherine of Genoa Parish since 2003. He was asked to take over St. Ann in 2007 and St. Joseph in 2012.

In a May 23 interview with the Pilot, Father McHugh said Mass attendance has declined because the number of people joining the collaborative has been less than the number of parishioners dying or moving out of the area.

He said a meeting was held for parishioners to learn about the reasons for the merge.

"When I gave the rationale of the possibility of one, if not two, closing, they were more settled with the idea," Father McHugh said.

"I think the vast majority of people see it as a positive change," Adam Dupre, director of faith formation for the collaborative, told the Pilot.

"They understand the need for merging the parishes, and in that vein of understanding, they're accepting of it and hopeful of a bright future ahead in Somerville," he said.

Parishioners were invited to suggest possible saints to be the namesake and patron of the new parish. The parish council narrowed the suggestions down to five candidates, which they presented to Cardinal O'Malley. The cardinal chose Sts. Louis and Zelie Martin, a married couple whose five daughters, including doctor of the Church St. Theresa of the Little Flower, all became nuns.

Dupre said he thinks the new parish's name is a good choice, since parents are the first educators of children.

"Using our new patrons as a sort of springboard to promote a culture of vocations and a culture of holiness is a great way to start for a new parish, I think. It gives me a lot of hope," Dupre said.

The new parish will also rename its elementary school. The original name was St. Theresa School, but in the 1950s it was changed to St. Catherine of Genoa School to highlight its connection to St. Catherine of Genoa Parish. Now, the collaborative has decided -- and received approval -- to rename the school after the Martins' daughter, St. Theresa.

"As we begin this new phase, we thought it is only appropriate that the school for the new parish would once again take the name St. Theresa. This will not only show a close connection with the new parish, but honor all those whom went before and loved St. Theresa School," Father McHugh said in a letter to students' parents dated May 30.

Father McHugh told the Pilot, "We move forward in hope and we pray for the intercession of Sts. Louis and Zelie Martin and the Little Flower that things go as well as possible, and that our faith continues to be strengthened from the three worship sites, now one new parish."

Cardinal O'Malley's decree merging the three parishes into one will take effect on July 1.