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Wilmington Catholic Collaborative parishes merge

By Mark Labbe Pilot Staff
Posted: 2/16/2018

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St. Dorothy and St. Thomas of Villanova churches in Wilmington. Pilot file photo

BRAINTREE -- The parishes of the Wilmington Catholic Collaborative -- St. Dorothy and St. Thomas of Villanova -- have merged to form the Parish of the Transfiguration.

The merger, effective from Jan. 31, has allowed the once separate parishes to further consolidate resources. The churches of St. Dorothy and St. Thomas, which serve Catholics in Wilmington and South Tewksbury, are both still active.

Speaking to The Pilot Feb. 13, Father Paul Soper, the Archdiocese of Boston's secretary for Evangelization and Discipleship and director of Pastoral Planning, said the merger was the idea of pastor Father Phillip Earley and his parishioners.

The parishioners had "felt as though they really had become one parish with two churches, rather than two parishes with two churches," he said. "They wanted their canonical structure to reflect that which they really had become."

St. Dorothy and St. Thomas Parishes began collaborating in 2010, four years before the two would be structured into the Wilmington Catholic Collaborative. Staff was consolidated, and Father Earley was appointed as pastor to both parishes.

The parish communities began to see themselves as one, Father Soper said, and the merger has now allowed "everything that you need in a separate parish," such as distinct financial units, to be brought together under the Parish of the Transfiguration.

Father Earley, speaking to The Pilot Feb. 14, described himself as having a "strong conviction" to the desire of Jesus to bring people together, and the closeness of the two parishes, both geographically and culturally, allowed him to realize that conviction.

"We worked toward building one faith community and we achieved that even before this merger," he said, adding that he views the merger more as a "backroom operation" that has simply allowed for a tying of finances and other resources.

In the official decree for the merger, available on the parish's website, additional motivations for the action "include the need to have a single faith community, capable of more effectively sustaining itself, evangelizing and sharing the resources of the Catholic Community in Wilmington and South Tewksbury."

The merger is not a first in recent months. Just last summer, the parishes of St. James and Immaculate Conception in Salem were merged to form Mary, Queen of the Apostles Parish.