Cambridge Church Closing Calamity

Given the fact that the Boston Archdiocese has closed some 60-odd churches in the past seven years, one would think the archdiocese should have the process of closing a church down to a science by now.  Not so with the closing of St. Francis of Assisi in East Cambridge, where objectively one could say the archdiocese has bungled the situation and created yet another self-inflicted mess, with likely violations of Canon Law. This one has just not hit the Boston Globe or Boston Herald yet.

The key points to note are as follows:

1. A shortage of priests to staff the parish and/or demographics of the parish/region might make the closing inevitable.
2. Regardless of whether the church has to close, the manner in which this was handled and communicated to parishioners was so bad that it suggests incompetence, disinterest, or both by at least several members of the archdiocesan hierarchy.
3. The fact that no decree has been publicly issued by the archdiocese and the fact that developers were apparently clued-in to the forthcoming sale of the rectory and/or church before parishioners is suggestive of the same sort of corruption, insider deals, and violations of the Code of Canon Law that BCI has been documenting for more than a year.

Details of all of the above follow.

Background and Demographics

St. Francis of Assisi Parish is about 95 years old. It was a former Baptist Church, which, according to an article about the early history found to the right (click to zoom), was bought by Italian Catholics and converted to a Catholic Church in 1917.  It is an Italian national parish and has been  overseen by the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate Conception, OFM, throughout the years. The most recent pastor has been Fr. Norbert DeAmato, O.F.M.

Fr. Norbert is 89-years-old, and recently became ill.  Apparently unbeknown to parishioners at St. Francis, archdiocesan officials met with Fr. Norbert some five years ago and told him they were happy to have him stay as pastor as long as he (and the Franciscans) were willing to let him do so. However, once Fr. Norbert left, there would be no other Franciscan available to cover the parish, and no archdiocesan or any other religious order priest.
There have been four Masses at the church every weekend, even though archdiocesan statistics show a total of 221 people attending the four Masses. There are two other churches within about 1/2-mile away–Sacred Heart and St. Anthony of Padua (Portuguese).
Notification about Parish Closing

BCI was told the following by a parishioner, attorney Maria Elena Saccoccio, who has given us permission to tell her story with her name. We have edited slightly without changing meaning, just for clarity for those not familiar with the details:

Without any notice, St. Francis of Assisi of East Cambridge summoned select parishioners for a meeting on Wednesday night, November 16.  There were three priests present. Chairing the meeting was Fr. Walter Carreiro of St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Cambridge.  Fr. John Tackney of Sacred Heart in Cambridge was also present, as was Fr. Richard Donovan, OFM, who was temporarily placed at St. Francis after our pastor Fr. Norbert suddenly became ill.

It was announced unceremoniously that St. Francis would be closed.  Father Walter chaired the meeting.  We were consistently stifled in any comments that challenged in any way the decision on closure or the lack of prior notice. One parishioner was actually accused of being racist when she made a facial expression not compatible with what Father Walter expected.  Her displeasure had nothing to do with racism.  The church we are to be merged with has just about all Masses in Portuguese and we are not Portuguese.  One parishioner asked about the closure date, and each priest denied any knowledge whatsoever.  When pressed further as to whether or not we would be open in 2013, Father Carriero stated “no.”  Pressed further by the same parishioner that they somehow did have a closure date, the priests remained silent.

Another parishioner addressed the changing demographics of the area…When an elderly parishioner returned to the topic of closure date, I made an off the cuff remark that it would close once a developer made an offer to the Archdiocese.  To say that Father Carriero bellowed at me would be an understatement.  He was a bully and questioned my right to even comment, stating “How dare you say that–you do not have any personal knowledge;” and on and on and on.  I maintained my position and was supported by another parishioner as well.   I reiterated my position matching the tenor of Father Carreiro’s voice and stated “In my opinion, the church will be sold when a developer approaches the archdiocese to buy it.”  Fr. Carreiro pressed further for the basis of my opinion and I stated “Do you really think the archdiocese is just going to keep this property in perpetuity?”  Further, I explained that the basis of my opinion is that I am a lawyer and I read, plain and simple.

Another parishioner was chastised when he suggested that at City Hall Council meetings people get to speak for 2-3 minutes and we should do so here, given the gravity of the news.  Father Richard said this is not City Hall and no one gets to speak. He was supported by Father Carreiro.  It was too late for anything to be done.  The Franciscans did not have the bodies to send to oversee the parish and the Archdiocese made the decision.  It was a fait accompli.

The coffers (and they are substantial since they contain the proceeds of the parochial school from years ago) would be transferred to the St. Anthony of Padua (Portuguese) Church.  Note, we are much closer to Sacred Heart, only three blocks away, and most of our parishioners will clearly go there since everything is in English and they have already extended themselves countless times for the convenience of our parish.

This meeting was botched.  I was receptive at first and realize that St. Anthony’s is a poor parish and could use the money. Fathers Carreiro and Richard Donovan were bullies.  Fr. Donovan took up precious time complaining to us at the Wednesday night meeting that he had to change 16 light bulbs and we just did not realize how time consuming these things are.  Father Tackney was subdued and quiet throughout the meeting.  His parish (Sacred Heart) will inherit the work but not the wealth.

What a travesty and what a good way to lose Roman Catholics.  I was “coming home” to what?

No direct explanation was ever given to the parishioners for why the parish would be closing.

BCI did some of our own digging. When we called the parish a week ago today and asked the priest who answered the phone about rumors the church was closing, after a pause, we were told by him, “No, but the Mass schedule is changing,” and the changes would be announced by Fr. Walter (of St. Anthony of Padua) during last weekend’s Masses.   Hours later, Fr. Walter did announce the church would be closing within a year, and he also announced a consolidated Mass schedule for the three parishes–St. Francis of Assisi, Sacred Heart, and St. Anthony.

Mismanagement by the Archdiocese

The mismanagement of this situation is almost beyond words. We are so perturbed we can only write about this by posing questions:

  • Why was the meeting not scheduled such that regional Bishop Hennessey could be present for the meeting and announcement to the parish?  Based on his record this year, BCI is going to start referring to him as the “invisible auxiliary.”
  • Why was the cabinet official responsible for pastoral planning, Fr. David Couturier OFM Cap, not present for the meetings?
  • Why was Fr. Walter Carreiro–a fine, honest devout priest, who confers the sacraments fluently in Portuguese, but who is known for being brutally blunt–allowed to chair the meeting instead of just being asked to sit quietly and listen?
  • Why was the pastorally skilled Fr. Jack Tackney–who has welcomed multiple closed parishes over the past decade or so and who has hosted St. Francis’ religious ed program activities in the past –not chosen to chair the meeting?
  • Why has no canonical decree to suppress or merge St. Francis been publicly issued?
  • What exactly will become of the $1.1. million in cash assets of St. Francis (from the prior sale of the school building and parish savings)? And what will become of the cash generated from the sale of the St. Francis properties?  Will the assets go to the designated “welcoming” parish, St. Anthony (Portuguese) where many St. Francis parishioners do not plan to attend, while Sacred Heart, which actually does the work of welcoming the St. Francis parishioners gets nothing?  Why is that the pastorally correct move? Or will the archdiocese try to grab some of the cash as well?
  • Why was at least one developer already asking about plans to sell the rectory at St. Francis BEFORE parishioners were notified the parish was closing?  Was it Chancellor Jim McDonough or someone from his office who leaked this information and tipped the developer?
  • Will Vicar General Msgr. Deeley order the new excessively-paid $160K/year Director of IT, Stephen McDevitt, to cease efforts requested by Chancellor McDonough to determine who is behind BCI and instead begin an email investigation within the archdiocese to determine who leaked information about the planned closing of St. Francis to a developer before parishioners were informed and before any canonical decrees were issued?

How should this have happened?  It seems to BCI that Fr. David Couturier, both by his cabinet position and him being a Franciscan, should have joined with Bishop Hennessey, Fr. Carreiro, Fr. Jack Tackney, and Fr. Donovan to sit with the St Francis parish council and finance council (if indeed those bodies exist and actually meet) and explain the situation–namely, that the Franciscans need to pull back and the sacramental activity in that part of Cambridge is already spread over a number of parishes.  (None of which, incidentally, has any parking). They should have spoken for two minutes each, and then listened.

It seems reasonable that after that, they should have scheduled another meeting for all parishioners with Fr. Tackney and Fr. Carreiro.  (Fr. Donovan is leaving December 1).  The priests should have agreed in advance that Fr. Jack Tackney would decide how the meeting would run, and that he would be the voice of the presbyterate, except to answer questions about why the Franciscans are leaving.  The wizards at the Pastoral Center should have sent a clear proposal to the second meeting, through a letter from Cardinal O’Malley or Bishop Hennessey, outlining how the assets and liabilities would be treated, and to ask where the people saw themselves going.  They should have asked for comments.  This is free advice from outside the Pastoral Center on what SHOULD have done.

Instead, the Boston Archdiocese has taken an important pastoral opportunity to minister effectively to faithful Catholics and bungled it.   Along the way, the evidence that a developer was aware this property was becoming available also points to a likely violation of Canon Law.

Where to From Here 

BCI is not in a position to determine if the parish is sustainable for the long-term, pastorally and practically. (Projections of Catholics coming along with condos have not necessarily come to pass elsewhere).  But, it does not take a Ph.D. in Pastoral Psychology or a MacArthur Award to realize that the onus fell squarely on Bishop Hennessey and Fr. Couturier to meet with the people, along with the pastors of adjacent churches.  Whether or not the parish can or should remain open is a decision for Cardinal O’Malley, after reviewing all of the relevant information and having heard all parties. UPDATE: Bishop Hennessey was attending the USCCB fall meeting out-of-state on Nov. 16, but for him and the cabinet head in charge of pastoral planning to not be available for a meeting announcing the closing of the parish was a bad move both procedurally and pastorally.  They failed at what should have been an uncomplicated, clear execution of their ministries and ministerial duties. And whomever leaked word to a developer that the St Francis rectory or church were going to up for sale should start preparing either their letter of resignation or a really good explanation of why they think that leak was not a violation of Canon Law.

What to do now?  Vicar General Msgr. Deeley should probably call a little meeting on Monday to ask a) why Bishop Hennessey and Fr. Couturier abdicated their responsibilities and b) how exactly a developer came to learn of the property potentially being up for sale.  Bishop Hennessey and Fr. Couturier need to visit the parish and beg the forgiveness of the parishioners for their sins of omission, and start over again.  And this time, they need to LISTEN, in person, and heed the wisdom of those whom they serve.  Oh yeah, and whatever happens in a next meeting, let Fr. Jack Tackney do the presiding, thinking and the talking!

26 Responses to Cambridge Church Closing Calamity

  1. Jack says:

    One must leave open the possibility that Bishop Hennessey’s “invisibility” may be the product of his own disgust with how the Pastoral Center functions and absenting himself from its highjinks is his only option. My personal experience of the bishop is that he is a very conscientious priest. Aggressive rogue factions can highjack an institution if there is weak leadership at the top that refuses to discipline the rogue elements.

    • Jack,
      Thank you for your comment. One must leave open all possibilities, since we do not know what exactly Bishop Hennessey is thinking in this situation or others, or what is motivating certain actions (or a lack of action).

      Behaviors observed or comments made are all we can go from, and the behaviors observed are becoming characterisic of an abdication of responsibility. He has told others he is interested in getting his own diocese. He has had no involvement with the parishioners at St. Francis of Assisi in this situation, and it is a parish in his region. Whether he agrees or disagrees with a decision to close the parish–and surely, he would have been a part of any such decision–he needs to be involved in the pastoral aspects of guiding the future for these faithful Catholics and ensuring they go to a new parish for the sake of the salvation of their souls. That is part of his role and responsibilities as a bishop. Does he think he can go to another diocese and not face issues of parish closings where he must be actively involved?

      Separate from St. Francis of Assisi, he allowed a $20M renovation of St. Cecilia in Boston (which ran about $6M over budget), a parish where the pastor does not even celebrate any weekday Masses or scheduled confessions. From outward appearances, he sat idly by while the pastor and parishioners at St. Cecilia created a local and national scandal over plans to hold a Mass commemorating Gay Pride month this past summer.

      Bishop Hennessey was generally well-regarded when he was a pastor, but his actions or lack thereof as an auxiliary bishop have not impressed BCI or the readers who write to us. If he is disgusted with the workings of the Pastoral Center, that is not at all obvious.

      Someone is either part of the problem or part of the solution. Maintaining disengagement with urgent problems in his own region while hoping and angling to “get out of Dodge” in the future are actions that do not strike BCI as being part of the solution. For the sake of the souls that rely on his shepherding and pastoral leadership, we hope and pray Bishop Hennessey realizes the consequences of the disengagement and changes his approach.

      • Disappointed in BCI says:

        Shame on BCI for criticizing Bishop Hennessey without doing a little research. Bishop Hennessey and all the other U.S. bishops were in Washington DC on 11/16 for the USCCB meetings.

        So he couldn’t have been there. Now someone can ask why the meeting couldn’t have been held at another date, but first don’t we need to know who called the meeting. It’s possible that it was the Vicar Forane, Fr. Carriero. That is his responsibility.

        Did anyone at St. Francis EXPECT that the parish would continue? It’s in the same situation as St. Adalbert’s Polish Parish in Hyde Park (who lost its 96-year old pastor a couple of months ago). It quietly closed, as most folks would have expected this one to close.

        Is anyone making the case that this was a vibrant parish?

        Has anyone seen the number of young people involved at St. Anthony’s in Cambridge? Who cares whether it is a Portuguese Community or whether they’ll need to add English Masses (they DO have English masses there).

        It seems that this story follows the story arc:
        1. Someone is upset at the Archdiocese.
        2. Call BCI – it air many gripes
        3. Take the word of a disgruntled parishioner and start assigning blame before truly assessing the situation and digging for facts. Trash a few good names (Hennessey, Carriero, Couturier) in the process. If ANY money is involved, assume the worst – instead of assuming that this makes sense, is inevitable, and that most parishioners would have expected it.
        4. If you say that Father Carriero is a decent priest, why are you publishing a 1-sided attack on him by the disgruntled parishioner.

      • Disappointed,

        BCI accepts your criticism that we did not adequately verify why Bishop Hennessey did not attend the Nov. 16 meeting and we apologize for that. We are adjusting our post.

        No one is making the case that St. Francis was a vibrant parish, including the parishioner whose message we posted. BCI did not say the parish should stay open, and in fact we said it may be inevitable the parish should close for demographic and priest staffing reasons. BCI said that decision rests with Cardinal O’Malley.

        BCI criticized the manner in which the closing has been handled–namely how the closing news was communicated to parishioners and the process followed for closing the parish. BCI is very well aware of the process for closing a parish. Even though Fr. Carriero is the Vicar Forane and thus would meet with the parishioners as a matter of rank, that does not mean the situation was handled appropriately. Holding a meeting where no explanation is given for why the parish is closing and where parishioners are denied the opportunity to speak is nowhere in the archdiocesan recommendations for how to manage a closing. Objectively, if you are the pastor of the “welcoming” parish or the Vicar Forane, and you deny long-time parishioners of a parish being closed a chance to voice their sentiments aloud–including anger or other justifiable emotions they are feeling–that is not a best practice to be “welcoming.” There are parishes where this has been handled exceptionally well, but this is a situation where, as best as we can tell, it has been handled poorly. We have at one nearby parish a pastor and church that has a good history of welcoming other closed parish communities and has already welcomed St. Francis of Assisi programs, and we do not necessarily have that at the other nearby parish. (BCI knows a bit more than we are at liberty to publish). Both parishes are almost the same distance away from St. Francis. If there is a good reason why St. Anthony of Padua has been designated the welcoming parish rather than Sacred Heart of Jesus and there is a good reason why St. Francis parishioners were not consulted, then why has this information not been shared?

        BCI stands by our criticism of how the closing has been handled, including our criticism of certain people for not ensuring this was done more effectively. If those individuals had ensured the process and communications were managed and handled appropriately, then there would have been no BCI post! We also stand by our criticism of someone tipping off a developer to the closing before parishioners were informed.

      • stephen lombardi says:

        Saint Anthony’s Church has two weekend masses in english and no daily masses in english

      • Carolyn says:

        Bishop Hennessey’s first duty is to the people of the Central Region. The meeting should have taken place in between his trips outside the Archdiocese in the month of November. A parish closing, which mine has done, is not something for the auxiliary to hand off. So I think BCI has this one right.

  2. SE says:

    Why St. Anthony’s Parish, it’s the Portuguese parish??? Isn’t it an ethnic parish and the territorial parish is that of Sacred Heart of Jesus I think founded in 1842. Like you said Sacred Heart has welcomed St. Patrick’s, St. Hedwig (Polish) and Immaculate Conception (Lithuanian). All of these parishes came out of Sacred Heart because of the ethnic groups that once lived in the neighborhood.

    I agree let Fr. Tackney run the next meetings, he has the knowledge and expereince how to welcome parishioners from a closed church. Or has he been silenced from the powers at 66 Brooks?

  3. Liam says:

    It should be noted in passing that Fr Carreiro is Vicar Forane (Dean) of Vicariate IV of the Central Region (which covers Allston, Brighton, Cambridge and Somerville).

  4. Mark Frances says:

    The idea is simple. You merge groups of various ethnic backgrounds and take the “gravy” from the mergers and pass it on to the archdiocese. Three parishes merged here with one of the incoming bringing one million and a week later the pastor of note asked for the parish to fund a 50K boiler because he had no money.

  5. bitsnbytes says:

    A small correction: St Francis Parish has been served by Franciscan friars (OFM) of the Immaculate Conception Province, the “Italian province” that mans St. Leonard’s in the North End and operates a retreat house in Andover. (The friars at Arch Street are of Holy Name Province.) Conventual Franciscans (OFM Conv.) in New England serve Polish parishes, for the most part.

    • bitsnbytes says:

      One piece of the account doesn’t make sense: that someone from the Archdiocese met with Fr. D’Amato and told him that the Franciscans would not provide a successor as pastor. Isn’t that something he would know already, since that’s his order?

  6. What a shame. But was this parish owned by the Franciscans or the archdiocese? If the Franciscans own it, then no surpression decree is needed. But if the archdiocese owns it, then a surpression of the parish decree is needed.

    • marie elena saccoccio says:

      Deed reads Archbishop of Boston Corporation Sole. The property is substantial and includes the church proper, the rectory, what used to be the CYO gymnasium or two and a substantial parking lot which was once the location of our two convents. Note the property is located on three streets. Our parochial grammar school was already sold in the late 80’s; hence our coffers exceed $1 million with no debt. Also there is good income from the rental of half the parking lot now. This property is a treasure trove and the church itself is on the National Register of Historic Places. There are existing photos of the Massachusetts Infantry surrounding the church during the civil war and the early parishioners (Baptists) welcoming them.

  7. Mack says:

    What’s sadly lacking on the part of the RCAB leadership is the virtue of prudence, the first of the cardinal virtues. St. Thomas says that prudence is perfected by the Holy Spirit’s gift of counsel.
    Prudence is a virtue–the foundation of all the moral virtues. It involves not only good judgment but also effective decision making.

    While we all need this virtue, I daresay that the leadership of the archdiocese needs it in particular. Decisions like this one about the parish closing, carried out in a pastorally inappropriate way, are not just lapses of judgment but lapses of virtue.

  8. Robert says:

    Bishop Hennessey knew the date of the meeting: He knew he would be in Rome at that time.for the Ad Limina Visit and organizing a Birthday Party. He knew he was going to Florida when he returned.
    As Regional Bishop why did he not change the date so he would be here………………could it be he did not want to be involved? He wanted the parish closed with no discussion? Did not want the proper Pastoral concern for the people?
    He could of changed the date if he really wanted to be there…….there is no rush in closing the parish.

    • JUST WONDERING says:

      Robert, “Just Wondering” is WONDERING: do you know for a fact that Bishop Hennessey was in Rome also for the purpose of “organizing a Birthday Party”?????

      • Bishop Hennessey was in Rome for the ad limina visit. The timing of the ad limina was coincident with the birthday party for Cardinal Law.

      • JUST WONDERING says:

        Thank you, BCI, for the information I already knew. However, “Robert” did not answer my specific question: that Bishop Hennessey was in Rome “organizing a Birthday Party.”

  9. Fr. Walter A. Carreiro says:

    I would think that a journalist would at least attempt to get both sides of a story prior to publishing something with a potential to misconstrue events and statements.
    I have included here the letter I wrote for our parish bulletin at St. Anthony Parish. this letter was written on Sunday, November 20, since it had to be at the publisher by November 21 due to the Thanksgiving holiday. Immediately following is a link to the publishers archive of our bulletin so that you may see it in the published format, including the Pportuguese translation.

    By now you have all heard the news about Saint Francis of Assisi Parish. It was in 2008 that the provincial of the Franciscans of the Immaculate Conception province wrote a letter to Cardinal Sean stating that when Fr. Norbert DeAmato retired they would no longer to staff the parish. At that time Cardinal Sean wrote a letter to the Vicar General, Bishop Hennessey and me stating that it was his thought that since St. Francis, being an Italian Personal parish and St. Anthony, being a Portuguese Personal parish that it made sense for the two to be merged with the eventual closure of St. Francis. At that time Bishop Hennessey and I met with Fr. Norbert to explain to him that at long as he chose to remain there that there would be no change in the status of St. Francis Parish. Just a few weeks ago Fr. Norbert, with his doctor and the provincial determined that it would be best for his health to step down as pastor. Another Franciscan Friar, Fr. Richard Donovan was assigned to be the temporary administrator. It was clear then that this was just to be temporary.
    A couple of weeks ago a number of us, including Fr. Primo, the Franciscan Provincial from New York, met in Braintree to determine how we would go forward with St. Francis parish. It was prior to that meeting that I was asked to consider being administrator of the parish to work with the parishioners to bring it to closure. Realizing the difficulty of this transition I accepted this responsibility, naturally with a heavy heart of having to break the news to the parishioners. Cardinal Sean has continued in his belief that it makes sense for St. Anthony to be the welcoming parish for the people of the parish and for those things that are dear to the parishioners, statues, etc. It was because of this that I was at all the Masses this weekend at St. Francis. You can imagine the feelings that were present among the people. They were very kind to me but it’s natural that people would be angry, in tears, wanting to bargain and figure out how the parish could stay open. As you can well imagine it is as if they were being told that a loved one had a terminal illness and that death was inevitable and imminent. As I told them, there is no definite date when the parish will close. I will continue to meet with a group of parishioners there to determine what would be the best way to go forward taking into account any important events yet to occur there and how we will commemorate the move from St. Francis up the street to St. Anthony. I know that I can count on you to be welcoming to our brothers and sisters from there. I know that together we will make this as positive of an experience for them and make room for them here. As well, we will make room for their statues and those things which have made their experience as a parish dear to them. As the Archdiocese moves to a new model of parish configuration this is a good experience for us to challenge ourselves to be ever more open to all who come to St. Anthony to worship and, more importantly, to be a part of our family here.
    As our responsibility as priests here expands this has necessitated a change in the schedule of Masses, which is included below. I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving.
    Peace & Blessings, Fr. Walter

    Sabado/SAT. NO MASS 4:00 PM (& 5:30 PM) 5:00 PM
    Domingo/SUN. 9:00 & 10:30 (8:00) 9:45 7:30, 9:00
    (11:30 AM & 7:00 PM) & 11:00 AM
    2a/MON. 7:00 AM (6:30 PM) 9:00 AM
    3a/TUES. 12:10 PM (6:30 PM) 6:00 PM
    4a/WED. 7:00 AM (6:30 PM) 9:00 AM
    5a/THUR. NO MASS (9:00 AM & 6:30 PM) 6:00 PM
    ADORATION: 9:30 – 6:00
    6a/FRI. 7:00 AM (6:30 PM) 9:00 AM
    Masses in parenthesis are celebrated in Portuguese Missas entre parenthesis são celebradas em português.

    Click to access 935_Anthony_Cam_1127.pdf

    There is much more to write and to refute, both in what was related to you, and how you chose to present that information. Let’s not forget that there are two sides to every story and an attempt should be made to not be so one- sided. I was not approached nor was an attempt to communicate with me made in any way.
    Sincerely in Christ,
    Fr. Walter Carreiro (correct spelling)

    • DBP says:

      I am extremely edified by Fr. Walter’s calm response to this electronic calumny. I have withheld comment until the present, and would only like to make the following few points:

      1. Every priest who has been involved with a parish closing – particularly over the past several years – knows the sting of being wrongly accused of treachery and high-handedness. Worse, we know that many of the most vocal are the furthest from the truth and are also often those who least attend Mass on a weekly basis. It is to Fr. Walter’s credit that he refuses to respond in kind to the innuendo that the author of the blog accepted without confirmation.

      2. Perhaps I misread it, but I thought I saw attendance figures in an earlier version of this blog post that said that somewhere south of 250 persons attended Mass each weekend, and that four weekend Masses were celebrated by the elderly pastor. If I were a member of the Parish Pastoral Council and failed to recommend – strongly! – that the Mass schedule be decreased by at least half forthwith, I would have failed in my duty to charity. For goodness sake! A 92 year old man celebrating four weekend Masses?

      3. The fact that Braintree is mishandling the priest personnel shortage does not mitigate the reality that parishes such as this one (and the many other such parishes that were consolidated or closed during the prior reconfiguration under Bishop Lennon) are not self-sustaining. We should recall that, in the days when parishes were being built rather than closed, we were required to have a sustainable base of parishioners prior to being established as a parish (rather than simply being a “mission” of another parish). Does it not make sense that the obverse is also true – that when a parish cannot sustain itself with a certain number of parishioners, it should revert to “mission” status, and then to closure?

      4. I have been supportive of the mission of BCI, and continue to be so. However, Fr. Walter’s point about basic journalism is well made. I was saddened to see the anger of one parishioner, seeking to postpone the inevitable closure of her parish, used to vilify a good man. Fr. Walter deserves better.

      • marie elena saccoccio says:

        DBP, to clarify matters, I have standing to object to the closure of St. Francis. Five generations of my family have received the sacraments there. One of my ancestors was an original founder. We have Franciscan clergy in the family. My very poor working class parents pledged money to build St. Francis School, to insure that their four children had a Catholic education. You make far too many assumptions about me. You should also know that I among all the attendees at the meeting was most receptive to the merger with the Portuguese Church. Father Carreire knows this and he likewise knows that my account of the meeting is unfortunately accurate.

        I have no idea of the head count for our parish. There are other churches far worse than St. Francis. (Within walking distance of St. Francis the Mormons just built a gorgeous temple. Note, they have no parishioners there but realize that they are in the heart of the biotech capital of the country and housing there is expanding. Obviously the Mormons see our community and its potential where the Archdiocese sees nothing.). What I can tell you is that many of our parishioners are seniors and house bound. Father Norbert visited them all. To the one poster who gushes at the number of “children” at St. Anthony’s, that does not seal the deal for me. I think everyone is important, not just kids. Do our senior citizens not merit a parish? So, should we close all churches if there are predominantly seniors??

  10. bitsnbytes says:

    The logic of putting St Francis Parish into St Anthony Parish (instead of into Sacred Heart Parish, whose church is only a couple of blocks away) makes sense only to people removed from the situation. Has nobody ever considered that *asking* the faithful of St Francis Church their preference might help to ease the pain of losing their church?

    On a lighter note: the Italian folks and the Portuguese folks won’t even be able to agree on whether Santo Antonio is “of Padua” or “of Lisboa”.

  11. qclou says:

    A valid cautionary comment for sure.
    “Jim” I understand the need to react to info , but due diligence MUST be your watchword.

    BTW, I do wonder about a 2 block walk , that neighborhood has little or no parking as I remember when I used to work in the old American Biltrite offices and looking for a Holyday Mass.

    • BCI appreciates the letter from Fr. Walter. We will repost it in a full post separately, and will also respond with more details.

      In hindsight, BCI could have exercised greater due diligence and greater care in what we posted. That said, we did not just take the word of one individual, and we waited some length of time until we could confirm details via other sources. Except for an explanation that Bishop Hennessey did not attend the meeting because he was out of town at the USCCB meeting, none of the criticism of our post has identified something BCI posted that was inaccurate.

      No one is disputing that the meeting held with selected parishioners went poorly or that parishioners were told they would not have an opportunity to be heard. We and others still do not know the basis for the decision that St. Francis parishioners would be asked to join St. Anthony of Padua parish and not Sacred Heart. No one has commented on why other archdiocesan officials skilled with pastoral planning and parish closings were not present to facilitate. No one has commented on why a developer knew about the closing and potential sale of property before parishioners.

  12. […] has gotten a fair amount of critical feedback on our last post, Cambridge Church Closing Calamity, where we discussed the news that St. Francis of Assisi in Cambridge will be […]

  13. Peg Buckman says:

    I was very disappointed to hear of the possibility of St. Francis of Assisi Parish Closing! While not a member of the Parish, I have many happy memories of one of my daughters and some of my friends who were very active in the 70’s and 80’s in wonderful performances. The community was always heavily involved in the church but it now sounds like they have been brushed aside in any of the decision making. That is very unlike the St. Francis that I remember. It is sad to see an involved community being excluded.Someone needs to do some serious rethinking about the process. Especially when developers are informed before those involved with the building and original buying of those properties. Who does St. Francis belong to? I would say the community that created it!!
    Thanks for listening.

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