BCI 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 closing.
Fr. Walter Carreiro, Vicar Forane and pastor of the designated “welcoming” parish, St. Anthony of Padua, sent us an email and posted an almost identical version of the email in comments. He took the time to write and to express concerns with the post by BCI, so we felt it appropriate to share his message in a dedicated blog post. We will make brief comments following his letter, and we will post additional comments in a separate post. Here is his unedited message:
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 Portuguese 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
ST. FRANCIS ST. ANTHONY SACRED HEART
DAY TIME TIME TIME
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.
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)
We appreciate Fr. Carreiro taking the time to write. We have time to just say a few things in response in this post for this moment.
He is correct that BCI did not approach him or attempt to communicate with him. Why is that? Two reasons. First, as we said in our previous post, we did call St. Francis of Assisi to ask about the rumor of the parish closing on Saturday Nov. 19, and the priest who answered the phone denied the rumored closing and said there would merely be a change in Mass schedule announced. Keep in mind, the closing had already been announced to selected parishioners a few days earlier, and it was announced several hours later to all of the parishioners. (As the saying goes, “Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me”). Secondly, the lack of response by virtually everyone in the archdiocesan hierarchy to inquiries by BCI over the past year–and to complaints by faithful Catholics–has led us to conclude it is generally not worth the time and trouble to even try reaching out to ask for comments or additional perspectives on a story. Based on Fr. Walter’s thoughtful and insightful response, we regret that we did not reach out to him.
Lastly for now, it also remains unclear to BCI, even from the response by Fr. Walter, what major details of our original post are considered inaccurate and thus would need to be refuted. Fr. Walter is a fine, honest devout priest, who confers the sacraments fluently in Portuguese. The Wednesday evening meeting with selected parishioners was blunt and confrontational as reported. Communications with St. Francis parishioners have not been good–as exemplified by the above letter being published in the St. Anthony parish bulletin, but NOT in the bulletin of St. Francis, the parish actually being closed! No written announcement has appeared in the St. Francis bulletin, and many of their elderly parishioners who are homebound rely solely on the bulletin for official parish news. A St. Francis parishioner commented to us via email, “Yikes, should I be learning of the process from him via your blog?? ” A developer was apparently tipped off before the parishioners were notified. There has been no public decree.
The details that could potentially be refuted from our original post where we have now learned more are the following:
–Fr. Norbert is 89-years-old, not 92 and he apparently is not ill, but was advised by doctors and his provincial to give up the pastor role at the parish for health reasons
–Bishop Hennessey was apparently not notified of the Nov. 16 meeting at the parish
–The reason for St. Anthony being designated the welcoming parish is because Cardinal O’Malley thought it was a good idea
–Communications between the Franciscans and the archdiocese about what would happen to St. Francis after Fr. Norbert retired took place in 2008, (3-4 years ago) and not five years ago, as BCI said. Apparently the communications took place via letter correspondence at the time.
Though we do not believe any of those details are major in nature or would have substantially altered the message of our last post, we apologize for any errors. More in a next post.