For those following the saga of the bungled communication around the announced closing of St. Francis of Assisi in Cambridge, the plot thickens.
To be clear, BCI wishes we did not find ourselves having to even write this blog or communicate what is happening to the parishioners. We do not want to be publicly calling out mismanagement and naming names. But if the archdiocese is unable to handle this effectively, someone ought to step in to fill the void. Because of all of the criticism we took for naming names a few days ago, for today, we will leave the parties responsible for fixing this problem unnamed. Now back to the saga.
Even though it was announced verbally to parishioners at St. Francis of Assisi that their parish would close and their $1.1M “coffers” would go to the welcoming parish, St. Anthony of Padua, and even though it was announced in writing to St. Anthony of Padua that neighboring St. Francis would close (in a notice posted here at this blog), yesterday we learned the story is changing. Various archdiocesan officials said publicly yesterday that there was some “miscommunication”–that no closing was ordered, and a process will be undertaken to determine the future of the parish, even if the logical (but not inevitable) outcome is that the parish will close. Hmm.
BCI has written to the archdiocese and asked for public clarification because parishioners are now thoroughly confused. How can the souls of faithful Catholics be led to salvation when their human bodies are confused about where they will be going to daily or weekly Mass to receive the Eucharist in the future?
In the meantime, here is a letter written by the former pastor of St. Francis, Fr. Norbet De Amato, O.F.M, to then-Archbishop O’Malley in 2004 describing why the parish should remain open. Here is a .pdf but the text is reproduced below:
April 15, 2004
Sean P. O’Malley
Archbishop of Boston, O.F M. Cap,
2121 Commonwealth Avenue
Brighton, MA 02135-3193
Dear Archbishop O’Malley:
In compliance with the wishes of Bishop Richard G. Lennon, I am submitting the following reasons why I believe the parish of St. Francis of Assisi, East Cambridge, should remain open to the community. Supporting documentation regarding the demographics of East Cambridge was previously submitted during our Cluster Meetings. Due to Bishop Lennon’s request to limit the response to two pages, I am omitting the additional documentation but will forward upon request. The following addresses the demographic and growing needs of our community.
The demographics and census information for the City of Cambridge indicate that housing costs have been on the rise. In order to meet the needs of families in the East Cambridge Neighborhood, two projects are underway:
The first project is for affordable housing on the Comer of Second and Cambridge Streets, for 200 units.
The second project of great magnitude is North Point. This will be located at the intersection of First, Cambridge and O’Brien Highway. The project will be home to 5,000 housing and retail shopping units slated for construction when the T Lechmere Station is moved.
Currently, East Cambridge houses three new hotels and additional hotels located within walking distance from our parish. The close proximity andlocation of the Church on a main street allows visitors to attend services on Sunday and Holy Days. Our Chapel is open from 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Daily Mass is celebrated at 7:00 a.m. allowing parishioners and workers in the area to start their day with prayer. A 12:10 p.m. Mass is celebrated on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, Tuesday Mass is followed by St. Anthony Novena.
Our Parish is geographically located in a business area of the city serving the needs of many working people. The employees of Middlesex County Court Houses visit the Church on a regular basis. In addition to court personnel, staff from businesses and industries in the area uses the Church. The 12:10 P.M. Mass allows parishioners and workers the availability to attend services.
When 9-11 occurred, the Church opened its doors to all workers in the community. As a result of911, AA was no longer allowed to use the
Court House facility to house its groups. St. Francis is now the host site for AA Meetings. In the past, St. Francis housed the Youth Center until its new location was built. In the future, St. Francis will find open its doors to meet the needs of its changing community. Discussion of a child care or recreation center has taken place.
Our current parishioners often depend on the needs of an Italian Speaking Priest. We are blessed with Franciscan Friars enabling us to provide language services. Many of our parishioners are elderly and depend on our services for social stimulation. There is an 8 a.m. Sunday Mass in Italian for our Italian parishioners.
Currently, we host a weekly neighborhood macaroni and meat ball dinner followed by bingo open to the entire neighborhood. There are additional Italian Religious and Social Clubs who return to the Church annually to help celebrate their heritage and tradition.
Fr. Norbet De Amato, O.F.M.
BCI understands that the 2004 letter still accurately describes the parish situation today, including the anticipated developments at Northpoint.
As was stated before by BCI, we are not opining on whether the parish should stay open or closed–that decision rests with Cardinal O’Malley–after appropriate consultations and canonical processes are followed. Just seems to us and a growing number of others that none of the appropriate consultations and canonical processes have been followed, yet the parishioners were told their parish is closing, someone leaked word to a developer the parish was closing, and the developer is sniffing around already trying to evaluate the potential for developing condos at the property.
Who is in charge of this situation? Is anyone else asking what is wrong with this picture?